WASHINGTON – Lawyers for a former Army scientist once identified as "a person of interest" in the 2001 anthrax attacks want a judge to order journalists to identify law enforcement sources who leaked details about the investigation.
In a lawsuit, Steven J. Hatfill accuses the Justice Department of violating the federal Privacy Act by giving the media information about the FBI's investigation of him. Hatfill is seeking an unspecified monetary award.
His attorneys want several reporters to reveal the identities of law enforcement officials who were cited anonymously in stories about the investigation. The journalists contend that the First Amendment and a federal common-law privilege shield them from having to disclose the names.
U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton began hearing arguments Tuesday and is expected to hear more next week before ruling.
Five people were killed and 17 sickened by anthrax that was mailed to lawmakers on Capitol Hill and members of the news media in New York and Florida just weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Hatfill, who worked at the Army's infectious diseases laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., from 1997 to 1999, was publicly identified as "a person of interest" in the investigation by then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft.
The case remains unsolved.
Hatfill's lead attorney, Charles Thomas Kimmett Jr., said his client needs to know who the sources were in order to prevail in his lawsuit.
Lawyer Kevin T. Baine, representing The Washington Post, Newsweek and ABC-TV, said the journalists were acting in the public's best interest by covering the anthrax investigation and therefore should be allowed to protect the identities of people who helped them.