ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The biowarfare expert under scrutiny in the anthrax attacks says the FBI has accepted his offer to undergo a blood test he says will prove his innocence.
``I am not the anthrax killer,'' Dr. Steven J. Hatfill said Sunday as he lashed out against Attorney General John Ashcroft for calling him a ``person of interest'' in the investigation.
Hatfill said he has waived privacy rules to allow the release of the results of the blood test. He said he has also offered to compare his handwriting to that appearing on the anthrax letters, but the FBI has yet to accept that offer.
Neither the FBI nor the Justice Department would confirm Hatfill's offers or whether they would regard the tests as reliable. Evidence of anthrax-fighting antibodies in the bloodstream diminishes naturally over time. The anthrax letters were mailed last fall.
Federal officials have said the FBI is not ready to clear Hatfill in the attacks that killed five people and sickened 13 others even though investigators have no physical evidence linking him to a crime.
The scientist went before a throng of reporters outside his lawyer's office for the second time in two weeks to profess his innocence.
``This assassination of my character appears to be part of a government-run effort to show the American people that it is proceeding vigorously and successfully with the anthrax investigation,'' Hatfill said.
``I want to look my fellow Americans directly in the eye and declare to them, `I am not the anthrax killer. I know nothing about the anthrax attacks. I had absolutely nothing to do with this terrible crime.'''
Ashcroft last week would not say whether authorities have identified a suspect in last fall's anthrax mailings but said Hatfill remained ``a person of interest to the Department of Justice.''
Although authorities say Hatfill is one of 30 such people, his was the only photo shown to residents of the Princeton, N.J., neighborhood where a mailbox tested positive for anthrax this month.
FBI agents were trying to determine whether anyone saw Hatfill last September or October near a mailbox where authorities believe the anthrax letters were mailed.
Hatfill provided reporters with copies of what he said were timesheets for CIA contractor Science Applications International Corp., where he was working last year, that he said proved he could not have mailed the letters.
The timesheets show Hatfill worked overtime on the days the letters would have been mailed — Sept. 17 and 18 and Oct. 8 and 9 — which Hatfill said would have precluded a roundtrip from SAIC offices in suburban McClean, Va., to central New Jersey.
SAIC spokesmen were unavailable to comment on the authenticity of the timesheets, or whether Hatfill could have left the building without clocking out.
News reports have said Hatfill fabricated claims on his resume when he applied for work with SAIC, including falsely claiming to have a Ph.D., experience with U.S. Army Special Forces, and membership in Britain's Royal Society of Medicine.
Hatfill's lawyer, Victor Glasberg, said the Special Forces claim was real, but suggested Hatfill might have been ``expansive'' with other resume claims. Hatfill was fired from SAIC last year under circumstances neither side has been willing to explain, although Hatfill says the firing has nothing to do with the anthrax investigation.
``My life is being destroyed by arrogant government bureaucrats who are peddling groundless innuendo and half-information,'' Hatfill said.
Hatfill said his defense team has filed an ethics complaint about Ashcroft's conduct, as well as actions by others in the case. ``I will be very interested to learn how well the Justice Department will police itself,'' Hatfill said. ``I do not understand his personalized focus on me.''
Hatfill, 48, previously worked at the Army Medical Research Institute at Fort Detrick, Md., once home to the U.S. biological warfare program and a repository for the Ames strain of anthrax used in the attacks.
Investigators have searched his Frederick, Md., apartment twice, including testing for anthrax residue, as well as his car, a storage unit in Florida and his girlfriend's home. They have seized his computer and bags of personal items he had thrown away in preparation for moving.