Source Disclosure Ordered in Anthrax Suit
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Washington Post
Posted: August 22nd, 2007
Five reporters must reveal their government sources for stories they wrote about Steven J. Hatfill and investigators' suspicions that the former Army scientist was behind the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001, a federal judge ruled. The ruling is a victory for Hatfill, a bioterrorism expert who has argued in a civil suit that the government violated his privacy rights and ruined his chances at a job by unfairly leaking information about the probe. He has not been charged in the attacks that killed five people and sickened 17 others, and he has denied wrongdoing. Hatfill's suit, filed in 2003, accuses the government of waging a "coordinated smear campaign." To succeed, Hatfill and his attorneys have been seeking the identities of FBI and Justice Department officials who disclosed disparaging information about him to the media. In lengthy depositions in the case, reporters have identified 100 instances when Justice or FBI sources provided them with information about the investigation of Hatfill and the techniques used to probe his possible role in anthrax-laced mailings. But the reporters have refused to name the individuals. In 2002, then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft called Hatfill, who had formerly worked at the Army's infectious diseases lab in Fort Detrick in Frederick County, a "person of interest" in the anthrax case. Authorities have not made any arrests in the investigation. Hatfill's search for government leakers is "strikingly similar" to the civil suit filed by Wen Ho Lee, a nuclear scientist who became the subject of a flurry of media stories identifying him as a chief suspect in a nuclear-secrets spy case. Those stories also relied on anonymous sources. Lee was never charged with espionage.
Note: For more reliable information about the anthrax attacks that followed closely after 9/11 and the mysterious deaths of over a dozen renowned microbiologists shortly thereafter, click here.