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Anthrax Probe Back in Florida

Bioterrorism: Agents use new methods to identify source at quarantined American Media site.

August 28, 2002|From Associated Press

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Federal agents wearing protective gear entered the quarantined home of the National Enquirer on Tuesday in hopes of reviving their stalled inquiry into last year's deadly anthrax attack.

Investigators needed to photograph and survey the layout of the headquarters of tabloid publisher American Media Inc. before they began searching for evidence. FBI Special Agent Wayne Russell would not give details about anything the agents found Tuesday.

FBI officials said they originally focused on the public health threat following the anthrax contamination and now want to search the building more thoroughly.

Scientists recently developed techniques to search for anthrax spores and identify their source, and the FBI is hoping to find the letter, package or other item by which the deadly anthrax was brought into the building.

The operation is expected to take about two weeks.

Authorities previously found spores on the desk of photo editor Robert Stevens, the first of five people who died during last fall's anthrax attacks. Another American Media worker became ill and was hospitalized more than three weeks.

Hector Pesquera, the FBI's special agent in charge of the Miami division, stressed that the operation "has nothing to do" with Steven J. Hatfill, a biowarfare expert whom Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft has called a "person of interest" in the anthrax investigation. Hatfill has repeatedly denied involvement.

The building has been under federal quarantine since October. AMI has had to use other offices in the area to publish its six supermarket tabloids, including the Enquirer, Globe and Weekly World News.

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