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Scientist in Anthrax Probe Fired

Security: Steven Hatfill, who was hired in July, loses LSU research job. School says it isn't passing judgment.

September 04, 2002|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Steven J. Hatfill, who says the federal government has ruined his life by linking him to the anthrax investigation, was fired Tuesday from his job as a researcher at Louisiana State University.

Hatfill was hired by LSU's National Center for Biomedical Research and Training in July and put on administrative leave with pay on Aug. 2.

"The university is making no judgment as to Dr. Hatfill's guilt or innocence regarding the FBI investigation," said Chancellor Mark A. Emmert in a brief statement released by the university on Tuesday.

"Our ultimate concerns are the ability of the university to fulfill its role and mission as a land-grant university," he said. "In considering all of these objectives, I have concluded that it is clearly in the best interest of LSU to terminate this relationship."

Pat Clawson, a spokesman for Hatfill, said the university called Hatfill's attorneys Tuesday afternoon and told him of their decision to fire him.

In a statement, Hatfill blamed the FBI's investigation for his firing.

"My life has been completely and utterly destroyed by [Atty. Gen.] John Ashcroft and the FBI," Hatfill said. "I do not understand why they are doing this to me. My professional reputation is in tatters. All I have left are my savings and they will be exhausted soon because of my legal bills."

Five people were killed by anthrax-laced letters sent through the mail last fall.

The FBI has identified Hatfill as a "person of interest" in its investigation but no more or less important than about 30 fellow scientists and researchers with the expertise and opportunity to conduct the attacks.

But Hatfill has been treated differently. FBI and Postal Service agents wearing protective gloves searched his apartment in Frederick, Md., twice, once with a search warrant. His photo was the only one circulated last month in the Princeton, N.J., area where investigators believe the anthrax letters may have been mailed.

Hatfill, 48, worked until 1999 for Ft. Detrick's Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland, which is the primary custodian of the virulent Ames strain of anthrax found in last fall's deadly letters.

Hatfill and another scientist, Joseph Soukup, commissioned a study of a hypothetical anthrax attack in February 1999 as employees of defense contractor Science Applications International Corp., said Ben Haddad, spokesman for the San Diego-based firm.

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