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Two labs confirmed Pentagon anthrax
By Dee Ann Divis
UPI Senior Science & Technology Editor
Published March 21, 2005


Anthrax was confirmed twice in samples collected from a Pentagon mail facility initially closed last week and then opened after being declared free of the pathogen, United Press International has learned.

The head of the company that was accused of contaminating the samples sent from that facility -- a detached building on the Pentagon grounds in Arlington, Va. - said his company had never had a false positive test before and the presence of anthrax was detected independently in the original samples by two government laboratories besides his own.

The Pentagon alarm is distinct from a second alert for anthrax that also occurred March 14 at a mail room in a Defense Department-leased building in Falls Church, Va. The entire three-building complex was closed for two days before being declared clean.

Robert B. Harris, president and chief executive officer of Commonwealth Biotechnologies Inc. in Richmond, Va., also said the anthrax found at the Pentagon was the same genetic strain used in the 2001 attacks.

The dispute over the possibility of contamination -- suggested to the media by an anonymous source -- became more heated as an automated alarm warned of anthrax at yet a third Washington-area mailroom Friday. That third alert, at Bolling Air Force Base, was triggered by automated sensors -- as was the alert at Falls Church.

The week of anthrax alarms began when the Pentagon mail facility was closed after tests on samples taken there the week before had been found positive for the presence of anthrax. The initial samples, consisting of swabs of surfaces from the facility, had been collected March 10, but the results were not received and the facility was not shut down until March 14.

The delay was not the fault of CBI, Harris said, noting CBI had tested more than 2,000 similar samples in the past two years and reported its results within 24 hours.

"We reported our initial ...findings on (March 11)," Harris told UPI. "Our contracting officer told us to continue testing for further analysis over the weekend -- and that was done. On Monday ... the 14th we communicated additional test results to our contracting officer. From CBI's point of view, there was absolutely no delay in reporting the results."

CBI is a sub-contractor that conducts routine testing. The identity of the prime contractor who received the results is unclear. Defense Department spokesman Glenn Flood told UPI the four-day delay was being investigated.

Harris also took issue with the anonymous suggestion in news reports that his lab had contaminated the original sample from the Pentagon site.

"It is a fact that we had a presumptive positive test come up," he said. "That presumptive positive test was confirmed by us and by at least two other labs as being a true positive."

Carlee Vander Linden, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Frederick, Md., which tested the samples after CBI, confirmed that the follow-up tests on the first sample were positive and that two labs had done such tests.

"There is a component of the Homeland Security Department that has a laboratory that is located in our building," Vander Linden explained. "They have a presence here at Fort Detrick. The samples were basically parted out and there was analysis done by USAMRIID and by the forensics lab under DHS. I know that the negatives that we got were on the ones that came directly from the (mail) facility and did not pass through the contractor. The positives that we got were on samples that had been handled already by the people in Virginia."

Vander Linden also said: "USAMRIID is not saying that, 'Gee, there probably was a contamination event.' I think some people are surmising that. It certainly has been reported that way. I think that we'll just have to wait and see."

A DHS lab did conduct confirmatory tests, said Terry Bishop, a spokesman for DOD Health Affairs, but he did not elaborate on the results.

"It is in our mind that this was truly a positive sample," said Harris, adding that his technicians had done everything possible to minimize contamination and were reviewing their lab and procedures.

"I emphasize," Harris said, "in over 2,000 of these samples and tens of thousands ... of other samples we have never experienced a false-positive test."

In response to a question from UPI, Harris confirmed CBI also had conducted other tests on the anthrax sample, but he would not reveal the results.

"There are lots of tests -- biochemical, morphological, genetic," Harris said, "all kinds of laboratory analyses that can be done to further qualify the type of pathogen we are looking at and those tests have been done."

Harris also said the anthrax in the initial samples was the same strain as the organism used during the first anthrax attack via U.S. Mail facilities in the fall of 2001. This was not surprising, however, he said, because it is the most common strain.

Questions over the first alarm were still swirling when the third alarm sounded last Friday at Bolling, which is located along the Anacostia River in Washington. The alert occurred in a mail-handling facility used by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

"This morning, the DIA remote-delivery facility was closed due to an initial positive test of incoming mail for hazardous biological agents," Defense Department spokesman Maj. Paul Swiergosz told UPI last Friday afternoon.

Personnel on the scene were asked to stay, Swiergosz said, and local officials were called. An FBI team conducted further tests.

As of late Friday, the follow-up tests at the scene had been negative, said FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman. Additional tests were planned at a laboratory.

The three alerts - at the Pentagon, in Falls Church and at Bolling -- raise concern about cross-contamination from a source of anthrax somewhere in the Defense Department mail system. All of the alerts occurred in defense-related mail facilities and in each case the alerts were specific for anthrax, several federal and local DOD spokesmen confirmed during the week.

The bioweapons sensors were not connected, UPI was told repeatedly by the spokesmen. The sensors in Fairfax and at Bolling were automatic and did not involve any CBI testing so there was no issue of sample contamination.

UPI also was told by a Defense Department spokeswoman that, in at least one case, the alerts followed the mail flow. Specifically, the mail from the Pentagon site could have moved to the Falls Church location.

The Pentagon is working to gather more than 8,000 pieces of mail that moved through its detached facility between March 10 and March 14.

Copyright İ 2005 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.


ANTHRAX CASE: Justice Department Attempts To Silence Wife Of Bioweaponeer -

"Anthrax Bloodhounds & Justice Delayed :
US Justice Department Attempts To Quash
Testimony of Bioweaponeer's Wife

The US Justice Department filed a motion Friday to quash testimony by wife of bioweaponeer William Patrick III in the lawsuit: Steven J. Hatfill, M.D. v. Attorney General John Ashcroft, The Department of Justice; The Federal Bureau of Investigation (et al).

Headed by former federal prosecutor Tom Connelly, pro bono attorney's for Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, the former “person of interest” in the anthrax letters case, have been quietly doing battle behind the scenes with attorney's for the US Justice Department, in the United States District Court for The District of Columbia.

Dr. Steven Hatfill's life was publically dismantled, rendering him Persona non grata when John Ashcroft, the former United States Attorney General, labeled Hatfill “a person of interest” in the still unsolved anthrax case.

Alleged leaks from the FBI to the news media created a macabre media blitz wherein the news hungry press was culpable, if not instrumental, in perpetuating the tortuous ordeal Dr. Hatfill, who has never been charged with a crime, was forced to endure. He became a pariah, lost his job, is unemployable and reportedly destitute.

The FBI shadowed Hatfill to the extent that a state of virtual house arrest existed. At one point, on one of the rare occasions Hatfill left his besieged apartment, one of Hatfill's keepers ran over his foot with an SUV. Ironically, it was Hatfill who received a citation and a fine over the incident.

The FBI leaks, first appearing in Newsweek and amplified by ABC's Brian Ross, appeared to be uniquely designed to draw public interest.

Newsweek's Mark Miller and Daniel Klaidman reported in "The Hunt for the Anthrax Killer", in remarkable detail, how, using bloodhounds that had been given "scent packs" from decontaminated anthrax letters to sniff, "went crazy" upon approaching Hatfill"s apartment:

"The dogs, purebred bloodhounds with noses a thousand times more sensitive than a human’s, were barking and howling and straining at their leashes. Early last week FBI agents on the trail of last year’s anthrax attacker turned to a 16th-century technology to help solve a 21st-century crime.

AGENTS PRESENTED the canines with scent packs lifted from anthrax-tainted letters mailed to Sens. Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy (long since decontaminated), hoping some faint, telltale trace of the perpetrator’s smell still remained months after the fact. The agents quietly brought the dogs to various locations frequented by a dozen people they considered possible suspects -- hoping the hounds would match the scent on the letters. In place after place, the dogs had no reaction. But when the handlers approached the Frederick, Md., apartment building of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, an eccentric 48-year-old scientist who had worked in one of the Army’s top bioweapons-research laboratories, the dogs immediately became agitated,

NEWSWEEK has learned. "They went crazy," says one law-enforcement source. The agents also brought the bloodhounds to the Washington, D.C., apartment of Hatfill’s girlfriend and to a Denny’s restaurant in Louisiana, where Hatfill had eaten the day before. In both places, the dogs jumped and barked, indicating they’d picked up the scent. (Bloodhounds are the only dogs whose powers of smell are admissible in court.) " Newsweek reported.

No shrinking violet, Hatfill went public pleading his case: "I love my country, I had nothing to do with the anthrax letters and it is terribly wrong for anyone to contend or think otherwise."
In a statement at an Accuracy in Media conference, Hatfill noted "They brought this good-looking dog in. I mean, this was the best-fed dog I have seen in a long time. They brought him in and he walked around the room. By the way, I could have left at anytime but I volunteered while they were raiding my apartment the second time, I volunteered to talk with them. The dog came around and I petted him. And the dog walked out. So animals like me".

As for the overall investigation: "...I didn't know it could be like this in the United States. We've gone nuts. We eat our own here."

Former Federal Prosecutor vs. The US Attorney General

Eventually, Steven Hatfill, assisted by his friend and former investigative reporter, Pat Clawson, obtained the pro bono services of a former federal prosecutor, now practicing with a high powered Washington DC law firm.

To get to the bottom of what was leaked to whom,Tom Conolly threw out a wide net. In October 2004 the New York Times reported that Justice Department officials agreed to distribute to federal investigators a document they could sign to release journalists from pledges of confidentiality.
This was considered a compromise that would advance proceedings in the lawsuit without interfering with the criminal investigation of the anthrax case by requiring depositions from a large number of investigators.

The releases were sought as a step toward questioning reporters about their sources in the case.
In addition to suing the F.B.I. and the Justice Department, Hatfill filed a separate defamation lawsuit against The New York Times, for columns about him by Nicholas D. Kristoff. Though the Kristoff lawsuit was dismissed, the news media appears to have taken a collective vow of silence in regards to Steven Hatfill, the antithesis of the barrage of shotgun reporting prior to the lawsuits.

Justice Department obtains delays

Naturally, lawyers for the Justice Department and the FBI have forced delays, citing interference with the alleged on-going anthrax investigation dubbed "Amerithrax". The news media has been virtually mute after legal motions were filed seeking that certain journalists be deposed.

52 questions

In an interesting twist, on June 30, 2005, Hatfill's team submitted its latest motion to US District Judge Reggie B. Walton, consisting of a series of 52 questions, seeking to depose Virginia Patrick, friend of Steven Hatfill and the wife William Patrick III, former chief of product development for the U.S. Army's bioweapons program at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Ft. Detrick, Maryland.

A significant portion of the questions relate to the staged bloodhound affair:

How did you respond to what the FBI agents told you about the "smoking gun" evidence from the dogs?
Did you express some skepticism about the use of the dogs?
How did the FBI agents react to your skepticism?
What did you suggest?
What did the FBI agents do after you suggested that you would like to see the dogs in action?
How quickly did the FBI agents respond?
How many dog handlers and dogs arrived?
How quickly did the dogs and their handlers arrive?
What did this response time lead you to believe?
Were the dog handlers FBI agents?
What did the dog handlers do?
What did the dogs do?
What was the purpose of the demonstration?
Was this the first time the dogs had visited your property?
Why were the dogs at your home and property earlier?
Who told you that the dogs already had visited your property?
Did the FBI tell you why it revealed the information to you?
What did the FBI ask you to do with information regarding Dr. Hatfill?
Did the FBI seek any information from you?
Do you have any idea why the FBI disclosed this information to you?
Did the FBI ask you to keep the information secret?
Did the FBI ask you to sign any sort of non-disclosure agreement? -
Did this experience change your relationship with Dr. Hatfill?
Submitted, By: Thomas G. Connelly, Mark A. Grannis and Patrick O'Donnell

Naturally, the Justice Department immediately filed a motion to effectively quash, and the news media remains collectively mute on the matter.

Specific Objections
Why did the FBI agent approach you?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
What did the FBI agent say?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
Did the FBI agent request that you do anything?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
Did you follow the FBI agent's request?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
What did the FBI agents tell you?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
What did the FBI agents say about the evidence?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
How did the FBI gather the evidence?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
What was your reaction to the FBI agents' statements?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
What was the purpose of the demonstration?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
Did the FBI tell you why it revealed the information to you?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
What did the FBI ask you to do with information regarding Dr. Hatfill?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
Did the FBI seek any information from you?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
Did the FBI ask you for additional evidence?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
Do you have any idea why the FBI disclosed this information to you?
Objection: Law enforcement privilege
Dated: June 30, 2005
Respectfully Submitted,
United States Attorney
Assistant Attorney General
Deputy Assistant Attorney General

Outside of the courtroom

In an encore performance, the FBI exposed another physician, who just happened to have similarities to Dr. Hatfill.

In August of last year, in a full frontal daylight assault, more than 30 agents, some in biohazard suits, searched residences in New York and New Jersey connected to Dr. Kenneth Berry. Both Berry and Hatfill have foreign medical degrees, are outspoken advocates for bioterror preparedness, and In 1997, both warned of potential bioterror attacks and how to thwart them.

The FBI raid, complete with reporters and photographers on scene, served as a catalyst in the subsequent violent disintegration of Dr. Berry's family. Berry's lawyer, Clifford E. Lazzaro, told reporters, "The great pressure of being scrutinized by the federal government . . . would be enough to destroy the average citizen." William Berry, father of Kenneth Berry, stated, "They have been on him for three years. They have no leads,"
Interestingly, that puts the investigation start date in the vicinity of September 18, 2001, the date of the first anthrax mailing.

On March 18, 2005, Barbara O'Brien of News Southtows Bureau reported "The former Wellsville physician whose homes were searched in connection with the anthrax killings has visited Wellsville recently, and is living on unemployment in New Jersey, according to a friend. "Who's going to hire him?"

Dr. Kenneth M. Berry lost his job as an emergency room doctor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in McKeesport, Pa., last year after his name surfaced in the anthrax investigation.
Earlier this year, in his first interview, the Wellsville Daily Reporter quoted Dr. Berry as saying "(The FBI investigation) totally destroyed my life. I lost my reputation, my wife, my family, my son, my job ... everything,"

Who could fault the FBI for aggressively pursuing the serial killer who mailed deadly anthrax, killing 5 human beings and causing untold social and economic damage? On the other hand, who even attempts to make whole the innocents collaterally damaged in the pursuit? The Attorney General? The Justice Department? We shall closely watch the developments in Hatfill v. Ashcroft, and see.

Jerzy Pollack

İ 2005 Investigative Reporter
Reprint permission granted with acknowledgment

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