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Hatfill Says He’s Not Killer, Attempts to Clear His Name

By Richard A. Serrano
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- washington

Bio-warfare expert Steven J. Hatfill stepped up his efforts Sunday to clear his name, announcing that he has offered to provide blood and handwriting samples to the FBI and blasting Attorney General John Ashcroft for calling him a “person of interest” in the government’s investigation of last fall’s anthrax attacks.

“I want to look my fellow Americans directly in the eye and declare to them: I am not the anthrax killer,” Hatfill said at a news conference outside his lawyer’s office in nearby Alexandria, Va.

The 48-year-old former Army virology researcher also said he had filed a series of complaints against the government, charging that federal agents were violating his privacy, continuing to follow and harass him, and “ruining” his life.

Five people died and 13 more became ill after a series of letters tainted with anthrax were mailed last fall to business and government addresses on the East Coast, including in New York, Washington and Florida.

Federal law-enforcement sources have said that between 20 and 30 people are considered possible suspects. But Hatfill’s name has been mentioned most often in the media.

Part of the interest in Hatfill stemmed from the disclosures that he had been writing a novel about bioterrorism, and that as part of his research he, like many of his former co-workers at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., had been inoculated against anthrax.

But during a news conference two weeks ago, Hatfill insisted that his last inoculation was in 1999 and said he now is again susceptible to the bacteria.

He also said Sunday that agents since January have intensified their investigation -- including searching his home and car -- and that he had taken a polygraph test. “I was told I passed, and the examiner was satisfied that I had told the truth,” said Hatfill, whose current employer, Louisiana State University, has placed him on leave.

To clear his name, he said, he has offered to provide blood and handwriting samples to the FBI in the hopes that they will show he is not the serial attacker. He said the FBI had agreed to the blood samples, which would measure the level of anthrax antibodies in his blood; a recent exposure would cause a high antibody level, he said. He did not say whether the FBI had agreed to the handwriting analysis.

Once the studies are complete, Hatfill said, the government should announce that the samples do not match what is known about the killer. That, he said, will show that “I had absolutely nothing to do with this terrible crime.”

Hatfill and his lawyer, Victor M. Glasberg, also released copies of six letters sent over the past few weeks, including complaints filed with the Justice Department and with the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility.