death is called accidental
Wind gust tied to bridge plunge
By David Abel, Globe Staff, 1/15/2002
Renowned Harvard biochemist Don C. Wiley died accidentally in a fall from a Memphis bridge, medical authorities concluded yesterday in an autopsy report.
The 57-year-old award-winning scientist was last seen in Memphis around midnight on Nov. 15. Intense speculation followed his disappearance and the discovery of his body on Dec. 20 in the Mississippi River in Lousiana, about 300 miles downstream.
But Shelby County Medical Examiner O.C. Smith said Wiley's end was just a tragic series of accidents that began when he hit some construction signs on the Hernando DeSoto Bridge, a mile-long span over the Mississippi that connects Tennessee and Arkansas.
After the 6-foot-3-inch, 165-pound professor stopped to inspect the damage to his rental car, investigators believe, he was swept off the 135-foot-high bridge by a gust of wind, possibly from one of the many 18-wheel trucks that cross the bridge that time of day.
Making the accident scenario more likely, Smith said, Wiley had had a few glasses of wine that evening and also suffered from a seizure disorder that sometimes caused dizziness when he was tired or under stress.
Smith ruled out suicide because the autopsy suggests Wiley hit a support beam of the bridge before he landed in the water. Previous suicides at the bridge suggest that those who jump easily clear the support beams, which are 12 feet below the bridge and project about 3 feet beyond the guardrails.
The medical examiner also ruled out murder because there was no physical sign on Wiley's body of a struggle, and no one reported seeing a confrontation on the busy bridge.
Yesterday's report appeared to solve a mystery that weighed heavily on Wiley's family, friends, and colleagues, many of whom have insisted the father of four was unlikely to commit suicide.
''I'm glad we've come to a conclusion,'' said Wiley's wife, Katrin Valgeirsdottir. ''It's just over. That's it.''
Wiley, an expert on how the immune system fights infection, had studied the Ebola virus, HIV, herpes, and influenza. The professor was widely regarded as the nation's foremost expert in using special X-ray cameras and mathematical formulas to make high-resolution images of viruses.
Two years ago, he won the prestigious Japan Prize.
Wiley had traveled to Memphis to attend an annual meeting of the scientific advisory board of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. He was last seen at a banquet at the Peabody Hotel. Colleagues who spoke to him that night said that the professor did not appear stressed and that he had said he was looking forward to spending the weekend with his family, who planned to visit him in Memphis.
Although he drank a few glasses of wine that night, Wiley's colleagues said, he did not appear intoxicated. Initial toxicology reports say that Wiley had alcohol levels ''suggesting impairment.''
Another possible factor in a fall from the bridge is ''an infrequent and poorly understood seizure disorder affecting Dr. Wiley,'' Smith said.
Wiley had kept his condition private for many years and had not received treatment for it, the medical examiner said. ''It was prone to occur when he was stressed, fatigued, or had taken alcohol,'' he added. ''It will never be known if this disorder or drowsy driving due to the late hour and long day Dr. Wiley had put in, or the effects of alcohol contributed to the incident on the bridge.''
Wiley's rental car was found around 4 a.m. on Nov. 16 abandoned on the bridge with the keys in the ignition, a full tank of gas, and without the hazard lights flashing. On the driver's side of the white car, investigators found yellow paint and rusty material from a sign on the bridge. On the passenger side, they found a missing right front hubcap and scrapes on the wheel rims from the side of the bridge.
Wiley was supposed to return that night to his father's home in a suburb of Memphis in the opposite direction he was headed. Investigators believe be was probably confused by the large amount of construction in the area and that he took a wrong turn on the highway.
After the crash, Wiley might have stepped out on the four-lane bridge, which hadtwo lanes blocked off that night. A strong gust combined with the bouncing of the bridge from heavy vehicles could have swept the lanky professor over a guardrail that was less than 4 feet high, Smith said.
''Instability for any reason could precipitate a fall,'' he said.
The evidence that Wiley hit the support beams below the bridge came from a missing button on a Giorgio Armani shirt the professor was wearing that night. The professor fractured his chest bone in the same area, and Smith said the impact of the water wouldn't have removed the button.
''This subtle physical finding combined with the absolute lack of suicidal indicators is conclusive,'' Smith said in his report. ''The possibility of Dr. Wiley's death having been a suicide was carefully considered and rejected. The manner of death is therefore accidental.''
This story ran on
page A1 of the Boston Globe on 1/15/2002.
have role to play in defending against bioterrorism
By Jennifer Peter, Associated Press, 3/24/2002 17:17
BOSTON (AP) Veterinarians are gathering here this week to discuss canine cardiology, feline pharmaceuticals, and, yes, bioterrorism.
In another sign that Sept. 11 has changed almost every facet of life as we know it, the American Animal Hospital Association has dedicated three hours in its five-day annual conference to the role small-animal doctors can play in combating biological threats.
''It's happening everywhere in so many fields,'' said Dr. David Franz, a veterinarian and former commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. ''The strangest groups are asking me to speak about bioterrorism.''
Franz, who will address the conference between 2 and 5 p.m. Monday, said that while the role of vets in the war on terrorism may not be immediately obvious, they may be able to detect the first sign of a biochemical invasion.
Like the proverbial canary in a coal mine, a dead bird or rabbit may be a warning of something awry in the ecosystem, he said.
''Animals can be sentinels,'' said Franz, currently the vice president of the Chemical and Biological Defense Division of the Southern Research Institute. ''So there's a role for the veterinarian in all of this. They have an important role to play in public health in this country.''
Franz said it was a zoo veterinarian who played a key role in determining that it was the West Nile virus that was killing humans and birds in New York in 1999.
The veterinarian association added Franz's lecture to the agenda after Sept. 11 and the anthrax scares that followed.
''We wanted to share the most current body of knowledge regarding bioterrorism with veterinarians,'' said Derek Woodbury, a spokesman for the association. ''There's a concern among veterinarians about treating pets who may be affected by bioterror. But there's also a greater issue among veterinarians about being good citizens.''
Approximately 1,800 small animal veterinarians are attending the conference, which began Saturday at a variety of Boston-area locations.
Franz, who was chief inspector on three United Nations Special Commission biological warfare missions to Iraq, said he and his colleagues began concentrating on the threat of bioterrorism after the end of the Persian Gulf War and the breakup of the Soviet Union, when thousands of biological weapon scientists were suddenly out of work.
''It's much more than Sept. 11,'' he said.
investigation gets boost
By Raja Mishra, Globe Staff, 5/10/2002
Scientists yesterday gave federal investigators a powerful new tool to probe the anthrax mystery, a genetic fingerprint of the lethal virus found in Florida last fall that could help narrow the field of potential bioterror suspects.
The release came on a day when tests revealed about 20 pieces of mail with anthrax traces at the US Federal Reserve in Washington. FBI officials cautioned that the tests could be mistaken, noting that none of the letters contained the distinctive block writing or violent threats of last fall's bioterror mailings.
Nevertheless, the findings conjured harsh memories of the fatal attacks for many, even causing a brief tumble of the stock market.
It has been five months since the fifth and final anthrax victim died, in Connecticut, and federal agents have focused their investigation on the hundreds of labs that acquired anthrax over the last half century, when samples of the virus were freely traded among scientists.
Numerous scientists and lab workers have been interviewed and their labs inspected, but no suspect has emerged in the deadliest bioterror attack in US history.
The new genetic fingerprint, published
on the Web site of the journal Science, will allow
''I think we'll be able to make some conclusion with reasonable confidence that some labs may not have been the source,'' said Claire M. Fraser, president of the Maryland-based Institute for Genomic Research, which conducted the research along with Northern Arizona University scientists.
''Whether we'll be able to say a single lab is the source, it's too early to tell,'' she said.
The process of elimination is complicated by the fact that many labs possess a strain of anthrax called the Ames strain, isolated in a Texas cow in 1981, and first stored at the Fort Detrick US Army compound in Frederick, Md. The anthrax used in last year's bioterror attacks was identified as an Ames strain.
During the 1980s, the Ames strain became the scientific standard, and hundreds of labs eventually received copies, said officals at the federal Centers for Disease Control.
Over time, the dispersed Ames samples developed tiny mutations that distinguish them - their fingerprints. Until yesterday, the anthrax genome had not been studied in enough detail to tell the different samples of the Ames strain apart.
The researchers mapped the Florida bioterror strain's genome, then compared it to the map of another Ames strain held by Arizona scientists. They found 60 different areas of genetic difference. In the future, investigators could zero in on these areas to establish an anthrax strain's fingerprint, said the researchers.
''It may be that if you were looking at 15 labs known to have Ames, you might be able to say with reasonable confidence that half or two-thirds or most of those could be eliminated as key suspects,'' said Fraser.
The researchers plan to map out 14 more common anthrax strains. But there are so many labs with Ames strains that the new study will not be able to narrow the field of suspects anytime soon, said Philip S. Brachman, an anthrax expert at Emory University's Roland School of Public Health.
''Ames used to be the standard. Anybody could get hold of it,'' he said.
The research team urged that federal officals create a central database of anthrax samples held by every lab in the nation, in the same way the FBI logs fingerprints of convicted felons. Currently, the CDC only requires that labs trading anthrax or other pathogens report their transactions to the agency, though Congress is reviewing this rule.
''There may be circumstances out there where folks haven't officially registered. But there is an intense effort to identify those out there who have anthrax and to make sure they're properly registered,'' said CDC spokesman Llelwyn Grant.
The strain examined by the researchers killed tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens in Boca Raton, Fla. last Oct. 5, triggering a mass bioterror scare. Seven days later, an aide to NBC anchor Tom Brokaw developed skin anthrax after handling a letter proclaiming ''Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is Great,'' and dated ''09-11-01.''
Within a month, two Washington post office workers, a Bronx woman, and an elderly Connecticut woman also were dead.
The FBI eventually released a possible profile of the killer: an adult male loner with a science background and access to laboratory equipment. They are offering a $2 million award for information that leads to an arrest.
They have conducted 5,000 interviews, issued more than 1,300 subpoenas, seized numerous anthrax samples, and given several scientists lie detector tests, said FBI officals.
Their investigation is clearly focused on domestic scientists: in January, the FBI sent a mass e-mail to members of the American Society of Microbiology seeking help in locating the culprit.
This story ran on page A2 of the
Boston Globe on 5/10/2002.
admits to anthrax hoax
She says fraud case provoked her mailings
By Thanassis Cambanis, Globe Staff, 5/21/2002
A Bellingham grandmother known for caring for the elderly and the infirm pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court to sending 18 threatening hoax letters to the state attorney general, six of them laced with white powder, at the height of last fall's anthrax scare.
Joyce Godbout, 68, said a state prosecution of Medicaid fraud at her adult day health center provoked ''emotional strain'' and prompted her to send the letters.
''I'm being treated for severe depression, mental stress, anxiety, and manic disorders,'' Godbout said during her plea hearing. She sought permission from US District Judge Reginald C. Lindsay to remain seated during the proceeding because she suffers from osteoporosis.
For more than 20 years, Godbout owned and ran the Blackstone Valley Adult Day Health Center in Bellingham. It drew volunteers from around town, who warmed to Godbout's maternal and comfortable demeanor.
That life began to unravel two years ago, when Godbout closed her center during a Medicaid fraud investigation by the state attorney general's office. She was indicted in May 2001, charged with billing Medicaid for $183,000 in services she never provided.
As the attorney general's staff prepared to take the case against Godbout to trial, they began receiving letters threatening death and violence, many stuffed with white powder. The letters arrived between Oct. 22, and Dec. 6, 2001.
The anonymous culprit had cut out newspaper articles and advertising circulars to piece together the missives, which made regular references to Osama bin Laden and his terror network, al Qaeda.
''You have to understand the context. This was happening not long after 9/11,'' said David Nalven, chief of the attorney general's business and labor protection bureau. ''People were receiving and handling letters containing a white substance in October, at exactly the same time that postal employees who had handled letters containing anthrax had lost their lives.''
Godbout pleaded guilty to the fraud charges in December. By then, Attorney General Thomas Reilly, members of his staff, and a Superior Court judge had received the anthrax hoax letters and US Postal Inspection Service agents and State Police had begun to piece together a connection.
''The matter which all the recipients had in common was the Godbout prosecution,'' Assistant US Attorney Despena F. Billings said yesterday.
In February, agents searched Godbout's garbage and her home. They found cuttings that matched the letters, along with a list of state employees who had received them. They also discovered a list of businesses whose addresses Godbout placed on the envelopes she mailed to investigators.
As the agents sifted through Godbout's belongings, Billings said, the former caregiver confessed. ''She said she'd been through a great deal over the last years with the fraud investigation,'' he said. ''She was fed up.''
Yesterday, Godbout betrayed no
emotion during the plea session. One of her daughters
The five charges each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but under federal sentencing guidelines Godbout will probably be sentenced to 10 to 16 months. She will be sentenced Sept. 16.
Nalven, who watched Godbout enter her guilty plea, said the threatening letters had rattled his staff for three months.
''The fact that she might be portrayed as a kindly, old, doddering grandmother now does not lessen [the fact] that these were dastardly crimes designed to rip off the taxpayers of Massachusetts and to intimidate those who were trying to do their jobs,'' Nalven said. ''Given her profile as somebody capable of committing crimes, we didn't view her as a kindly grandmother sending hoax letters.''
Bellingham Selectman Bob Badzmierowski, who once volunteered at Godbout's center, said the high regard in which the community had held her made the charges all the more stunning.
''I will hope and pray that she seeks help,'' Badzmierowski said. ''Joyce was always very nice to me and professional and that's why it hurts so much. What she's done in the times we are at is just a horrible thing and she has to pay for what she has done.''
researcher is put on leave
University acts after FBI search in anthrax probe
By Bret Ladine, Globe Correspondent, 8/3/2002
WASHINGTON - A day after FBI agents searched his home for a second time in connection with last fall's anthrax attacks, former Army research scientist Dr. Steven J. Hatfill was placed on administrative leave at the university that had recently hired him.
Citing ''current circumstances,'' Louisiana State University announced that Hatfill would be on paid leave for 30 days, effective yesterday. LSU hired Hatfill July 1 as the associate director of the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training, a program that receives funding from the Justice Department. The center's director, Dr. Stephen L. Guillot Jr., said he had been told by the FBI in June that Hatfill was not a suspect.
Hatfill's hiring at LSU angered some faculty members. One researcher, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he and his colleagues were shocked to discover that Hatfill was coming to the campus. Some of them later agreed not to allow Hatfill to enter their individual research facilities.
LSU's move came as the FBI cautiously continued its investigation, noting that Hatfill, 48, is still merely ''a person of interest'' and that he has cooperated with the investigation.
In addition to combing through Hatfill's Frederick, Md., apartment Thursday, agents also searched the home of his girlfriend, whose name the FBI did not disclose. The FBI has noted that it has conducted several similar searches in the case of other scientists who may have had access to anthrax.
Outsiders have criticized the FBI for a lack of progress in the anthrax investigation, intensifying pressure on the agency to come up with a suspect. However, the agency may be mindful of renewing the embarrassment of the Richard Jewell case.
Jewell, a security guard, was identified in FBI leaks as the only suspect in a bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He was totally exonerated three months later.
''[Hatfill] has the logical and investigative background to suggest that he should be included in the pool of individuals that have engendered investigative interest,'' said Clint Van Sandt, a former FBI profiler. ''But they don't want to repeat the problems of the past, so they're saying `let's not let the media or Congress rush us to the point where we cannot support our case and make it rock solid.'''
Hatfill is a former employee of the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Md. He lectured and spoke frequently about possible threats from bioterrorism as part of his job. While Hatfill had access to anthrax, he did not work with it on a regular basis, a spokesman at the germ warfare institute has said.
Hatfill later worked at Science Applications International Corp., a San Diego-based technology research company. There, along with a colleague, he commissioned a report that described the potential uses of anthrax. A portion of the report explained how anthrax could be sent through the mail in regular envelopes, a company spokesman said.
While Hatfill matches several aspects of the FBI profile of the perpetrator - he is a male with a scientific background and past access to anthrax - the profile also describes a ''loner'' who ''lacks the personal skills necessary to confront others.'' Hatfill is widely known as outspoken and a man who ''likes to hear himself talk,'' according to one former colleague.
Despite this disparity, Vincent Cannistrano, a former CIA agent, said some people within the FBI are ''intellectually convinced they're on the right track, but they don't want to come up with a janitor theory that's wrong again.''
Phone calls to Hatfill's Virginia-based attorney, Victor M. Glasberg, were not returned yesterday. Hatfill's phone number is unlisted.
The slow pace of the FBI investigation has angered some in the scientific community who have been pondering theories about possible suspects for months.
Dr. Barbara Rosenberg, chair of the Federation of American Scientists, has pleaded with investigators to focus their efforts on Hatfill. She presented a detailed profile of a person matching Hatfill's background and met with Senate Judiciary Committee staff about her findings. The first search of Hatfill's Maryland residence took place with Hatfill's consent just days later, on June 25.
''Obviously they were dragging their feet and undoubtedly some evidence has been lost,'' said Rosenberg. ''But I am very encouraged they are acting now.''
In other developments yesterday, the United Nations disclosed that Hatfill had been trained for potential future involvement in UN weapons inspections programs in Iraq.
UN spokesman Ewen Buchanan said Hatfill had attended a one-month training course in October 2000 designed to create a pool of potential inspectors in the event that Iraq agreed to let the inspections resume. The UN selected people for the program based upon recommendations from member states and also received unsolicited individual applications. Hatfill submitted one such application and is one of 230 people who have been successfully trained in the program.
Hatfill is a 1983 graduate of the University of Zimbabwe Medical School, according to the school's Web site. The university is located in Zimbabwe's capital city of Harare, near the suburb of Greendale. Anthrax-laden envelopes sent to Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle and Senator Patrick Leahy included ''Greendale School'' as the return address.
Rosenberg and former colleagues have noted that Hatfill lived in Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, during a period of civil war between whites and blacks in the country. That war saw a severe outbreak of cutaneous anthrax.
This story ran on
page A2 of the Boston Globe on 8/3/2002.
probe raises doubts on FBI
By Wayne Washington, Globe Staff, 9/23/2002
WASHINGTON - On June 18, four FBI agents and a handful of senior staff aides to three US senators met in a hearing room at the Dirksen Senate Office Building and listened as a top US scientist alleged that investigators were not aggressively pursuing a possible suspect in the deadly anthrax mailings.
Even now, the questions linger: Has the FBI found the suspect? Or has there been a rush to judgment?
The June briefing, given by Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, chairwoman of the Federation of American Scientists' Chemical and Biological Arms Control Program, lasted for more than an hour, according to three congressional aides familiar with it. Months had gone by since someone stepped up the post-Sept. 11 fears by lacing letters with anthrax, but no arrests had been made.
Rosenberg did not mention former government biowarfare scientist Steven J. Hatfill by name, but she told staff members that she believed the anthrax killer was a microbiologist who used to work at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., and that his government ties were protecting him.
After she left the room, the FBI agents forcefully denied to the congressional aides - some of whom worked for two Democratic senators who had been targets of the anthrax killer, Thomas A. Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota and the majority leader, and Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the Judiciary Committee chairman - that they would overlook anyone suspected of causing five deaths. But the media were reporting Rosenberg's concerns as well, citing circumstantial evidence that pointed to a government employee, and were chiding the FBI for its lack of progress.
A week later, Hatfill's life became a public nightmare. FBI agents searched his Frederick, Md., apartment as television crews, alerted by an unknown tipster, filmed the scene. Attorney General John Ashcroft named him a ''person of interest'' in the nationwide manhunt for the anthrax killer. On Aug. 1, the Justice Department ordered Louisiana State University not to use Hatfill on a department-funded grant program. Hatfill called two press conferences, tearfully protesting FBI tactics, to assert his innocence.
''After eight months of one of the most intensive public and private investigations in American history, no one, no one has come up with a shred of evidence that I had anything to do with the anthrax letters,'' Hatfill said Aug. 11.
And so, one year after the anthrax killings, with no other ''person of interest'' publicly identified, the mystery continues. Some wonder whether, as in the saga of Richard Jewell, branded as a suspect in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing, and Wen Ho Lee, said to have committed nuclear espionage, the FBI opened itself up, once again, to lawsuits and contentious oversight hearings on Capitol Hill.
''Obviously, the bureau is under tremendous pressure to nail the anthrax murderer,'' said Athan G. Theoharis, a history professor at Marquette University who has written extensively about the FBI. But given the damaging fallout that the FBI suffered in previous cases, ''one would have thought they would have announced the arrest or indictment of Hatfill before publicly naming him as a person of interest.''
FBI probe was frame-up, Hatfill supporters allege
Pat Clawson, a Hatfill friend and spokesman, said that the June 25 apartment search marked the beginning of a coordinated, consistent effort by the Justice Department to tar Hatfill as a suspect in the anthrax killings in order to soothe a jittery public, placate the media, and address the concerns of the senators and their staff members, who want answers.
And at least one knowledgeable congressional aide said that while there is no proof of an effort to frame Hatfill, the public relations benefits of conducting a well-publicized search are impossible to ignore. ''There's nothing like having a bunch of guys in FBI windbreakers carting out someone's stuff'' to give the media and the public the impression that something is being accomplished, the aide said.
On Wednesday, Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Justice Department, wrote Ashcroft a letter demanding answers to a series of questions about the anthrax case. Grassley asked Ashcroft to define the term ''person of interest'' and explain how such a person is different from a suspect in a criminal investigation. The Iowa senator also asked Ashcroft to spell out what legal right the department has to direct grant recipients like LSU not to employ certain individuals, and he asked him to explain what standards are used in deciding when someone should be removed from a government project.
''It is important that the government act according to laws, rules, policies, and procedures, rather than make arbitrary decisions that affect individual citizens,'' Grassley wrote.
But Grassley stops short of alleging FBI misconduct. ''Since I have no knowledge of the information on which DOJ relied to take these steps, I have no views as to the appropriateness of DOJ's actions regarding Mr. Hatfill,'' Grassley wrote.
A congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there is concern on Capitol Hill about Hatfill's treatment, but contended that ''Nobody is going to come to this guy's defense until it's all been resolved.''
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the bureau did not tip the media off to the apartment search. Nor is the bureau, he said, trying to mount a campaign to convince the public that progress is being made in the investigation. ''There's no contrived plan on the part of the FBI to win some sort of public relations battle,'' Bresson said. ''That's ridiculous.''
But the charge is gaining currency among some conservatives who think, as a Wall Street Journal editorial put it, that the government is being led down a ''yellow brick road'' by folks like Rosenberg, a former Clinton administration adviser, when it should be focusing on Al Qaeda or Iraq.
Clawson said that Hatfill has already spent his life savings trying to counter the impression that he had something to do with the anthrax murders and that Hatfill will sue the FBI. ''We have quite a bit of information'' to use in a lawsuit, Clawson said.
Bresson said the Justice Department only confirmed that Hatfill was a person of interest in the investigation in response to a media inquiry. He said it is ''unfortunate'' that Hatfill's name has become known.
Theoharis said the bureau has a pattern of leaking information about someone it believes has a connection to a particular crime, even if agents don't have enough evidence to make a case. But Bresson said ''by no means'' is its interest in Hatfill ''a campaign to turn up the heat on any particular person.''
Friend says party joke may have led to probe
Since this spring, when Hatfill's name first popped up in connection to the anthrax killings, he has been written about extensively and the circumstances of his personal and professional life examined for links and clues. The American-born scientist lived and went to school in Zimbabwe, near the Greendale neighborhood in the city of Harare. The return address on the letters to Leahy and Daschle listed the ''Greendale School.'' Hatfill lectured and spoke frequently about the possible threats from bioterrorism as part of his government job and commissioned a report while employed for a defense contractor on what would happen if a terrorist distributed anthrax in the mail, according to Army and industry spokesmen.
On the other hand, Hatfill argues, and a spokesman for Fort Detrick confirms, that he specialized in viruses, not anthrax bacteria. ''I have never worked with anthrax,'' Hatfill said. ''I know nothing about this matter.''
Beyond his statements rejecting any connection to the anthrax killings, Hatfill has kept quiet. Clawson would not discuss his friend's past, other than to contend vehemently that Hatfill is [NOT] the killer.
[Correction: Because of editing errors, a Page One story in yesterday's Globe incorrectly stated that Steven J. Hatfill's friend and spokesman, Pat Clawson, has contended that Hatfill is the anthrax killer. Clawson has denied that Hatfill sent the anthrax-laced letters. Also, a letter received by Oliver North was unsigned and alleged Jewish control over the media.]''You'd have to be a sociopath or a nut to do that,'' Clawson said. ''Steve is a healer.''
Clawson said he believes the FBI has focused on his friend because of Rosenberg's opinions, the work of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, and other journalists who have compiled a roster of circumstantial evidence that points at someone like Hatfill. The bureau was aware of Hatfill by late October 2001, Clawson contends, when Hatfill, Clawson, and several friends and acquaintances met during a skeet shooting party at a friend's house in Virginia.
Clawson, who said he works on a radio show with Oliver North, the retired Marine lieutenant colonel, said he had his own anthrax scare a few weeks earlier when he inadvertently opened mail left on his desk for North. The letter, he said, came from a radical Jewish organization and was postmarked Trenton, N.J., where the anthrax letter was mailed to Daschle.
Clawson said the letter to North seemed like a crank letter, but he was concerned when he noticed gray powder in the envelope. At the skeet shooting party, Clawson said, he asked his scientist friend, Hatfill, whether he should take Cipro, a drug used to prevent people exposed to anthrax from becoming sick. Clawson said Hatfill and the men at the house joked that since Cipro could also help prevent venereal diseases, they all should start taking it.
Clawson said he thinks someone from the skeet shooting party, several of whom did not know Hatfill, told the FBI about the joke, which took on far more sinister connotations as agents desperately searched for the anthrax killer. Clawson said agents could have come to the erroneous conclusion that Hatfill was trying to protect his friends from deadly mailings he was sending out.
Clawson said he fears that the FBI will arrest Hatfill and charge him with a lesser offense, leaving in the public mind the false impression that the anthrax killer has been taken off the streets.
This story ran on
page A1 of the Boston Globe on 9/23/2002.
future bioweapons risks
By Daniel S. Shapiro, 6/4/2003
IN AN EFFORT to protect itself against biological terrorism, the United States will unwittingly become vulnerable to future attacks unless we devise a solution to a problem of our own creation. It seems that the ability to look only a single move ahead is not limited to novice chess players.
One of the concerns of the biodefense community is that the former Soviet Union had an extensive infrastructure that included facilities for the research, production, and testing of biowarfare agents. It employed tens of thousands of full-time scientists, approximately 7,000 of whom are regarded as posing a critical proliferation risk because they have specific knowledge that would be of value to groups working on the development of bioweapons.
As a result of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the discontinuation of its bioweapons program, many of the scientists have suffered financial hardship, exacerbating the concern that they may resort to working for rogue states or for terrorist groups.
A small amount of US funding has been made available to these scientists in order to enable them to make the transition into mainstream science, but the amount has been inadequate.
What of the future of they ambitious biodefense program in the United States? The research budget has grown enormously as a result of concerns about bioterrorism and will likely exceed $2 billion annually. By funding basic and applied science, the money will enable thousands of American scientists to enter into defensive research on pathogens that are viewed as significant threats - the agents of anthrax, smallpox, plague, botulism, and other diseases.
Let's look not one move ahead, but a few. Several years from now there will be numerous researchers working in biodefense research and employed at the assistant professor level. Some of these scientists will be denied promotion and tenure. Similarly, there will be large numbers of graduate students working in laboratories on bioterrorism agents who will find themselves unable to meet the requirements for their degree and will be forced out of graduate school.
What will become of these two groups of people who have intimate knowledge of biodefense and are out of work? No provision has been made for this concern. There has been little discussion of the need for a policy to deal with what may be hundreds or even thousands of unemployed scientists living in the United States whose areas of expertise can in some cases be translated to work in weapons design and production.
Because we have created an infrastructure that will fund thousands of scientists in biodefense research, we must have a plan to ensure that those who leave their work are able to support themselves and their families. Possibilities include retraining these scientists and the far less politically palatable option of providing unemployment compensation at a much higher level than is the societal standard to these scientists. Both the imagination to design an acceptable program and the political will to place this on our national agenda are needed in order to prevent the dissemination of dangerous knowledge by disenchanted and unemployed scientists.
The individual who sent letters containing anthrax spores in the US mail is suspected by many of having worked in the biodefense community. We do not know the motive for these acts nor the psychological setting that resulted in the perpetrator's decision to disseminate the lethal spores. As a result of the exponential increase in federal funding, the United States will be increasing many-fold the number of people who have the ability to manufacture biological weapons.
Despite the low probability that a given individual will take it upon himself to actually produce and use a bioweapon, the probability one or more people engaged in biodefense work will eventually do so is increasing due to the sheer force of numbers.
If Congress ever decides to cut funding for biodefense research dramatically, its decision will result in what we now worry about in the former Soviet Union: thousands of unemployed or underemployed scientists who are financially and personally finding it difficult to care for themselves and their families. Unless we can come up with an alternative plan to keep these scientists employed, we have bought into funding a tremendous research program in perpetuity.
Dr. Daniel Shapiro is associate professor of medicine, pathology, and laboratory medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine and directs the clinical microbiology laboratory at Boston Medical Center.
This story ran on page A23 of the Boston Globe on 6/4/2003.
Anthrax deaths turned attention toward Iraq
By Peter S. Canellos
WASHINGTON - The news last week about Army scientist Bruce E. Ivins, the suspected anthrax killer who committed suicide just before he was scheduled to meet with the FBI, was treated as more of a mystery than a revelation, and the public reacted with more curiosity than outrage.
The case has an air of Agatha Christie about it - hints of a secret life behind an upright facade and clues like his therapist's handwritten notes calling him homicidal. It also has a Batman-style metaphor in Ivins's work as a juggler.
But the FBI seems quite confident that the 62-year-old Ivins was the culprit in the 2001 anthrax deaths.
If so, he was responsible for more than the murders of five people: He's guilty of turning the attention of the United States away from Afghanistan and toward Iraq, a strategic shift that many people now consider disastrous on two fronts.
The significance of the anthrax attacks in shaping US policy in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has largely been forgotten. Enough time has passed since the frenzied days of October 2001 that unmasking the anthrax killer no longer seems to be of urgent importance. The attacks long ago stopped, and the sense of fear that enveloped the country in those days - with media personalities gulping the antibiotic Cipro to protect themselves - receded.
But the slowly unfolding attacks - seven separate letters containing the deadly powder were sent to politicians and news organizations over a period of 21 days - greatly amplified the fears of average Americans just weeks after the 9/11 attacks.
Were it not for the anthrax attacks, most people would have assumed that the United States faced just one enemy - the global terrorist network Al Qaeda - with a base in Afghanistan and Islamist allies in some other countries.
The anthrax attacks suggested something different: That Al Qaeda's strike on New York and Washington had emboldened numerous enemies of the United States to launch attacks of their own with various methods, some as stealthy as sending biological weapons through the mail.
The Bush administration didn't need much prompting to turn its attention from Afghanistan to Iraq, according to the many insider accounts published since then. The president, who was otherwise somewhat ignorant of the world, was well-briefed on the Iraqi threat dating from Saddam Hussein's attempt to assassinate his father. In addition, many of the president's neoconservative advisers had long believed that the "secular" Iraq would be a good place to implant democratic values.
When the anthrax attacks occurred, Iraq was immediately fingered by some experts and many neoconservative hawks as a possible source; ABC News quoted three unnamed government sources as saying the powder in the letters matched the type produced in Iraq.
Even though most serious analysts were highly skeptical that the tainted letters came from Hussein, the mere possibility that Iraq could have maintained a stockpile of anthrax was enough to convince many people that it was a looming threat.
It's impossible to know how much, if at all, this speculation influenced the Bush administration's subsequent decision to confront Iraq. Perhaps Iraq was so much on the minds of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that no other trigger was needed.
But to many others in Congress, the media, and the general public, the anthrax attacks made the administration's later arguments seem more credible: If an enemy of the United States could start killing people by sending powder through the mail, there might indeed be a justification for more precipitous action.
In the end, of course, there was no anthrax found in Iraq - and no weapons of mass destruction of any sort.
Meanwhile, Ivins continued his biodefense work at Fort Detrick, Md. The low-key father of two didn't come under serious suspicion until the last two years, when the FBI placed him under surveillance. Until then, he had actually helped in the investigation of the attacks. He helped test the anthrax samples sent by the killer and, in a bizarre incident, worked as a Red Cross volunteer helping to bring refreshments to investigators who drained a lake near Fort Detrick for evidence.
Back in March 2003, he and several colleagues received the Defense Department's highest civilian honor for producing a possible anthrax vaccine. That very month, US troops were launching their mission in Iraq.
If he was, indeed, the anthrax killer, the invasion, not the vaccine, was Ivins's most significant legacy.
Peter S. Canellos is the Globe's Washington bureau chief. National Perspective is his weekly analysis of events in the capital and beyond.
Craving the dark magic of science
By Allegra Goodman | August 25, 2008
HOW QUICKLY we forget. In the aftermath of 9/11, after the memorials, the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq, and the transit bombings in London and Madrid, the anthrax scare slipped from public consciousness. Now, long articles detail the results of a troubled investigation into the anonymous anthrax-tainted letters of the fall of 2001.
With the cruel elegance of a Greek tragedy, Bruce Ivins, the scientific adviser on the matter, became the prime suspect in the case, and its final victim as well, when he killed himself on July 29. Suddenly anthrax is back in the news, and we remember those chilling block-printed messages: DEATH TO AMERICA. We recall the postal screenings, the warnings about unknown addresses, and the lockdown of mail rooms and government offices.
The anthrax letters had seemed part of the larger offensive launched by Al Qaeda. Now we understand them differently, as the project of a deranged scientist in a federal laboratory. We wonder how this disturbed man could continue working to refine such dangerous substances. We marvel that an investigator researching a vaccine for anthrax could also be the man who used the pathogen to such evil ends.
Conspiracy theorists will have a field day. Was Ivins looking for more funding for his vaccine research? Was the government trying to frame him, to cover up for larger, deeper plots? Surely the FBI investigation was as poisonous as the powdery substance in those envelopes. The inquiry was plagued by secrecy for years, and a $5.8 million payoff for Ivins' embattled colleague, Steven Hatfill. This material is perfect for gadfly filmmaker Oliver Stone, or even better, for the moody blue novelist John le Carré. The story has it all: a mad scientist in thrall with his deadly subject, investigators caught up in their inquiry, each player tainted by his own work. In Shakespeare's famous words, each "nature . . . subdued / To what it works in, like the dyer's hand."
Beyond these elements, the story plays into the public fear of scientists and their techniques. How important our truth-seekers have become, and how easily they can turn their tools to violent ends. These are the recurring nightmares illustrated in classic science fiction, fantasy, and comic books: our own machines' mutiny, our genetically engineered organisms attack us, and most frightening, our scientists mutate into forces for evil.
For now, it seems, a rogue investigator proves more dangerous than rogue nations. Even as we benefit from advances in communication and medicine and engineering, we distrust innovators. We predict they will fly too high, and look for confirmation that their intelligence corrupts them. The fear runs deep, old as Icarus and "Frankenstein" and witches' poisoned apples.
Why do we distrust scientists? Because, although we would rather shake our heads at politicians, and ogle celebrities and the super rich, we know in our hearts that knowledge is power. Scientists work with substances that can cure or kill. Their research will change, and even save our lives, and so we look at them with awe, and superstition. We don't fully understand the laboratory, and so we mythologize investigators as heroes or demons, often both at once. We are dazzled by scientists' success and saddened, yet also strangely satisfied, when they fall.
And yet we crave the fruits of scientific labor. We desire cheaper food, faster computers, better health, and alternative fuel, but we're shocked that research takes so long and costs so much. We want innovation without damage to the ecosystem, drugs without side effects, manufacturing without toxic waste. We want all the benefits of the future without giving up the comforts of the past. Improvement without cost, change without hard choices. Is this too much to ask? Well, yes, but we keep asking anyway.
Ultimately, we project our conflicting expectations onto the men and women in the field, and we look to them with love and hate, demanding oracles, requiring greatness, and burdening them with praise and blame. Only the technology is new. The role scientists play is old and tribal: they are our shamans, and we expect miracles, even as we dread black magic.
Allegra Goodman is a guest columnist and author of "Intuition." Her first book for younger readers, "The Other Side of the Island," will be published in September.