'US scientist' is suspect in anthrax investigation'
Oliver Burkeman in New York
Wednesday February 20, 2002
The FBI has a suspect for last year's anthrax attacks, but is "dragging its heels" because he is a former government scientist familiar with secret state-sponsored research, a leading American expert on biological warfare said yesterday.
The man also sent a hoax letter to the US Senate from Britain and may once have worked in the laboratory to which his letters were sent for testing, said Barbara Rosenberg, director of the Federation of American Scientists' chemical and biological weapons working group. Quoted in the Trenton Times of New Jersey - based in the town to which most of the genuine anthrax mailings have been traced - Professor Rosenberg said that investigators had interrogated the suspect twice since October.
From its public announcements, the FBI seems to be flailing in its quest to locate the perpetrator. At the end of January it doubled, to $2.5m (£1.75m), the reward for information leading to a breakthrough in the case.
The letters, sent to US senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, the New York Post, a television anchor-man, Tom Brokaw, and others, killed five people. They infected 13 more and forced many senators to evacuate their offices for more than two months.
Prof Rosenberg said the evidence she had pointed to a man who might have worked at the US military laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland. He would have been vaccinated and would have access to clas sified information about modifying the spores to make them stay airborne.
"We can draw a likely portrait of the perpetrator as a former Fort Detrick scientist who is now working for a contractor in the Washington DC area," she said. "He had reason for travel to Florida, New Jersey and the United Kingdom." She added that he had probably made the anthrax himself. "He grew it, probably on a solid medium, and weaponised it at a private location where he had accumulated the equipment and the material."
This raised the question "of whether the FBI may be dragging its feet and may not be so anxious to bring to public light the person who did this".
Her government sources, she added, were worried that a "quiet deal is made that he just disappears from view. This _ would send a message to other terrorists that they could get away with it."
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