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Hatfill gave training while under scrutiny in anthrax probe

July 04, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) - Even after he came under FBI scrutiny in the 2001 anthrax attacks, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill continued to teach Pentagon training sessions for military personnel preparing to search for chemical and biological weapons overseas.

Officials from the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Special Operations Command said Thursday that Hatfill did the work as an employee with defense contractor Science Applications International Corp.

The DIA got Hatfill to teach courses at Camp Dawson, W.Va., in March 2002, after he had lost both his job and his government security clearance as the anthrax investigation intensified.

"To lose him at that point would have been a bad thing for the DIA," said Lt. Cmdr. James Brooks, a DIA spokesman. "We wanted to get the training done, and he was the expert."

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Hatfill also bought materials for and helped construct mock biological weapons labs to train special operations personnel on what to look for in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, officials say. And he trained State Department employees in how to respond to potential chemical or biological attacks against them.

A senior federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was this very work that caught the FBI's attention as agents searched for people in the United States who might be capable of making deadly anthrax spores into a weapon.

Hatfill, a physician and bioterrorism expert, has not been charged in the anthrax attacks, but has been labeled "a person of interest" by Attorney General John Ashcroft and is under 24-hour FBI surveillance.

Letters laced with anthrax that were mailed to government and news media offices in the fall of 2001 killed five people and sickened 17 others. Hatfill has repeatedly denied any connection to the attacks and his friend and spokesman, Pat Clawson, said Hatfill's sensitive work for the military shows the trust once placed in him.

"Steve's expertise and knowledge is something that's very valuable to the U.S. government," Clawson said. "Obviously the Defense Department values his expertise. It's astonishing that the Justice Department doesn't."

FBI and Justice Department officials declined comment. But Brooks, the DIA spokesman, called Hatfill "an extremely professional, knowledgeable expert. That was our relationship with him."

Hatfill came to SAIC in January 1999 from the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. He worked for SAIC until March 4, 2002, as a senior scientist, said spokesman Ron Zollars from company headquarters in San Diego.

Hatfill went from there to a position at Louisiana State University - a job he subsequently lost amid the FBI anthrax probe. Hatfill is now unemployed and living in Washington.

Under the State Department contract with SAIC, Hatfill trained Diplomatic Security Services personnel in a "countermeasures program" in case they should encounter biological or chemical attacks overseas.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Hatfill did the training on a part-time basis from mid-April 2002 until mid-June 2002. Officials could not immediately explain how Hatfill was involved when he had left SAIC in March.

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