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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Scientist Suing Justice Department Over Anthrax Investigation

Aired August 26, 2003 - 19:13   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the man named by the federal government as a, quote, "person of interest" in the anthrax by mail attacks is fighting back.
Stephen Hatfill, a former U.S. Army bioweapons expert, has filed a civil lawsuit against the Justice Department, as well as the FBI.

CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Stephen Hatfill has never been charged in the anthrax investigation, but his lawyers say he has been subjected to Kafka-esque punishment, nonetheless. And now Hatfill is suing Attorney General John Ashcroft, the Department of Justice and the FBI.

THOMAS CONNOLLY, HATFILL'S ATTORNEY: Dr. Hatfill had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks. No evidence links him to the crime. Yet the attorney general and a number of his subordinates have sought to make him a scapegoat. In the process, they have trampled Dr. Hatfill's constitutional rights and they have destroyed his life.

MESERVE: Hatfill is a bioweapons expert who once worked at the Army's infectious diseases laboratory at Ft. Detrick, Maryland. His attorneys claimed the FBI tipped the media to searches of Hatfill's home to deflect attention from what they characterize as a floundering anthrax investigation and violated Hatfill's privacy with 24-hour surveillance and wire taps.

That a Justice Department e-mail got Hatfill fired from Louisiana State University and that ongoing anonymous leaks and public comments from the attorney general have made Hatfill unemployable and violated the Justice Department's own prohibition on discussing ongoing investigations.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Mr. Hatfill is a person of interest to the department of justice, and we continue the investigation and for me to comment further would be inappropriate.

MESERVE: The Justice Department's own watchdog concluded in January that Ashcroft did not violate any law, regulation or Department of Justice policy or standard.

The Justice Department has made no public comment on Hatfill's lawsuit, but some legal experts say it may be a long shot. PAUL BUTLER, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW: Judges and juries don't like to hold law enforcement officials civilly responsible, even when they mess up, because they believe that they're just acting to protect public safety.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MESERVE: Meanwhile, almost two years after the anthrax attacks, neither Hatfill nor anyone else has been arrested or charged and there is no indication of major progress on the case -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jeanne Meserve, thanks very much.

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