FBI Has Identified Government
Scientist As Anthrax Suspect

Expert: Anthrax suspect ID'd
from:
http://www.nj.com/mercer/times/index.ssf?/mercer/times/02-19-IZAR1IUB.html

02/19/02

By JOSEPH DEE
Staff Writer, Mercer Times (New Jersey)

PRINCETON BOROUGH -- An advocate for the control of
biological weapons who has been gathering information
about last autumn's anthrax attacks said yesterday the
Federal Bureau of Investigation has a strong hunch about
who mailed the deadly letters.

But the FBI might be "dragging its feet" in pressing
charges because the suspect is a former government
scientist familiar with "secret activities that the government
would not like to see disclosed," said Barbara Hatch
Rosenberg, director of the Federation of American
Scientists' Chemical and Biological Weapons Program.

Rosenberg, who spoke to about 65 students, faculty
members and others at the Woodrow Wilson School of
Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, said
the FBI has known of the suspect since October and,
according to her "government insider" sources, has
interrogated him more than once.

The investigation into five anthrax-laced letters and several
other hoax letters -- all mailed last fall, including several
processed by Trenton Main Post Office in Hamilton -- was
the focus of Rosenberg's talk. She also gave her thoughts
about what the government should do to control biological
weapons.

"There are a number of insiders -- government insiders --
who know people in the anthrax field who have a common
suspect," Rosenberg said. "The FBI has questioned that
person more than once, . . . so it looks as though the FBI
is taking that person very seriously."

She said it is quite possible the suspect is a scientist who
formerly worked at the U.S. government's military
laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md.

Rosenberg said she has been gathering information from
press reports, congressional hearings, Bush administration
news conferences and government insiders she would not name.

During a brief question-and-answer session after her talk,
one man wondered whether biological agents truly pose
significant dangers to the public, given the limited number
of deaths and illnesses caused by five anthrax-laced letters.

Without mentioning other biological agents that are far
more deadly and contagious than anthrax, Rosenberg said
the potential for a biological attack is "catastrophic."

Another man wondered if the FBI and other investigators
might be focusing too narrowly on one scientist, saying,
"New Jersey is the epicenter of the international
pharmaceutical industry," and many people in those labs
presumably have the skills to handle and refine anthrax.

"I think your argument would have been a good one earlier
on, but I think that the results of the analyses (of the
letters and the anthrax in them) show that access to
classified information was essential," Rosenberg said.
"And that rules out most of the people in the
pharmaceutical industry. . . . It's possible, but they would
have had to have access to the information," Rosenberg said.

Picking up the conversational thread, another man said,
"People know a lot, and it's a question of what they choose
to focus their knowledge on. Things are invented in
parallel," he said.

-- -- --

She said the evidence points to a person who has
experience handling anthrax; who has been vaccinated and
has received annual booster shots; and who had access to
classified government information about how to chemically
treat the bacterial spores to keep them from clumping
together, which allows them to remain 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, D.C., area," Rosenberg said. "He had
reason for travel to Florida, New Jersey and the United
Kingdom. . . . There is also the likelihood the perpetrator
made the anthrax himself. He grew it, probably on a solid
medium and weaponized it at a private location where he
had accumulated the equipment and the material.

"We know that the FBI is looking at this person, and it's
likely that he participated in the past in secret activities
that the government would not like to see disclosed,"
Rosenberg said. "And this raises the question of whether
the FBI may be dragging its feet somewhat and may not
be so anxious to bring to public light the person who did
this.

"I know that there are insiders, working for the government,
who know this person and who are worried that it could
happen that some kind of quiet deal is made that he just
disappears from view," Rosenberg said.

"This, I think, would be a really serious outcome that would
send a message to other potential terrorists, that (they)
would think they could get away with it.

"So I hope that doesn't happen, and that is my motivation
to continue to follow this and to try to encourage press
coverage and pressure on the FBI to follow up and publicly
prosecute the perpetrator."

-- -- --

She expressed disappointment that the U.S. government
last July decided against signing an international biological
weapons treaty that would ban nations from developing
such weapons.

"It became clear from congressional testimony that the
reason for this rejection was the need to protect our secret
projects," Rosenberg said.

During the question-and-answer period, one woman said,
"I'm not sure that I understood you completely, but it
seems to me that the United States government has a
double-standard," of wanting other nations to comply with a
weapons ban but wanting freedom to pursue its own program.

"I'm totally shocked by this information," she said, sending
a wave of laughter through the lecture hall.

"They make no bones about it," Rosenberg replied. "On
many occasions they've argued that rules should be for the
bad guys, not the good guys."

Rosenberg said she worries about an "enormous increase"
in money in the Bush budget for research into bioterrorism
agents. "There is already a rush for this funding," she said.

The number of researchers and labs ought to be tightly
controlled, she said. Under the current budget proposal,
however, she says the government will be spreading
money around to "a lot more people and a lot more
laboratories around the country from which bioterrorists
can emerge, as one just did.

"By spreading around this access and this knowledge,
we're asking for trouble.'


http://www.nj.com/mercer/times/index.ssf?/mercer/times/02-19-IZAR1IUB.html



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