NYTimes.com – A federal court on Tuesday unsealed documents that shed new light on why F.B.I. anthrax investigators spent years pursuing the wrong man, Steven J. Hatfill, who was exonerated by the government this year and received a $4.6 million settlement.
Search warrant affidavits said that Dr. Hatfill filled prescriptions for the antibiotic Cipro, the preferred drug for treatment of anthrax, two days before each of the mailings of anthrax-laced letters in September and October 2001. Under questioning by agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he denied taking Cipro at that time, the affidavits said.
The documents report that Dr. Hatfill spoke of serving in a Rhodesian military unit accused of starting an anthrax epidemic in 1979, told an acquaintance that it would take a “Pearl Harbor-type attack” to awaken the United States to the bioterrorist threat and kept an anthrax simulant in his apartment. They said Dr. Hatfill had access to the Ames strain of anthrax used in the attacks while working at the Army biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., from 1997 to 1999.
The Justice Department then made public search warrant affidavits laying out circumstantial evidence against Dr. Ivins, including symptoms of mental illness, late hours in the laboratory before the mailings and genetic evidence linking the mailed anthrax to a supply in his laboratory. But no definitive evidence has tied Dr. Ivins directly to the letters or to the site of the mailings in Princeton, N.J., and many of his colleagues and friends have said they do not believe he committed the crime.