Wednesday, July 02, 2008

STEVEN HATFILL HAS HIS REVENGE: Seven years coming, summing up Amerithrax

When the US Department of Justice agreed to pay Steven J. Hatfill $5.82 million in damages for trashing his life and reputation late last week, it was another big low in the mess that's been the Amerithrax 2001 case. With the de facto exoneration of Hatfill, who had been dubbed a "person of interest" by the FBI, bystanders can conclude the agency has no evidence and no valid notion of who may have been responsible for the mailings of anthrax powder which resulted in five deaths seven years ago.

If one summarizes where the investigation went wrong, an obvious place to start was the FBI's reliance on scientists who were nothing more than prating busybodies, and on its own culture of leakers. Agents and administrators were only too happy to telegraph to the media the name of someone the agency thought was the culprit. Hatfill ranks with Richard Jewell, now deceased, and Wen Ho Lee, among those tarred by FBI leaks and convicted in the newsmedia. Jewell, who was initially named as the prime suspect in the Atlanta Olympic bombing case, sued a number of media outlets and won significant sums before his death at age 44. Lee also sued the government, as well as the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and ABC, winning a collective settlement of $1.6 million for their roles in defaming him as a nuclear spy.

All the smears that fit...

Hatfill was fingered in 2002 by New York Times opinion page columnist Nicholas Kristof, on the say-so of microbiologist Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a Federation of American Scientists advisor on biological weapons.

Read the entire analysis at el Reg here.

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