By Nicholas Stix
August 18, 2002
People shown pictures of Dr. Steven J. Hatfill in Princeton, have positively ID’d the bioweapons scientist. The FBI has thoroughly canvassed the vicinity of a mail box on a street opposite Princeton University, that was found to be contaminated with anthrax spores. The Bureau does not believe that the mail box was cross-contaminated, say by a mail basket that had been contaminated elsewhere, but rather that at least one anthrax-contaminated letter had been dropped directly into the box.
As the person most frequently interviewed by print and TV reporters, Leticia Fraga, observed to NBC News reporters, she told the FBI agents that “He looked familiar, but only because I’d seen his face on TV.”
We’re now way past the border of Police Investigative Procedure 101, and deep in Keystone Kops Kountry. In a missing persons investigation, it would be perfectly acceptable, for canvassers to show a photograph of a single person in a neighborhood where the photographed subject was believed to have been, just before he disappeared. However, in a criminal investigation, where law enforcement officers seek to get a positive identification of a suspect, the photograph of the purported suspect must be mixed in a batch of photographs of non-suspects.* To show people only one person’s photograph is unprofessional, under normal circumstances. But these aren’t normal circumstances. The canvassing is being done eleven months after the letters were mailed, and after a series of targeted FBI leaks and countless media reports so biased as to fail to rise to the level of “yellow journalism,” ensured that everyone in the world with a TV set, can identify a picture of Steven Hatfill. Any identifications of his photograph should be inadmissible in court, on a par with showing a witness a lineup with only one man.
I say, “should be inadmissible,” because while I believe it would be inadmissible, as a matter of law, judges often dismiss the law, and in the current atmosphere of FBI and media-generated hysteria, even normally rigorous jurists might be tempted to take legal shortcuts.
Meanwhile, the FBI has put a full court press on Hatfill. As Susan Schmidt with Rob Thomason and Tom Jackman wrote in the August 15 Washington Post,
“More than a dozen FBI agents have been diverted from white-collar criminal cases in the past two weeks to work on the intensifying investigation of whether bioterror expert Steven Hatfill had any role in last fall’s anthrax attacks, according to law enforcement sources.
“The former government scientist is under frequent surveillance, according to his spokesman.”
However, Schmidt reports on the contradiction between the FBI’s denials that they have “zeroed in on Hatfill,” and the Bureau’s use of techniques solely in the case of Hatfill, such as the bloodhound or bloodhounds who allegedly barked at Hatfill and his girlfriend.
Appearing on Aaron Brown’s CNN show on August 14, Hatfill’s friend and spokesman, Pat Clawson, derided the FBI for its lack of professionalism, and denied that Hatfill had ever been in Princeton.
I’ve got to tell you, Aaron, the showing of the Hatfill photograph in New Jersey is very troublesome. Because that’s not the way that investigators normally do a photo canvas. Normally when they’re doing such a canvas, they have several pictures with them so that they can weed out false positives, erroneous witnesses, that sort of thing. That’s not happening here at all. This is actually setting him up for a fall. It’s a very unfair investigative tactic. I’m a private investigator and a long-time private investigative reporter for news organizations, including CNN, and I’ve done these spreads myself, and this is simply not how you do it....
Aaron, we have a very troublesome situation developing here. And it basically boils down to this: Steve Hatfill told me as recently as this afternoon that he has never been in Princeton, New Jersey, to the best of his knowledge. Never been there. But we have the United States government coming out now and saying basically, “You know, fellow, you look a little funny. We don’t have anything on you. We don’t have any evidence that you committed a crime, but you look a little funny.”
Troublesome, indeed. The Founding Fathers would have been deeply troubled by the mere existence of a national police organization, as opposed to police departments maintained by the individual states. Such a concentration of power invites arrogance, which is the father of abuse of power. In the pre-911 Leviathan, the FBI was already dangerously out of control, as a series of tragically botched cases most notoriously, Ruby Ridge, Waco, and the pre-911 investigation of the Moussaoui connection to the 911 terrorists attest to. But with emboldening of the federal authorities as part of President Bush’s “Homeland Security” strategy, the Bureau, under the misguided leadership of Director Robert Mueller, has utterly lost its bearings. It is persecuting a man who it is not clear had the motive, means, or opportunity to carry out the attacks, and on whom the Bureau by FBI officials’ own admission has not a shred of incriminating evidence.
What’s that you, say? “Of course, Hatfill had motive, means, and opportunity.” Once upon a time, I believed that too, but as the saying goes, you have to consider the source. The claims that Hatfill was a “disgruntled” scientist, who had constant access to USAMRIID’s bacteriological section, and who had received an up-to-date anthrax vaccine, all came from Barbara Hatch Rosenberg’s rumor mill, Defamation, Inc. None of those “facts” have withstood scrutiny. And so, I am led to conclude, that Barbara Hatch Rosenberg is a person deserving of heightened scrutiny.
Rosenberg knows her way around Princeton, she’s a member of a circle of scientists who seek to dismantle America’s biowarfare defenses, and she has admitted that the group has wished aloud for a biowarfare attack on the U.S.
On January 6, the Baltimore Sun’s Scott Shane quoted her as saying,
There have been a number of occasions when we’ve said in frustration, “What we need is a biological weapons attack to wake the country up.”
I’m not suggesting that Barbara Hatch Rosenberg did in fact, carry out the anthrax attacks, if for no other reason, than that she is not scientifically competent to do such advanced work. But through her media manipulations and defamatory campaign against Steven Hatfill, she has certainly proved herself if not a terrorist, then a dangerous person.
Some observers have suggested that the FBI’s campaign terrorizing Steven Hatfill might be a tactic to “divert” attention from its real interest. If that is the case, the Bureau has fooled not only the public, but its own personnel. And it’s looking more than a little “funny.”
*The italicized sentence is a correction; in the original, I had incorrectly stated how photo lineups properly work:
However, in a criminal investigation, where law enforcement officers seek to get a positive identification of a suspect, the photograph of the purported suspect must be mixed in a batch of photographs of other people (ideally, other possible suspects).