Attorneys for the former army scientist once labeled as a “person of interest” in the 2001 anthrax attacks identified three government sources who they say illegally leaked information about the investigation that is now at the heart of the scientist’s Privacy Act suit against the government.
Steven Hatfill’s attorneys identified two former U.S. attorneys and a former FBI spokesman as the previously anonymous government sources for media reports that allegedly injured Hatfill’s reputation and violated his right to privacy.
If Hatfill didn’t pinpoint the sources, Judge Reggie Walton threatened to dismiss Hatfill’s Privacy Act suit. Hatfill’s attorneys maintain their dogged pursuit of additional sources who may have leaked information about Hatfill to the media.
Despite identifying the sources, Hatfill’s attorneys continue to seek contempt sanctions for reporters James Stewart and Toni Locy who refuse to identify additional sources for their reports. Walton will hold a hearing regarding those motions on Feb. 19.
Walton also ordered Hatfill and the government to enter into a five-month mediation period with the hopes of settling the case out of court. There was no indication whether CBS or USA Today, Stewart and Locy’s former employers, would be included in the mediation process.
In 2006, five media organizations joined the federal government in settling a Privacy Act complaint lodged by Wen Ho Lee, a scientist accused of stealing nuclear secrets for China. Rather than identify anonymous government sources, each media organization chipped in $150,000 toward settling the case.
The Lee settlement set a frightening precedent for non-party media organizations to essentially pay for the right to protect their sources. One would hope that the media organizations could avoid a similar fate here, but, reading the writing on the wall, it may not be surprising that Walton extended the mediation period for a full three months following the upcoming contempt hearing.