Newspapers seek unsealing of anthrax search records
A federal court today will consider two newspapers’ request to release documents related to the 2001 “Amerithrax” investigations.
The New York Times on September 4 asked U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth for access to warrants and supporting materials related to searches of property owned or used by Dr. Bruce E. Ivins, Dr. Stephen J. Hatfill, and Hatfill’s former girlfriend. The Los Angeles Times joined in the request on September 9.
The newspapers noted that the 2001 anthrax investigation was one of the most complex and far-reaching criminal probes in American history. They argued that “the public has a qualified right of access to these court records, and no proper basis exists for continuing to keep the Warrant Materials under seal, particularly given the public’s knowledge that these three individuals were subject to scrutiny by the Amerithrax investigators.”
Hatfill was initially considered a “person of interest” in the case, but has since been cleared. He settled a lawsuit this summer against the government stemming from the investigation. Shortly after the settlement, within days of Ivins’ suicide, the government claimed that Ivins was the “sole suspect” in the attacks.
The newspapers argued that the public should see the records in part because “Questions continue to be raised about how the investigation became misdirected in focusing on Dr. Hatfill (at huge expense to the American taxpayer), why it took seven years to complete the investigation, and whether the government’s conclusion that Dr. Ivins was solely responsible for the anthrax mailings is sound.”