Depositions Taken In Anthrax Case
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
At least two reporters have been questioned about their confidential sources in a lawsuit filed against the Justice Department by Steven J. Hatfill, the former Army scientist who has been investigated in the 2001 anthrax attacks.
In addition, at least two other reporters have been subpoenaed to answer questions in the suit, including Allan Lengel of The Washington Post.
Hatfill's lawsuit, filed in 2003 in U.S. District Court in Washington, accuses the Justice Department of violating the Privacy Act and his civil rights by labeling him a "person of interest" in the mailings of envelopes containing anthrax bacteria. He has denied any part in the mailings, which killed five people. No arrests have been made in the case.
A lawyer for the reporters who have been questioned said yesterday that they declined to identify confidential sources, citing reporter's privilege.
An in-house lawyer for The Post said yesterday that Lengel intends to take a similar position.
"Allan will not name any of his confidential sources," said the lawyer, Eric Lieberman.
Kevin Baine, a lawyer with Williams & Connolly, said he represents Lengel, as well as Michael Isikoff of Newsweek and Brian Ross of ABC, the two reporters who have appeared at depositions. Both asserted a privilege under the First Amendment and federal common law not to be required to identify confidential sources, Baine said.
Newsweek's Washington bureau chief, Dan Klaidman, also has been subpoenaed, but no date has been set for his deposition, Baine said.
Sources said Hatfill's lawyers also intend to question Jim Stewart of CBS.
Hatfill, a physician and bioterrorism specialist, worked from 1997 to 1999 in the Army's infectious diseases laboratory at Maryland's Fort Detrick.
Hatfill alleges that Justice officials leaked discrediting and false information to the media about him that caused him great harm.