Between the spring of 1988 and this summer, John Crewdson filed close to 100 requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the National Institutes of Health sent him some 5,000 pages of previously unreleased documents relating to the laboratory of Robert C. Gallo.

Those documents formed the basis of his 50,000-word opus and made him one of the biggest FOIA users in NIH history.

The article and the controversy it revived also made Crewdson one of the best known reporter's names in scientific circles. Rumors of Crewdson's "investigation" circulated for nearly two years, a period in which Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) was investigating another major scientific figure, molecular biologist David Baltimore. Many biomedical researchers began to think their field was under siege.

In his quest, Crewdson interviewed scores of scientists, including many of Gallo's colleagues. As a result, his style of questioning -- which many liken to intimidation and harassment -- has become a topic of conversation among scientists.

Crewdson's FOIA requests -- copies of which were obtained through FOIA by The Washington Post -- also provide a fascinating summary of the course of Crewdson's investigation and paint a revealing picture of a reporter obsessed with minute details of Gallo's life and work.

Crewdson began his FOIA odyssey in April 1988, when he filed more than 30 petitions in the space of a week, largely for laboratory notes and correspondence between key government scientists and Gallo.

By late summer, however, as he was more and more immersed in the story, Crewdson apparently became convinced that he himself had become the target of someone else's investigation.

For example, he asked that the NIH send him "a copy of every document, including but not limited to memorandums and correspondence, in which the writer of this letter {Crewdson} is mentioned or alluded to" maintained by any of seven separate NIH departments, including Gallo's laboratory and the Office of the Director of NIH.

Two days later, he filed again, this time asking for "any and all FOIA requests submitted to you by others which seek (1) copies of FOIA requests submitted to you by me, or (2) copies of documents released to me by you under the FOIA."

It could not be determined whether Crewdson's request for requests related to his FOIA letters was successful.

In October, Crewdson -- evidently suspecting that Gallo was trying to hide documents from him -- asked the NIH FOIA office to search Gallo's home and to photocopy anything at all "marked or labeled personal."

Even after his article was published, the slightest news or gossip about Gallo prompted a Crewdson FOIA request. Last April, from a hotel in France, he requested records on Gallo's involvement in vaccine trials. In May he asked for Gallo's travel records again. Then he wanted "all records relating to or reflecting an altercation or altercation(s) involving Dr. Robert C. Gallo and the NIH security force."

Finally in June, Science magazine published a long article generally supportive of Gallo based on what the magazine said were new documents it had obtained. Crewdson faxed an FOIA request the same day.

Every document received by Science, he argued in his letter, should be given to him immediately under the FOIA.

"Even if they were made available to Science unofficially and not through the FOIA process," he wrote, "I submit that they are nevertheless now public documents and should therefore be made available to me."

Although his expose appeared nine months ago, Crewdson recently moved from his base in the Tribune's Los Angeles bureau to Bethesda, the site of Gallo's lab on the NIH campus. Crewdson declined to be interviewed for this article.