The FBI today searched the home of a researcher who may have had access to anthrax while working at the Fort Detrick Army base in Maryland.
Sources told ABCNEWS that Steven Hatfill is one of several people FBI officials have been investigating for months in the probe of anthrax letter attacks that left five dead and at least 13 others ill last fall. Today's search, sources said, was the first thorough search of the researcher's apartment.
The researcher has been considered to be "a person of interest" in the investigation, but not a suspect, sources said. Hatfill denied to ABCNEWS that he had anything at all to do with the anthrax attacks and consented to the search in an effort to clear his name. He said he understood his background and comments made him a logical subject of the investigation.
Agents said they found nothing immediately incriminating in the search. Hatfill has worked closely with the military and CIA anthrax experts and has frequently shocked his colleagues with his statements and demonstrations of how easily terrorists could make biological weapons.
ABCNEWS Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross also reported that investigators are intrigued by the the fact that Hatfill lived for years near a Greendale elementary school while attending medical school in Zimbabwe. Greendale School was the phony return address used in the anthrax letters.
FBI officials have interviewed him a total of four times.
Warming Up a Cold Trail?
Since the wave of attacks, the FBI has been unable to find out who was behind the anthrax-laced letters. There have been few leads and investigators admitted that the trail seemed to have grown cold.
Fort Detrick, which also is home to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, has anthrax samples, and the FBI is conducting voluntary lie detector tests at the base. Lie detector tests and interviews are also being conducted at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, where researchers have been developing a powdered form of anthrax for testing biological defense systems.
Small quantities of anthrax have routinely been produced at Dugway, and then shipped to the Army's biodefense center at Fort Detrick, Army officials have said. ABCNEWS' Brian Ross and Beverley Lumpkin contributed to this report.