Suit filed over anthrax mailings

Officials' leaks hurt reputation, man says

January 12, 2008|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Lawyers for the former Army physician who was called "a person of interest" in the deadly anthrax mailings in the fall of 2001 named three federal officials yesterday who they said illegally leaked confidential investigative information against their client.

Steven J. Hatfill, who has not been charged with a crime and maintains his innocence, is suing the FBI, the Justice Department and a handful of current or former law-enforcement officials. Hatfill is alleging that the leaks damaged his reputation and violated his right to privacy.

"We have identified three of the leakers who were previously anonymous," said Mark A. Grannis, one of Hatfill's lawyers, near the outset of a sparsely attended hearing in federal court. "Some of the most damaging information leaked in this case [came] straight out of the U.S. attorney's office."

The mailings killed five people and sickened about 20 others from Florida to Connecticut. Coming on the heels of the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and on the Pentagon, the mailings led to the shutdown of a Senate office building.

Hatfill's lawyers alleged that the three officials who leaked investigative details to the media were Roscoe C. Howard Jr., who from 2001 to 2004 served as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia; Daniel S. Seikaly, who served as Howard's criminal division chief; and Edwin Cogswell, who formerly served as a spokesman for the FBI.

Howard and Seikaly, who both now practice privately at the same Washington, D.C., law firm, did not return messages seeking their comment. Cogswell, who is still employed by the FBI but in another capacity, could not be reached. His successor said the bureau would not comment because it concerned a matter of "ongoing litigation."

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