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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Maryland Pond to be Drained in Anthrax Investigation

Aired June 9, 2003 - 19:13   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: Welcome back.
Investigators return to a Maryland pond today, continuing their search for any information in the anthrax attacks that hit the U.S. in 2001. Rather than trying to search through the water in the pond, they're going drain it.

Kelli Arena explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One investigator called it a shot in the dark. Another described it as an obvious next step in finding out who the anthrax killer is. Approximately 50,000 gallons of water will be drained out of this one-acre pond in Frederick, Maryland, into a nearby pond, a process to take several weeks.

In a statement, the FBI says the purpose of these searches is to locate and collect items of evidence related to the anthrax attack.

STEVE POMERANTZ, FORMER FBI OFFICIAL: They clearly have a reason to do it. They clearly think there's a possibility. May not be a good possibility but a possibility of recovering additional evidence. And I don't think they feel in a case of this magnitude they can afford to overlook something, even if it's just a remote possibility.

ARENA: The FBI's interest in this state park date backs to December. Officials got a tip back then that someone may have dumped equipment into one of the park's ponds.

Officials say they found the tip significant because the park is about ten miles from Fort Detrick, where the Army has experimented with anthrax.

According to government sources, agents in December found in the pond a large plastic enclosed container with two openings in the side, similar to those used to limit exposure during scientific tests. Several vials were also found.

Sources say testing on those items and others continues.

But still, officials say, there is no evidence connecting anything found in the park to the anthrax attacks, nor is there any evidence linking any individual to the deadly anthrax letters. That includes Steven Hatfill, a former researcher at Fort Detrick described by the attorney general as a person of interest. Hatfill has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence, and his spokesman says the FBI is welcome to drain every pond in Maryland.

PAT CLAWSON, HATFILL SPOKESMAN: Anything that can be done to clear Steve Hatfill right now, he welcomes. And he knows that the search of the pond in Frederick is not going to lead to anything tying him into the anthrax case because he had nothing to do with the anthrax case.

ARENA (on camera): By Some estimates, draining the pond will cost about $250,000, with absolutely no guarantee of finding anything significant.

Kelli arena, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, as Kelli's piece just mentioned, Attorney General John Ashcroft calls Dr. Steven Hatfill a person of interest in the anthrax investigation. But Hatfill, who once worked at the Army's bioweapons research lab at Fort Detrick in Maryland, has steadfastly maintained his innocence. A friend and spokesman for Hatfill also says he had nothing to do with the attacks.

Pat Clawson joins me now from Washington.

Pat, thanks for being with us.

CLAWSON: Thanks for having me on.

COOPER: Your friend, Dr. Hatfill, what has his life become?

CLAWSON: His life is a living hell, Anderson. He spends his day in his apartment in Washington, D.C., watching CNN and other news channels, hearing his name taken in vain and smeared.

When he leaves the house to go shopping or to a restaurant, he's followed by an entourage of FBI agents. It's almost like a presidential motorcade, except these agents get as close to the back of his bumper as they can without hitting him. I mean, we're talking a foot or two away. Sometimes these agents swear at him. They flip him the finger. He has no privacy...

COOPER: Are you saying, in fact, he's being harassed by the FBI?

CLAWSON: Well, you cannot possibly call this surveillance. Surveillance is supposed to be secret and unobserved. This is in your face harassment.

COOPER: What is he doing to either get the FBI off his back or -- what is he doing to -- what is he doing? Is he communicating with the FBI at this point?

CLAWSON: Well, he's cooperated with the FBI 100 percent on everything they've asked him to do, repeatedly since day one. He's voluntarily taken a polygraph. He volunteers to do let them search his apartment, he's given them all of his records. He's even given them his blood on three different occasions, voluntarily, when they didn't want to accept it, to try and clear himself. Nothing works.

COOPER: Why do you think, in your opinion, he's being targeted in this way?

CLAWSON: My own personal opinion is that the anthrax investigation is at a roadblock, that the FBI bungled this case in the beginning, they really don't have anywhere else to go.

Plus, there has been a professor in New York who's made a number of complaints to Capitol Hill that somehow Steven Hatfill is the anthrax killer. And, you know, when Congress calls the FBI and says, "Take a look into what this lady has got to say," you can bet that they're going to do it.

COOPER: And Steven Hatfill at this point does not have a job. How is he living?

CLAWSON: Well, he's living on the very bare remainders of his savings and he's living on the good graces of his girlfriend, who is employed.

COOPER: Pat Clawson, appreciate you joining us tonight, appreciate you speaking up for your friend. Thank you very much.

CLAWSON: Thank you, sir.

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