FBI Subpoenas Labs And
Universities In Anthrax Probe
By Earl Lane
Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - The FBI has been using subpoenas from a Florida grand jury to obtain information from universities and research institutions, including Long Island's Brookhaven National Laboratory, as part of its search for possible sources of contraband anthrax or people with the expertise to make it.
While investigators still do not know the origin of the pure, fine-grained anthrax mailed to the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), some experts have said it could be the work of a competent, doctorate-level microbiologist.
At least two laboratories that continue to do active research on anthrax said they have received subpoenas and others likely have been issued. The FBI also has been contacting many of the nation's more than 100 laboratories that handle hazardous biological agents.
At Brookhaven, the subpoena from the U.S. District Court in Miami was delivered to Nora Volkow, the laboratory's associate director for life sciences, according to Mona Rowe, a Brookhaven spokeswoman. Rowe said Brookhaven has done structural studies in the past on the DNA of the anthrax bacterium but does not possess the organism or its dormant spore form.
According to Rowe, the subpoena directed Volkow to appear before a federal grand jury in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Oct. 23 and provide information regarding the lab's handling, use and transfer of anthrax as well as the personnel involved. After the laboratory responded in writing, Volkow was not required to appear before the grand jury.
"We sent a letter explaining what we have on site," Rowe said. The lab continues to store some anthrax DNA for possible use in future studies. The FBI has not made any further inquiries, Rowe said.
The Justice Department launched a criminal investigation into the spread of anthrax in Florida and New York a week after photo editor Robert Stevens died of anthrax inhalation on Oct. 5.
The FBI anthrax investigation, which is separate from but in communication with the FBI's probe into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, is being overseen by the FBI's Washington Field Office, Justice officials said.
But Justice Department and FBI officials in Washington declined to comment on the reports about FBI requests for information from universities and research facilities, saying they could not discuss subpoenas or matters before a grand jury.
A subpoena was delivered Oct. 16 to the lab of Martin Hugh-Jones, an anthrax specialist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. According to Richard Hidalgo, assistant to the dean of the school of veterinary medicine at LSU, it asked the school to provide by Oct. 23 a log of all visitors and employees at the Hugh-Jones lab since Jan. 1, 2000, including their Social Security numbers and dates of birth. The subpoena also asked for information on shipments of pathogens to and from the lab.
"Besides Dr. Hugh-Jones and his lab director, only three others have been in the lab" during the time in question, Hidalgo said. "I've never been there myself." Hugh-Jones, who questioned the necessity of using subpoenas to obtain information from research labs, said LSU's reply was sent to the FBI last week.
A subpoena also was delivered to the University of Michigan, according to a source who asked not to be identified. "All research institutions are being contacted by the FBI and asked for information," the source said. "They were seeking personnel records for those who may be working with select agents." That refers to the class of hazardous biological agents whose possession and transfer is regulated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. In addition to anthrax, the list includes more than 30 other agents, including toxins, bacteria and viruses such as yellow fever and eastern equine encephalitis.
Barbara Govert, a spokeswoman for the CDC, said recently that more than 100 laboratories throughout the United States are registered with the agency's Select Agents Standards system. Every state has at least one registered laboratory and several states have multiple registrants, such as California and Texas. But Govert said the identities of the registrants and the types of hazardous materials they possess need to remain anonymous to avoid making them targets of future theft or attacks. "What we've been telling people is that it's classified, it's sensitive, it's very secure," she said of the list.
LSU's Hidalgo said the FBI appears to be looking for any breach in the strict handling procedures for anthrax and other select agents. It could not be determined yesterday how many institutions have received subpoenas. In some cases, the FBI has made investigative inquiries without court orders.
"The FBI showed routine interest in Princeton as a place with a graduate program in molecular biology," said Steven Schultz, a spokesman for Princeton University, in New Jersey. "We told them there is no anthrax research on campus."
Tim Parsons, a spokesman for Johns Hopkins University's school of public health in Baltimore, said the FBI had contacted the school regarding a student who graduated in May. "We provided information to the FBI," Parsons said, but he could provide no further details.
At several institutions where select agents have been studied in the past or are currently under study, officials said they have received no subpoenas or FBI requests for information. At Iowa State University, which recently destroyed its old stocks of anthrax, director of legal services Paul Tanaka said "as far as I know we have had no subpoenas delivered." He also said he had not heard of any investigative contacts by the FBI.
Officials at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston said their institution had received no subpoenas even though it continues to do research on agents on the CDC's list. "We work on a lot of restricted agents," said Dr. David Walker, chairman of the pathology department. He said procedures for handling and distribution of the agents are strictly enforced under federal regulations that went into effect in 1997. Walker noted that many post-doctoral students at his institution and others are foreign-born. He expressed some concern that the scrutiny of university-trained microbiologists not hinder the flow of scientific talent to this country. "The great strength of America has been taking the brains of the rest of world and fostering their development," Walker said.
Staff writers Tom Brune and Bryn Nelson contributed to this story.
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