- 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
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
- According to Rowe, the subpoena directed Volkow to appear
before a federal grand jury in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Oct. 23 and
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
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
- The Justice Department launched a criminal investigation
into the spread of anthrax in Florida and New York a week after photo
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
is being overseen by the FBI's Washington Field Office, Justice officials
- 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
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
also asked for information on shipments of pathogens to and from the
- "Besides Dr. Hugh-Jones and his lab director, only
three others have been in the lab" during the time in question,
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
according to a source who asked not to be identified. "All research
institutions are being contacted by the FBI and asked for
the source said. "They were seeking personnel records for those who
may be working with select agents." That refers to the class of
biological agents whose possession and transfer is regulated by the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. In addition to
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
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
- 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
which recently destroyed its old stocks of anthrax, director of legal
Paul Tanaka said "as far as I know we have had no subpoenas
He also said he had not heard of any investigative contacts by the
- 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
- Staff writers Tom Brune and Bryn Nelson contributed to
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