Friday Special: Feds cough up $2.8 million over anthrax


Anthrax: the bacteria that wormed its way into the consciousness of an entire nation, thanks to who?

I like to cruise the news on Fridays in search of breaking stories that someone hopes will be buried by the weekend and forgotten by Monday.

I bet the feds are hoping that Steven Hatfill will be one such case.

That's because they have just agreed to pay the former bioweapons researcher $2.825 million and a $150,000 annuity.

Hatfill, who lost his job, but was never charged, sued the Justice Department in 2003 for violating his privacy , after he was designated a "person of interest" following the deadly anthrax attacks in October 2001.

Five people were killed, 17 became seriously ill--and an entire nation was traumatized, on top of the already traumatizing 9/11 attacks.

Two post office workers died in Washington. An employee of American Media died in Florida; an elderly woman died in Oxford, Connecticut, as did a hospital worker in New York.

At least 24 FBI agents undertook 900 interviews, but no one was ever charged.

It sounds ridiculous in retrospect, but at the news organization where I was working at the time, we were instructed to open the mail wearing gloves and mask, after anthrax-laced letters were sent to the offices of U.S. Sens. Tom Daschle of South Dakota and Patrick Veahy of Vermont and a TV news network.

I also remember local law enforcement turning out in full force, after white powder was found on the street outside my office. It turned out to be flour, scattered in a beer run, in which someone had gone jogging, marking the path from bar to bar with flour.

Asked if the perpetrators could be prosecuted, a local fireman told me , "Well, you could stretch it out to littering."

Wish that we could prosecute whoever was responsible for littering an entire nation's psyche with fear of anthrax.

But with the feds declaring the case "stone cold," feel free to share your "anthrax memories" here, lest we forget how thoroughly terrorized we all were--and lest we ignore, at our own peril, how some will seek to reactivate those fears as the November election approaches.