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Federal judge unseals FBI anthrax investigation documents

[JURIST] Judge Royce Lamberth [official profile] of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] on Wednesday ordered the unsealing of hundreds of documents [court materials] related to the FBI's probe into the 2001 anthrax attacks [GWU backgrounder]. Among other papers, the released documents include 14 search warrants issued against government scientist and biodefense researcher Bruce Ivins [NPR report], who had recently emerged as a suspect in the mailings. Last week, Ivins apparently committed suicide [Los Angeles Times report] after learning that the Department of Justice (DOJ) planned to prosecute him in connection with the attacks. Officials close to the investigation said that the documents were first released in briefings made to victims' families and that the investigation into the crime has all but ended. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

Earlier this month, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced that it will pay former US Army germ-warfare researcher Dr. Steven Hatfill [WP profile] $2.8 million to settle his claim that the DOJ violated the US Privacy Act [text] by providing information about him to journalists during its investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks, in which he was at one point named a "person of interest." The DOJ initially agreed to seek a settlement in late June after Hatfill filed his lawsuit [JURIST reports]. The settlement may moot a contempt case against former USA Today reporter and past JURIST student staff member Toni Locy [JURIST news archive], who is now awaiting a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit. Locy had refused to disclose her related sources in discovery, and Hatfill lawyer Christopher Wright later stated [letter, PDF] that Locy's evidence was no longer needed by his client.

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