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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Two fired at LSU in relation to anthrax investigation

It could be anthrax anxiety or nothing at all, but two terminations in two days within Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research center have forced some to question the university’s judgment.

A day after firing anthrax researcher Steven Hatfill, LSU officials fired the head of the research center where Hatfill worked.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has called biomedical expert Steven Hatfill “a person of interest” in relation to last fall’s anthrax mailings. LSU first put Hatfill on paid leave but decided to terminate his contract after learning the Justice Department would not fund any research at the center associated with Hatfill’s department. The center receives 97 percent of its funds from the Justice Department.

The most recently fired researcher is Stephen L. Guillot, who was director of LSU’s National Center for Biomedical Research. The university provided no reason for terminating Guillot.

“You don’t necessarily have to give a reason,” University of Wisconsin law lecturer Christopher Kelly said. “If LSU is a state university, it may have a requirement to act in a matter that is consistent with due process and under some circumstances to at least have a fair reason to terminate somebody. That depends in part if those persons had some property interests in their jobs.”

Regarding Hatfill, LSU chancellor Mark Emmert issued a statement saying the researcher’s termination had nothing to do with his innocence or guilt in the anthrax attacks.

“In taking this action, the university is making no judgment as to Dr. Hatfill’s guilt or innocence,” Emmert said. “Our ultimate concerns are the ability of the university to fulfill its role and mission as a land-grant university . . . I have concluded that it is clearly in the best interest of LSU to terminate this relationship.”

Some believe the university is reacting to negative media pressure regarding the Justice Department’s investigation of LSU.

John P. Kaminski, director for the Study of the American Constitution at UW, said the Justice Department has not performed up to par in the Hatfill case. Kaminski called the investigation an “abysmal performance.”

“I just had dinner with a federal judge in Houston and with a plaintiff attorney, and they were both shocked at this case,” Kaminski said. “This term that is being used, a ‘person of interest,’ is not a term, it’s not a legal term. It’s a term they have singled out, and it’s a dangerous thing. In this case, the door has broken down and his life has been ruined.”

While believing the Justice Department’s investigation to be poor, Kaminski said the potential threat of more attacks warrants some of the Justice Department’s actions.

“We’re in a very difficult situation,” Kaminski said. “The potential of more attacks could be so catastrophic you could understand the need for greater security. But at the same time, there are those dangers there to our rights, so I think we must balance this.”

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