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FBI might drain Maryland pond in anthrax probe

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Investigators looking for answers in the anthrax investigation might drain a pond in Frederick, Maryland, where suspicious items were found during previous searches, the city's mayor said.

"It's been presented to us as [a] possibility as part of the investigation," Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty said.

When agents initially searched the pond in December, investigators found lab equipment, including what was described as a large plastic tub with two holes on the side, similar to something used to limit exposure while performing scientific tests, government sources said.

The discovery prompted agents from the FBI and other law enforcement bodies to return to the pond at least four times, including once two weeks ago, looking for more evidence possibly linked to the attacks.

Sources said investigators were initially led to the pond after getting a tip that someone had been seen dumping something in the pond.

However, officials say they have no evidence connecting anything found in the park to anthrax or the anthrax attacks. They also say there is no evidence linking any individual to the deadly anthrax letters, which fatally infected five people who inhaled anthrax spores in the fall of 2001.

That includes the one person named by the Justice Department in the investigation. While the FBI has said nothing publicly about anyone it may be investigating, Attorney General John Ashcroft did publicly refer to Stephen Hatfill, a former Army researcher, as a "person of interest" in the case. Hatfill once worked at the U.S. Army bioweapons laboratory at Fort Detrick, which is near the pond.

Hatfill has steadfastly maintained that he had no involvement in the attacks.

Pat Clawson, a friend of Hatfill's who has also acted as his spokesman, has repeatedly denounced the FBI for what he called a "campaign of systemic leaks" that has been destroying Hatfill's life.

"The FBI can drain the Pacific Ocean, but it is never going to find any evidence that Steve Hatfill was the anthrax killer because Steve Hatfill had nothing to do with the anthrax attacks," Clawson said.

If the FBI "has any evidence, they should arrest for him for those charges," Clawson added. "If the FBI does not have enough information to charge, the FBI should shut up."

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