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Hatfill Speaks Out: “You Can’t Turn Laws On and Off as You Deem Fit”

On Friday, Steven Hatfill appeared on NBC in an interview with Matt Lauer. This was Hatfill’s first public appearance after being cleared as a suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks and after receiving a multi-million dollar settlement from the government. The full interview is compelling.

At around six minutes in the video, we have this from Hatfill, as transcribed in the accompanying article:

“I love my country,” Hatfill, 56, told Lauer. But, he added, “I learned a couple things. The government can do to you whatever they want. They can break the laws, federal laws, as they see fit … You can’t turn laws on and off as you deem fit. And the Privacy Act laws were put in place specifically to stop what happened to me. Whether we’re at war or have been attacked, the foundation of society is that you hold to the laws in place. I used to be somebody that trusted the government. Now I really don’t trust anything.”

An extended article by David Freed drawing on additional interviews with Hatfill appears in The Atlantic .

Hatfill repeats his statement about the government being able to do whatever it wants, but this time in the context of a particularly disturbing episode when the FBI was hounding him:

Boo was driving Hatfill to a paint store a week later when FBI agents in a Dodge Durango, trying to keep up with them, blew through a red light in a school zone with children present. Hatfill says he got out of his car to snap a photo of the offending agents and give them a piece of his mind. The Durango sped away—running over his right foot. Hatfill declined an ambulance ride to the hospital; unemployed, he had no medical insurance. When Washington police arrived, they issued him a ticket for “walking to create a hazard.” The infraction carried a $5 fine. Hatfill would contest the ticket in court and lose. The agent who ran over his foot was never charged.

“People think they’re free in this country,” Hatfill says. “Don’t kid yourself. This is a police state. The government can pretty much do whatever it wants.”

As Freed probes the merciless way in which the FBI hounded Hatfill, he eventually gets to this exchange with him:

The next morning, driving through Georgetown on the way to visit one of his friends in suburban Maryland, I ask Hatfill how close he came to suicide. The muscles in his jaw tighten.

“That was never an option,” Hatfill says, staring straight ahead. “If I would’ve killed myself, I would’ve been automatically judged by the press and the FBI to be guilty.”

Having failed to close the case in such a way with Hatfill, the FBI did achieve precisely that closure with Bruce Ivins.

Hatfill’s accusation that the government turns laws on and off as it sees fit applies to far more than the privacy laws in his case. Our government has turned off its laws against torture. It has turned off its laws against illegal wiretapping. It has turned off its laws against financial fraud by the largest corporations. Who will switch these laws back on?

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Hatfill Speaks Out: “You Can’t Turn Laws On and Off As You Deem Fit”

On Friday, Steven Hatfill appeared on NBC in an interview with Matt Lauer. This was Hatfill’s first public appearance after being cleared as a suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks and after receiving a multi-million dollar settlement from the government. The full interview is compelling.

At around six minutes in the video, we have this from Hatfill, as transcribed in the accompanying article:

“I love my country,” Hatfill, 56, told Lauer. But, he added, “I learned a couple things. The government can do to you whatever they want. They can break the laws, federal laws, as they see fit … You can’t turn laws on and off as you deem fit. And the Privacy Act laws were put in place specifically to stop what happened to me. Whether we’re at war or have been attacked, the foundation of society is that you hold to the laws in place. I used to be somebody that trusted the government. Now I really don’t trust anything.”

An extended article by David Freed drawing on additional interviews with Hatfill appears in The Atlantic .

Hatfill repeats his statement about the government being able to do whatever it wants, but this time in the context of a particularly disturbing episode when the FBI was hounding him:

Boo was driving Hatfill to a paint store a week later when FBI agents in a Dodge Durango, trying to keep up with them, blew through a red light in a school zone with children present. Hatfill says he got out of his car to snap a photo of the offending agents and give them a piece of his mind. The Durango sped away—running over his right foot. Hatfill declined an ambulance ride to the hospital; unemployed, he had no medical insurance. When Washington police arrived, they issued him a ticket for “walking to create a hazard.” The infraction carried a $5 fine. Hatfill would contest the ticket in court and lose. The agent who ran over his foot was never charged.

“People think they’re free in this country,” Hatfill says. “Don’t kid yourself. This is a police state. The government can pretty much do whatever it wants.”

As Freed probes the merciless way in which the FBI hounded Hatfill, he eventually gets to this exchange with him:

The next morning, driving through Georgetown on the way to visit one of his friends in suburban Maryland, I ask Hatfill how close he came to suicide. The muscles in his jaw tighten.

“That was never an option,” Hatfill says, staring straight ahead. “If I would’ve killed myself, I would’ve been automatically judged by the press and the FBI to be guilty.”

Having failed to close the case in such a way with Hatfill, the FBI did achieve precisely that closure with Bruce Ivins.

Hatfill’s accusation that the government turns laws on and off as it sees fit applies to far more than the privacy laws in his case. Our government has turned off its laws against torture. It has turned off its laws against illegal wiretapping. It has turned off its laws against financial fraud by the largest corporations. Who will switch these laws back on?

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Jim White

Jim White

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