Former FBI Anthrax Investigator Files Lawsuit Claiming Retaliation

By Janet Phelan

Retaliation. It is becoming a rather consistent sub-text in growing numbers of reports coming in concerning US policies—domestic as well as international. On the domestic front, attorneys are being suspended from the practice of law for protesting that the courts are corrupt, an intelligence whistleblower flees the US for safety in Russia and a journalist has been stripped of US citizenship. All these stories have the element of retaliation in common.

And now, we have reports of the FBI retaliating against one of their own former agents, allegedly for criticizing a high profile and troubled investigation. Richard Lambert, former Inspector in Charge of the 2001 anthrax investigation (AMERITHRAX) has filed a lawsuit against former Attorney General Eric Holder, former FBI Chief Robert Mueller and others in the Justice Department, alleging retaliation.

Richard Lambert, whose criticism of the FBI’s investigation into the 2001 anthrax attacks became public fare on 60 Minutes, has filed a tort claim in US District Court, alleging that an erroneous legal opinion, written by FBI attorney Patrick Kelly and circulated both within and outside of the FBI, resulted in Lambert’s being fired in June of 2013 from the position of Senior Counterintelligence Officer with Oak Ridge National Laboratories, a position Lambert took in 2012 after retiring from the FBI following 24 years of service.

Lambert alleges that Kelly’s legal opinion branded him as a criminal for taking a job wherein he had contact with the FBI, without allowing the one year “cooling off” period mandated by law for former FBI employees. Lambert points out in his lawsuit that Kelly misreported the law, which allows former FBI employees to maintain exactly such contact if they are in a position wherein they are “representing the US government.” Lambert’s position at ORNL– a Department of Energy facility– fulfills this stipulation, he maintains.

Lambert states he reported Kelly’s conclusions to the US Attorney’s office and to the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, both of which found Kelly’s findings to be “meritless.”

In his lawsuit, Lambert maintains that he was singled out for retaliation due to the animus created by his criticisms of the AMERITHRAX investigation, an investigation with which he, as Inspector in Charge, was intimately acquainted. He states that in 2006 he provided a “whistleblower report” to the FBI’s Deputy Director, with concerns that the investigation was pocked with inadequacies, including understaffing, threats of retaliation should the understaffing be reported to the FBI Headquarters, as well as an extensive cover up of what Lambert calls “daunting exculpatory evidence” concerning the chief suspect, Dr. Bruce Ivins, a Fort Detrick researcher.

Ivins reportedly committed suicide in 2008 before he could be arrested. The FBI has continued to maintain that Ivins was the “anthrax mailer.” Letters laden with weaponized anthrax spores were put into the mail in the weeks following the attacks of September 11, 2001, killing five people and sickening at least seventeen others.

Lambert’s lawsuit describes some of the actions taken by the FBI and DOJ in efforts to brand him as a criminal in allegedly violating the “cooling off” period. According to Lambert, the DOJ “launched and sensationalized massive criminal probes, which included the dispatch of teams of OIG Special Agents …who raided and searched Plaintiff’s office at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, seized and analyzed Plaintiff’s personal documents and effects, and interrogated dozens of Plaintiff’s … coworkers and associates in a wild fishing expedition festooned with prurient inquisitions into the intimate and irrelevant details of Plaintiff’s private life and marital status.”

The DOJ, however, came up empty handed. No charges were ever filed against Lambert, whose lawsuit claims: “Due to the stigmatizing publicity and notoriety surrounding Defendant (Patrick) Kelly’s legal opinion and Defendant’s inquisition, Plaintiff has been blackballed with the specter of illegal conduct and ethics violations, unable to gain reemployment despite his submission of more than 70 job applications to various employers.”

Lambert is seeking 2.5 million in compensatory damages.

Lambert, who holds a law degree and three Master’s degrees, is representing himself. His 24-year career with the FBI included a stint as Assistant Special Agent in Charge at the San Diego Division, Special Agent in Charge at the Knoxville Division and Inspector in Charge of the AMERITHRAX investigation, along with other positions.

Another attorney, Barry Kissin, of Frederick, Maryland, also publicly critical of the FBI AMERITHRAX investigation, was reportedly put on a terrorist watch list. Kissin is in private practice and also writes for the Frederick News Post.

Janet C. Phelan, investigative journalist and human rights defender that has traveled pretty extensively over the Asian region, an author of a tell-all book EXILE, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook, where this article first appeared

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