RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled against a former Army scientist who sued The New York Times over columns linking him to deadly 2001 anthrax attacks.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Monday that Steven Hatfill was a public figure and had to prove actual malice to win his libel lawsuit. The court said Hatfill failed to meet that burden.

Five people were killed and 17 sickened in the anthrax attacks. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft publicly identified Hatfill as a "person of interest" in the investigation.

Columnist Nicholas Kristof criticized the FBI's investigation as lackadaisical and initially referred to Hatfill as "Mr. Z." Kristof identified Hatfill by name only after Hatfill held a news conference to denounce rumors.