- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Secret Service on Thursday said a suspicious letter mailed to President Obama was similar to letters suspected of being laced with the deadly poison ricin sent last week to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his gun control group.

The White House mail screening facility Wednesday intercepted the letter addressed to the president, said Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary. This letter has been turned over to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force for testing and investigation.

No one was reported as becoming seriously ill from handling any of the letters.


SEE ALSO: Cops: Letters to NYC Mayor Bloomberg test positive for ricin


White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that Mr. Obama was aware of the letter addressed to him.

Authorities haven’t said precisely how the letter was similar to the ones addressed to Mr. Bloomberg and Mayors Against Illegal Guns — a nonprofit group he started. The screening facility is located away from the White House complex.

A senior federal official speaking on condition of anonymity said White House security was on “heightened” alert for suspicious mail after it became aware of the Bloomberg-related letters.

One suspicious letter sent to Mr. Bloomberg was opened in New York at the city’s mail facility in Manhattan, while another mailed to a Washington office used by Mayors Against Illegal Guns was unsealed Sunday. Police said preliminary testing indicated the presence of ricin in both letters but that more testing would be done.

At least the two Bloomberg-related letters were postmarked from Louisiana and contained threatening references regarding the debate on gun laws, police said.

Mr. Bloomberg said he wasn’t angry and that the letters won’t deter him from his gun control efforts.

“I speak for all of the close to a 1,000 mayors in the mayors’ coalition against guns: This is a scourge on the country that we just have to make sure that we get under control and eliminate,” he said. “It’s a very complex world out there and we just have to deal with that.”

Several news outlets reported the Bloomberg letters included the text: “Anyone wants to come to my house will be shot in the face. The right to bear arms is my constitutional God-given right and I will exercise that right ‘til the day I die. What’s in this letter is nothing compared to what I’ve got planned for you.”

Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican, told CNN on Thursday that law enforcement officials he has spoken with say all of the letters are “virtually identical.” New York Police Department Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Thursday that the same machine likely produced all three letters.

Ricin-tainted letters also were sent last month to Mr. Obama, Sen. Roger F. Wicker, Mississippi Republican, and a Mississippi judge. James Everett Dutschke of Tupelo, Miss., has been charged in connection with the case. Federal authorities initially arrested another Mississippi man accused of sending the letters but dropped all charges.

Authorities haven’t suggested any ties between the April letters and the more recent ones.

Ricin, naturally found in castor beans, can be fatal if ingested, inhaled or absorbed. Ricin poisoning has no known antidote and is difficult to detect as a cause of death.

• This article was based in part of wire service reports.