- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 17, 2001

Federal investigators have found another anthrax-laced letter, this one addressed to Sen Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the FBI said yesterday.

The contaminated letter bore handwriting similar to one sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and like the Daschle letter was postmarked from Trenton, N.J., law enforcement authorities said.

"FBI and U.S. Postal Service investigators examining sequestered congressional mail have found another letter which appears to contain anthrax," the FBI said in a statement. "The as yet unopened letter, addressed to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, has an Oct. 9, 2001, Trenton, N.J., postmark and appears in every respect to be similar to the other anthrax-laced letters."

The letter was located yesterday afternoon by investigators in one of more than 250 barrels of unopened mail sent to Capitol Hill and held since the discovery of the Daschle letter on Oct. 15. Hazardous-materials specialists began the process of sorting the quarantined congressional mail earlier this week at a quickly established safe facility in Northern Virginia.

Investigators were concerned there was more than one letter containing anthrax sent to Capitol Hill, and they were looking for Trenton postmarks and the unique block handwriting found on the Daschle letter. FBI officials did not decontaminate the letters to allow hazardous-materials specialists to search for the bacteria.

Capitol Police spokesman Lt. Dan Nichols last night said law enforcement authorities had reason to believe there was a second letter and "that letter has now been found."

Mr. Leahy, in a statement, said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III personally informed him about the discovery of the letter.

"I appreciate his call. This is a law enforcement matter, and I will leave it to the proper authorities to report what they know and the procedures they are taking," he said. "I am confident they are taking the appropriate steps and that eventually they will find this person."

Mr. Leahy added that Senate leaders and officers did "the right thing" in isolating the mail, and "my staff and I appreciate all that is being done to resolve this threat."

Four persons have died from inhaling the anthrax bacteria, including Thomas L. Morris Jr. and Joseph Curseen Jr., two U.S. Postal Service workers at the Brentwood Mail Processing Facility in Northeast Washington. They were believed to have handled the letter sent to Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.

Trenton also was the source of letters to NBC News and the New York Post. Two others who died from inhalation anthrax are Bob Stevens, a photo editor at a Florida tabloid newspaper, although the letter he handled was thrown away, and Kathy T. Nguyen, a worker at a New York hospital, whose contact with anthrax has not been determined.

A search has uncovered traces of anthrax in nearly a dozen offices in the Hart Building, where Mr. Daschle's office is located. That building remains closed as crews attempt to decontaminate, with chlorine dioxide gas, areas in which the bacteria were located.

Mr. Leahy's office is in the Russell Senate Office Building, although it was not clear last night where the letter sent to the Vermont Democrat was when authorities confiscated the mail on Oct. 5. Mail sent to Congress goes from the Brentwood facility to a depot operated by the U.S. Capitol Police near Capitol Hill, where it is sorted with other mail and then delivered to the three Senate office buildings.

Lt. Nichols said the Senate Dirksen and Russell buildings would be closed beginning at 4 p.m. today to allow teams to search for any traces of anthrax. He said investigators are not sure where the Leahy letter had been and it was possible it was in one of those buildings before the letters were confiscated and moved to Northern Virginia.

He said the search was aimed at guaranteeing the public's safety. Congress recessed yesterday for Thanksgiving and will reconvene on Nov. 27.

Commander Greg Martin, an infectious-disease specialist for the U.S. Navy who has been involved in the search for anthrax at the U.S. Capitol, said extensive testing had yielded no positive returns and he was "very confident" there would be no new incidents.

Investigators said the anthrax located in the letters to Mr. Daschle, NBC and the New York Post contain a similar strain of anthrax one that is common to the United States.

•Staff writer H.J. Brier contributed to this report.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide