- The Washington Times - Friday, November 9, 2001

FBI agents from the Washington field office are searching through quarantined congressional mail for additional anthrax-laced letters, similar to one opened at Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle's office on Oct. 15.
"We're going through [the mail] looking for evidence," said FBI spokeswoman Cindy McCraw. "When we're done, we'll turn it back over to the Capitol."
The FBI began moving the quarantined mail on Monday to a sealed facility in the Franconia section of Fairfax, FBI spokesman Peter Murray said. It had been stored at a congressional warehouse on P Street SE in the District.
"This is mail that was already delivered to Congress," Mr. Murray said. "It was quarantined after everybody realized there was anthrax in the Daschle letter."
Officials are being extremely careful handling the mail, moving it in 55-gallon drums loaded in sealed cargo containers. Miss McCraw said agents are wearing protective suits and working with the Environmental Protection Agency to prevent further escape of any anthrax spores.
"We're guessing that there are about 300,000 pieces of mail," she said, adding that the FBI inspection will take about three weeks to complete.
Meanwhile, the condition of one of the two area postal workers with inhalation anthrax was upgraded yesterday to "good," while the other was upgraded to "fair" on Wednesday, as was a mailroom employee at a State Department facility in Sterling, Va., who also had inhalation anthrax.
All three are believed to have come into contact with spillover from the anthrax-laced letter to Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, which was processed at the Brentwood postal facility the District's central mail-processing facility in Northeast.
Brentwood closed Oct. 21 when two other workers there Thomas L. Morris Jr., 55, and Joseph Curseen Jr., 47 died of inhalation anthrax.
Early on the morning of Oct. 21, Mr. Morris, of Suitland, called 911 and described what he believed were symptoms of the anthrax taking over his body. Details of the taped call were first reported Wednesday by WRC-TV (Channel 4).
Mr. Morris told a 911 call-taker that a woman working near him at Brentwood on Oct. 13 handled an envelope that had powder on it. That was about the time the Daschle letter would have passed through Brentwood.
Postal officials said they have reviewed notes from a postal inspector who responded to the report of a leaking powder and they match the incident Mr. Morris described to the 911 call-taker.
When Brentwood will reopen remains undetermined, postal officials said yesterday. About 1 million pieces of mail have been locked inside the processing center for the past 21/2 weeks, The Washington Post first reported on Wednesday.
Postal spokeswoman Deborah Yackley said contract workers in protective suits are removing the mail and trucking it to a plant in Ohio, where it will be decontaminated.
Last week, a postal spokesman and a regional postal manager said all of the mail locked in Brentwood already had been removed and taken to Ohio. Miss Yackley disputed those statements, saying they were incorrect.
Some residents, businesses and local government agencies in the Brentwood delivery area are beginning to complain about nondelivery of checks and bills.
The Social Security Administration reported that 245 persons have complained that they have not received monthly pension or disability checks the past month. Typically, fewer than 100 complaints are received a month.
Because the delayed mail may leave some customers' bills unpaid, the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority changed its policy for cutting off water. Under its new policy, water will be cut off only to customers who have not paid since June.
D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus King III yesterday signed a notice that child-support payments would be late because until Wednesday, the courts, which receive mail processed at Brentwood, had not received mail since Oct. 20.
The court receives payments from noncustodial parents and forwards the money to the parent with custody of the children. But Judge King said in the notice that the court has not been able to receive any payments and thus has not been able to forward them.
"Mail delivery is beyond the control of the court, but please rest assured that the court is doing everything possible to ensure expeditious processing of all child-support payments," Judge King said.
* Jim Keary contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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