- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 18, 2001

A telephone call threatening a citywide anthrax attack on Baltimore, Md., coupled with the findings of powdery substances in mail sent to area newsrooms and state offices, kept fears of germ warfare mounting across the region yesterday.
Baltimore city officials went on high alert after an anonymous caller told Police Commissioner Edward Norris that an anthrax attack would be started yesterday afternoon in Baltimore.
The threat, received about 8:30 a.m., was "very general, nonspecific and unconfirmed regarding an anthrax attack," but the caller specifically mentioned 1:15 p.m. as the time of the attack, prompting a heightened state of alert, said Mayor Martin O'Malley.
First lady Laura Bush, who was visiting children at the Maree Garnett Farring Elementary School in south Baltimore yesterday morning, left the city before 1 p.m., as scheduled. Tony White, a spokesman for the mayor said no connection was established between the threat and Mrs. Bush's visit.
Commissioner Norris and city Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson said they had not received any reports of attacks after 1:15 p.m.
Mr. O'Malley said the owners of large buildings and other enclosed places were being advised of the threat and asked to secure ventilation systems and air ducts.
Police were stationed on corners in the downtown area throughout the afternoon. The mayor urged citizens not to do anything "rash or out of the ordinary," adding that he was going about his "normal course of business" for the day.
"But these are extraordinary times we are living in," Mr. O'Malley said. "So, people should keep their eyes open."
The threat to Baltimore came almost simultaneously with the unprecedented shutdown of part of the Senate Hart Office Building on Capitol Hill, where the dreaded bacteria were found in the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat. More than two dozen members of his staff and two from the office of Sen. Russell D. Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, tested positive for exposure to anthrax. Mr. Daschle and Mr. Feingold occupy adjoining office suites.
Meanwhile, newsroom and mailroom workers in the District and Arlington remained on heightened alert after reports Tuesday of suspicious packages at The Washington Post and USA Today.
FBI agents and Arlington County fire officials responded to USA Today headquarters in the 1000 block of Wilson Boulevard to investigate a suspicious letter found in the Life section of the newsroom.
A female employee, whose name was not divulged, "opened it and saw a powdery substance," Tara Connell, a spokeswoman for the Gannett Corp.-owned newspaper told The Washington Times on Tuesday.
"We haven't gotten test results yet, and we're not expecting them for several days because of a backlog at the FBI testing site," Miss Connell said yesterday. "I don't know if there actually was a powder in the letter. I've been told that the employee who opened the letter thought she saw powder in it."
Steve Anderson, director of communications for USA Today, said it wasn't clear yesterday what made the woman who opened the letter feel it was suspicious. "As a precaution, we've moved our Life section employees out of their normal area and into other parts of the building," he said.
Another suspicious package was found Tuesday at The Washington Post in the 1100 block of 15th Street NW.
In a statement released Tuesday, The Post said law enforcement agents were looking into "a powdery substance that was found on a desk after some mail was opened."
The powder is believed to have originated in mail that is routine business correspondence and not suspicious looking, the spokesman for The Post said.
He said FBI test results had not been released.
"We haven't gotten the results back yet. Fortunately, no one has been sick here," the spokesman said yesterday. "Right now, we're at the mercy of the labs in finding out whether the powder found here was positive for anthrax."
In another bioterrorism scare, in Richmond about 1,500 state employees were evacuated for two hours while authorities determined that a white powder found in the elevator of a state office building was not hazardous.
The Monroe Building, which houses several state agencies, including the Department of Education and the state Treasury, and sits a few blocks east of the state Capitol, was reopened at 10:15 a.m. after a state laboratory found no anthrax spores in the powder, said Reed Boatright, a spokesman for Gov. James S. Gilmore III.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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