- The Washington Times - Friday, October 19, 2001

A $1 million reward was offered yesterday by the government for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who sent anthrax-laced letters to Capitol Hill and media outlets in New York and Florida, while the number of confirmed infections of the bacteria rose to six.
Another three cases are being investigated as possible anthrax infections, part of a rash of cases that began after 19 air pirates crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, killing more than 5,000 people.
The FBI began the investigation after the discovery Oct. 4 that Bob Stevens, a 63-year-old photo editor at a Florida-based supermarket tabloid, had become infected by airborne anthrax from a letter he received seven days earlier containing an unknown powder. He died Oct. 5.
"Once again, we call upon the public to assist us in this fight against terrorism," said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, in announcing the reward offered jointly by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Service.
A previously confirmed list of five infections by the anthrax bacteria grew by one yesterday when authorities discovered that a CBS employee in New York who opens the mail for anchorman Dan Rather had contracted the disease. The unidentified woman was said to be suffering from the cutaneous form of anthrax, meaning she has a skin infection and not the airborne infection suffered by Mr. Stevens, and is expected to recover.
The source of the CBS infection has not yet been determined. Investigators said network officials do not recall opening any suspicious packages. But because she opens mail, investigators believe that was the likely source of her infection.
Mr. Stevens and a co-worker, Ernesto Blanco, 73, are the only two to have been diagnosed with airborne infections of the disease, although Mr. Blanco who was in the hospital with pneumonia when the anthrax infection was detected is expected to recover.
A suspicious letter sent from Malaysia to a Microsoft Inc. office in Reno, Nev., containing an unknown white powder has since tested negative for the anthrax bacteria.
FBI agents are examining letters sent to CBS and NBC, both in New York, and to the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, all of which contained the bacteria.
Thirty-one Senate staffers and U.S. Capitol Police officers have been tested positive for exposure to the anthrax bacteria, although none has been diagnosed with the disease. Major areas of the House and Senate were closed yesterday in the wake of the anthrax discoveries.
FBI agents, along with federal health officials, are examining anthrax samples found in Florida, New York and at the Capitol to determine if they have what Mr. Mueller described as a "likeness" that could lead investigators to the source or sources of the bacteria.
The FBI and federal health officials have matched the strain of anthrax bacteria sent to American Media Inc., the Florida tabloid newspaper publisher, with the anthrax found in a letter to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, where an assistant to the anchorman also was diagnosed with cutaneous anthrax.
Tests also are being conducted to compare the anthrax samples taken from Mr. Daschle's office and those in New York and Florida, which contain what investigators believe is a strain common to the United States. The strain is potent and finely milled, indicating it was professionally produced, investigators said.
But authorities said the strain is of a lesser grade than might be expected if the bacteria had been produced by a foreign country sponsoring terrorism, such as Iraq, although that possibility has not been ruled out. Use of a common form of the anthrax bacteria found in the United States instead of a "weapons grade" strain produced by a foreign source, they said, could mean the culprits are domestic terrorists.
Trenton, N.J., has figured prominently in the FBI investigation since six of the hijackers lived within 50 miles of the city.
The probe also has focused on several research labs and universities including Princeton, a 20-minute drive from Trenton that may have access to the anthrax bacteria.
Another targeted area is several pharmacies across the country where FBI agents are trying to determine whether anyone tried to buy large amounts of antibiotics particularly orders of Cipro in amounts larger than 60 tablets before the nationwide anthrax scare. A normal dosage would be 10 to 20 pills over a two-week period.
The letters to NBC and Mr. Daschle's office both bore Trenton postmarks. Agents have examined the postal bar codes to determine from which of 46 post offices in central New Jersey the letters originated. The FBI also is checking post office surveillance videos and DNA samples from the pre-stamped envelopes with anthrax, which have to be moistened before they are sealed. None of the envelopes contained a stamp, investigators said, noting that those responsible for the anthrax may have been guarding against a DNA check.
Meanwhile, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the FBI has arrested or detained 803 persons, including 16 who were taken into custody yesterday. They are being held on various criminal charges, including immigration violations, and on material witness warrants issued by a federal judge.
Mr. Ashcroft said the FBI also has been forced to focus on dozens of anthrax hoaxes, and warned that the Justice Department would vigorously prosecute those involved. He said five persons have been charged with federal felonies for anthrax hoaxes and face prison terms ranging from five years to life.

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