- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

Mail that came in contact with anthrax spores from a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle that has contaminated the District's central mail-processing facility has likely been delivered to homes across the area, federal authorities said yesterday.
Daniel L. Mihalko, a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, said the chances are minimal that a private citizen may become infected or even exposed. "There is a possibility that there might be a little bit of contamination," he said.
Van Harp, assistant director of the FBI's Washington field office, said his investigators believe the anthrax-laced letter that was sent to Mr. Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, is the primary source of contamination at the D.C. mail facility at Brentwood Road NE that has caused the deaths of two postal workers and the illnesses of 33 others.
Both Mr. Harp and Mr. Mihalko said the investigation which includes 125 Metropolitan Police Department officers, FBI agents and postal inspectors could turn up more letters containing anthrax spores.
"You can't eliminate the fact that there are additional cases," Mr. Mihalko said.
Thousands of FBI agents, postal inspectors, and local and state law enforcement personnel are working on the anthrax investigation, which stretches from the origin of the Daschle letter in Trenton, N.J., to Boca Raton, Fla., where the first confirmed case of anthrax infection was reported Oct. 4.
Postmaster General John E. "Jack" Potter said Tuesday on ABC's "Nightline" there may be more anthrax-laced letters in circulation than the three known to have contained the deadly spores:
One letter was postmarked Oct. 9 and opened Oct. 15 by a staffer in Mr. Daschle's office in the Hart Senate Office Building.
A second letter postmarked Sept. 18 was opened Sept. 25 by an assistant of NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw in the TV network's New York office.
The third letter, also postmarked Sept. 18, was sent to the New York Post. An editor was diagnosed with skin anthrax Oct. 19.
Each letter contained notes reading "Death to America" and were written in elementary block lettering.
No arrests have been made. Authorities have not ruled out a connection between the letters and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, or the al Qaeda terrorist network and Osama bin Laden.
FBI spokesman Steven Berry said information about mail tainted by postal equipment or the Daschle letter has not been confirmed.
Mr. Potter said yesterday "the majority of the mail is safe," but there is no guarantee that all the mail the Postal Service delivers about 680 million pieces a day can be completely anthrax-free.
Mr. Mihalko said other letters could have become contaminated when postal workers used a blower to clean away dust and dirt in the sorting machinery. Spores or particles of powder the bacteria was lodged in were blown into the air and may have fallen onto other mail and machinery, he said.
The spores in the Daschle letter, he said, could have been pressed out of the envelope by the sorting equipment.
Some of those particles, too, were inhaled by postal workers in separate areas of the Brentwood facility, which is the largest of its kind in the District and sorts mail that is sent to the Capitol and other parts of the city. Mail sent from the District to other parts of the country also is processed at Brentwood.
The facility's ventilation system pushed the air carrying the spores to the back end of the building, where workers were infected or exposed. D.C. health officials said yesterday contaminated air from the back of the building made its way to the customer-service area in the front of the building.
U.S. Postal Service spokesman Gerry Kreienkamp said 13 trailers hauled by trucks between the Trenton, N.J., and Brentwood facilities and identified as the possible carriers of the tainted Daschle letter were not tested for anthrax exposure, but have been sanitized.

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