- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 (UPI) — Letters containing white powered discovered in at least five Capitol offices Friday do not contain anthrax, Capitol police sources said. Although police briefly locked the offices down, field tests determined no anthrax was present.

Sources confirmed that the letters were sent to Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and at least two unidentified others. Although some staffers did use the emergency evacuation hoods to leave the offices, Capitol operations were only marginally disrupted, said a spokeswoman for the Capitol Hill Police.

Congressional and Capitol offices have been on guard against mail-borne attacks since a series of anthrax-laden letters were sent to prominent Democratic senators and media outlets in the fall of 2001. One letter opened by staff for then Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., contaminated the Hart Senate Office Building to the point that it remained closed for months for clean up.

The attacks killed five people — none in the Capitol — including a photo editor in Florida, two postal workers at the Brentwood postal facility where Capitol mail was sorted, and two women whose exposure could not be determined. The Brentwood facility remains closed pending cleanup.

As a result of the anthrax attacks, all mail sent to Capitol and other sensitive government offices is first irradiated at an offsite facility. It is unclear if irradiated letters that once contained anthrax would test positive in a field test situation. In addition, Capitol police have supplied thousands of evacuation hoods to staff and visitors in case of a biological or chemical weapons attacks on the campus.

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