- The Washington Times - Friday, February 6, 2004

The FBI has found no additional traces of the deadly poison ricin after testing all materials recovered from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s office.

Toxicity tests on the powdered ricin found Monday on a mail-sorting machine have not been completed, but FBI spokeswoman Debra Weierman described the quantity of the toxin as “trace amounts mixed in with paper dust.”

Law enforcement authorities said investigators have yet to determine how long the ricin powder had been in Mr. Frist’s office, how it got onto a mail-sorting machine, or how it got into the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

A batch of papers including 43 letters were taken from Mr. Frist’s office and tested at the Naval Medical Research Center in Bethesda. Miss Weierman said all tested negative for ricin, a toxin made from castor beans that can be fatal if inhaled, ingested or injected.

No one has been sickened in the incident.

Yesterday, the Hart Senate Office Building reopened after having been closed since Tuesday as a precaution. The Russell Senate Office Building reopened Thursday, and the Dirksen building is scheduled to reopen at 7 a.m. Monday.

U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Contricia Sellers-Ford said officers responded to a call for a suspicious substance in the Hart building just after 1 p.m. yesterday, but they quickly determined the substance was not a threat. The building remained open.

Meanwhile, the FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Transportation Department have offered a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for sending a ricin-tainted letter Oct. 15 to the Transportation Department via a postal facility in Greenville, S.C.

FBI officials said the author of the typewritten letter, who signed the document “Fallen Angel,” claimed to be a fleet owner of a tanker company and demanded that new trucking laws be repealed.

Last month, federal regulations went into effect mandating more rest for truckers and orienting them toward a 24-hour work-and-rest cycle.

The FBI said the letter contained a typewritten message on the envelope saying “caution RICIN POISON Enclosed in sealed container Do not open without proper protection.” In the envelope was a small metal vial that contained ricin, authorities said.

According to the FBI, the letter writer claimed to have the ability to make large quantities of ricin.

Authorities said a letter intercepted Nov. 6 that contained a small vial of ricin and was addressed to the White House bore a Chattanooga, Tenn., postmark. That letter, like the one from Greenville, was signed by “Fallen Angel.”

Miss Weierman said those letters were being investigated separately from the ricin discovered in Mr. Frist’s office, but officials have not discounted the possibility that they are connected.

“Logic would indicate that these two cases would be investigated for any similarities,” she said.

The FBI has said that anyone with information about the identity of those responsible for the ricin letters should contact the FBI at 1-866/839-6241.

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