- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 22, 2009

An anthrax scare Wednesday morning in New York forced the evacuation of two floors at the Wall Street Journal after the newspaper received more than a dozen envelopes in the mail containing an unknown white powder. Police later said the powder was harmless and likely was flour.

At least four of the envelopes were opened, including one addressed to Managing Editor Robert Thomson and opened by his assistant. According to FBI spokesman Richard Kolko, at least five employees underwent a decontamination process “out of an abundance of caution.”

All of the envelopes were postmarked from various addresses in Knoxville, Tenn., and the powder was field-tested with the results still pending, Mr. Kolko said.

The Journal reported on its Web site that the letters were addressed by hand in pen to senior executives with different return addresses. Some of the envelopes were isolated in the mailroom before they could be delivered to employees.

“The two evacuated floors housed news, editorial and executive personnel. Contingency plans have been made to produce tomorrow’s newspaper, with a core group of editors remaining in the building, and others sent home or to backup facilities,” the Journal reported. At least 250 employees were told to leave the affected floors.

Reuters reported that three executives at News Corp.’s Dow Jones & Co. headquarters received envelopes containing the white powder and 10 more were discovered in the mailroom.

The letters were sent to Mr. Thomson, Dow Jones Chief Executive Les Hinton and Journal Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot, Reuters said.

Another letter with powder was received at Harvard Law School, addressed to political commentator Alan Dershowitz, the Associated Press reported. He recently published an opinion piece in the Journal defending Israel’s actions in Gaza. –- Mr. Dershowitz said a secretary opened the mail and was exposed to the powder, but he didn’t think it was hazardous. “All indications seem that it was not the worse-case scenario,” he said. The powder was found to be not hazardous. –- FBI spokeswoman Gail Marcinkiewicz in Boston said about seven other suspicious envelopes were received elsewhere in Massachusetts. However, she said authorities think those were unrelated to the Harvard and Journal mail, the AP reported.

The Rockland, Mass., town hall was briefly evacuated at midday Wednesday when several suspicious envelopes were received there. The building was declared safe after a brown, granular substance was found not to be a biological hazard, the AP reported.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, several letters containing anthrax were sent to Capitol Hill lawmakers in October and the National Enquirer, ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, and the New York Post. The anthrax-laced letters killed five people.

The Journal is located in the Fox News Building on 200 Liberty Street, just blocks from where the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorist hijackers.

“While we don’t think there is cause for alarm at this time, we are asking everyone not to open any mail while we investigate,” Dow Jones vice president of communications Howard Hoffman said in an e-mail.


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