Ricin found on letter to Obama; police investigate packages on Hill
By JENNIFER EPSTEIN and DAN BERMAN | 4/17/13 11:27 AM EDT Updated: 4/17/13 12:20 PM EDT
Federal authorities are investigating a letter that initially tested positive for the toxic substance ricin sent to President Barack Obama, as Capitol Police responded Wednesday to reports of suspicious packages in the Hart and Russell Senate office buildings.
A bomb squad is on the scene on Capitol Hill, but the buildings have not been evacuated. Certain areas of the buildings have been closed.
According to emails sent to staffers, Capitol Police are responding to reports of a suspicious package in the atrium of the Hart Building and an envelope in a third floor office.
In the Russell building, police are on the third floor in front of a committee hearing room.
According to the FBI, a letter addressed to the White House containing a “granular substance’ preliminarily tested positive for ricin was intercepted at an off-site facility. The letter was “was immediately quarantined by U.S. Secret Service personnel, and a coordinated investigation with the FBI was initiated.
Obama was briefed Tuesday night and again Wednesday morning on the letters, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.
The FBI said that field and preliminary tests can “produce inconsistent results. “Only a full analysis performed at an accredited laboratory can determine the presence of a biological agent such as ricin. Those tests are currently being conducted and generally take 24 to 48 hours.”
Also Wednesday, the office of Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) announced that a staffer at a regional office in Saginaw, Mich., received a “suspicious-looking letter. The letter was not opened, and the staffer followed the proper protocols for the situation, including alerting the authorities, who are now investigating. We do not know yet if the mail presented a threat. I’m grateful for my staff’s quick response and for government personnel at all levels who are responding.”
It was not immediately known whether there is a connection with the letter sent to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) containing the toxic poison ricin that was detected Tuesday.
The Secret Service is working with the Capitol Police and the FBI in investigating the letter sent to the president. The FBI is taking the lead in the investigation, Carney said.
A letter sent to Wicker’s office tested positive for ricin and has been sent to a Maryland facility for additional testing.
The Wicker letter was postmarked Memphis, Tenn., and had no suspicious markings or return address, according to a message sent to congressional staffers by Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer.
The Senate’s mail facility is closed for two to three days “while testing and the law enforcement investigation continues,” Gainer said.
Senators were briefed on the letter Tuesday evening and were told a suspect has been identified.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said the letter came from an individual who frequently writes to lawmakers. She wouldn’t identify the person but confirmed officials were investigating someone.
State congressional offices have been told what to look for if there are more letters containing the toxic substance.
Tarini Parti and Ginger Gibson contributed to this report.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/o ... z2QjrT9yuc