Letter Addressed to White House Tests Positive for Ricin

National Journal

Law enforcement authorities said Wednesday morning that they have intercepted a second letter containing a substance testing positive for the poison ricin--this one addressed to the White House.

News of the tainted letter dated April 16 to President Obama comes one day after officials said they had intercepted a letter testing positive for ricin intended for Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and bearing a Memphis, Tenn., postmark.

The FBI says there is no indication of any connection to the letters with the Monday bomb attack in Boston.

But the investigation into these letters remains ongoing, and more letters may still be received. In fact, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in a statement Wednesday that his Saginaw regional office had received a suspicious-looking letter. It was not opened, he said, and officials are still determining whether it is tainted in some way. And in Arizona, there are reports of suspicious letters sent to the Phoenix offices of Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.

But Flake on Wednesday issued the following statement after no dangerous materials were detected in the suspicious letters.

“I’m thankful to report that no dangerous or hazardous materials were detected in suspicious letters sent to my Phoenix office. All staff members are safe. I’m grateful to the Phoenix Police and Fire Departments, the FBI, ATF, and the U.S. Postal Service for their quick response to this incident,” said Flake.

According to the FBI and the Secret Service, the envelope addressed to the White House was received at a remote White House mail screening facility. This facility routinely identifies letters or parcels that require secondary screening or scientific testing before delivery. As with the similar screening center used for congressional mail, this facility routinely identifies letters or parcels that require secondary screening or scientific testing before delivery. 

The envelope, addressed to the President was immediately quarantined by U.S. Secret Service personnel, and a coordinated investigation with the FBI was initiated. It was then that filters at a second government mail screening facility preliminarily tested positive for ricin this morning. Other mail from that facility is being tested.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Capitol Police spokesman said their officers on Wednesday morning set up two command posts inside the Russell Senate Office Building and in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building -- and that an individual has been detained – after the discovery of two “suspicious” envelopes found in the buildings.

All staff and others were being told to avoid the areas as the investigations continue. Officials were searching Sen. Richard Shelby’s office in Russell, because a suspicious package was delivered there.


After authorities identified the poison ricin in a letter sent to Mississippi GOP Sen. Roger Wicker Tuesday, the Senate sergeant at arms sent an email Wednesday reminding staffers to "to continue to be vigilant in their mail handling procedures."

Terrance Gainer, the sergeant at arms, told staffers that "offices should NOT accept sealed envelopes. All unopened items should go through screening."

And Gainer wrote that mail being delivered this afternoon was screened and processed before the ricin letter arrived. But mail will not be delivered on Thursday or Friday as authorities continue their investigation. Normal delivery, he wrote, should resume Monday.

You can read the full text of Gainer's email to staff below:


Chris Frates contributed.

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