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Ricin Found in Letters to President, Senators

4:47 PM, Apr 17, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Wednesday, the U.S. Secret Service said it intercepted a letter addressed to President Barack Obama that contained a "suspicious substance." US Capitol Police investigated suspicious packages in the Hart and Russell Senate office buildings while authorities in Arizona investigated two letters sent to Senator Jeff Flake's offices in Phoenix.

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan says the letter was intercepted at a facility away from the White House. He says the letter was received Tuesday. The FBI says the preliminary test indicates poisonous ricin was in letter sent to President Obama.

The FBI released the following statement:

"A second letter containing a granular substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin was received at an offsite mail screening facility. The envelope, addressed to the White House, was immediately quarantined by US Secret Service personnel and a coordinated investigation with the FBI was initiated. It is important to note that operations at the White House have not been affected as a result of the investigation.

Additionally, filters at second government mail screening facility preliminarily tested positive for ricin this morning. Mail from that facility is being tested.

Anytime suspicious powder is located in a mail facility, field tests are conducted. The field and other preliminary tests can produce inconsistent results. Anytime field tests indicate the possibility of a biological agent, the material is sent to an accredited laboratory for further analysis. 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 from 24 to 48 hours.

The investigation into these letters remains ongoing, and more letters may still be received. There is no indication of a connection to the attack in Boston."

Postal Inspection Service authorities say tests of suspicious mail sent to the Phoenix office of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake have found nothing dangerous or harmful. Part of the building was evacuated after staff found mail stained with an oily substance, according to the Associated Press

 U.S. Sen. John McCain has an office across the street, and a spokesman said staff were told not to open any packages. 

This news comes a day after a letter laced with ricin and addressed to Senator Roger Wicker was discovered at a mail facility in Maryland. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) told the Huffington Post there's a suspect in the Wicker case, saying, "The person that is a suspect writes a lot of letters to members."

WUSA 9's Andrea McCarren reports that 3 suspicious letters found during the last two days were sent from Memphis area on same day, April 8th. There was no return address on any of the envelopes.

Tensions have been high in Washington and across the country since the deadly bombings on Monday at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 170.

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