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Leahy letter 'as lethal' as one sent to Daschle

Trace anthrax found in two more Senate offices



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As authorities announced Tuesday that trace amounts of anthrax were found in two more Senate offices, investigators said they believe an anthrax letter addressed to Sen. Patrick Leahy and found last week was "as lethal" as the first one last month.

The Leahy letter, which was stored in a barrel after it and other letters were seized following the discovery of an anthrax-laced letter October 15 in the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, is being analyzed at an Army laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

A source told CNN that investigators believe the anthrax in the Leahy letter is "as lethal as that found in (the) Daschle letter."

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An FBI microbiologist, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that there were easily billions of anthrax spores in the letter. As few as 8,000 spores could infect someone with inhalation anthrax, according to scientists.

U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft told CNN that the FBI is making progress in finding the person sending the anthrax through the mail.

"We certainly have some better leads than we had a few days ago when the FBI first put out its profile," Ashcroft said Tuesday. "And we will have to wait and see and measure the extent to which these leads turn out to be either productive or non productive."

FBI profilers believe the suspect is a probably a male loner who might work in a laboratory.

Seventeen people have contracted anthrax in recent months and four of them have died. Authorities have been able to tie all of those cases -- except for one fatality -- to tainted letters sent to government or media offices.

A new case of inhalation anthrax is suspected in Connecticut as an elderly woman tested positive after being hospitalized. Officials know of no known connection to postal workers, and say the woman seldom left her home.

More senate cross contamination?

Meanwhile, trace amounts of anthrax were found in the offices of Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and Christopher Dodd, D-Connecticut, both located in the Russell building where the letter to Leahy was addressed.

Investigators believe these traces -- the first time the substance has been found in the Russell building -- are the result of cross contamination with a tainted letter. Dodd said the trace spores were found after testing in the building last weekend.

Both offices will be shut down at the close of business Tuesday to undergo further testing and decontamination. Investigators are not recommending medication for either senator nor staff members, according to congressional sources.

The Russell and Dirksen buildings were shut down over the weekend for extensive environmental testing after the Leahy letter was found late Friday at Virginia storage facility where congressional mail had been taken.

Investigators are awaiting results from elsewhere in the buildings, and said they do not know whether the letter addressed to Leahy ever reached the Russell building or even the Dirksen mailroom.

In a statement, Kennedy noted that the contamination was "a very small trace of anthrax" and that the Capitol physician had concluded "the amount is negligible and that it poses no public safety or health risk."

Still, Kennedy said the EPA would clean the mailroom as a precaution over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

"I have every expectation that the office will reopen by Monday, November 26, 2001," Kennedy said.



 
 
 
 



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