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FBI releases photo of Leahy anthrax letter

Leahy
The Leahy letter  
Leahy
The Daschle letter  


By Kate Snow
and Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI on Saturday released a photograph of a letter suspected of containing anthrax that was addressed to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. The letter, which preliminarily tested positive for anthrax, looks similar to anthrax-tainted letters sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw.

Two Senate office buildings were to be closed Saturday for more anthrax testing, officials said: the Russell Senate Office Building where Leahy works, and the nearby Dirksen Senate Office Building.

"We felt it was in the best interest of everyone to close these buildings down in order to allow the teams to come in and conduct environmental sampling to see if there was traces of anthrax elsewhere in these buildings," said Lt. Dan Nichols of the U.S. Capitol Police.

"We feel very confident that there will be no incident of disease from this exposure," said Dr. Greg Martin, U.S. Navy's infectious disease physician.

The letter was found by hazardous materials experts sorting through 250 barrels of quarantined mail at a facility in Virginia. The letter was postmarked from Trenton, New Jersey, on October 9 -- the same day the Daschle letter was mailed from that city. The Brokaw letter was postmarked from Trenton on September 18.

The FBI said the results of the first round of testing on the Leahy letter came back "presumptive positive" for anthrax.

"Further testing will be conducted in an effort to confirm the presence of anthrax and examine its contents to compare it with that found in other letters," the FBI said in a statement.

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The statement said the letter, which has not been opened, "appears ... in every respect to be similar to the other anthrax-laced letters."

Two Senate sources told CNN the handwriting on the letter also was similar to the block-style writing on the Daschle and Brokaw letters.

Leahy said he was informed immediately about the discovery by FBI Director Robert Mueller.

"This is a law enforcement matter and I will leave it to the proper authorities to report what they know and the procedures they are taking," the senator said in a statement. "I am confident they are taking the appropriate steps and that eventually they will find this person."

Leahy said everyone in his office feels fine.

The bulk mail barrels in which the letter was found had been quarantined after the discovery of an anthrax-laden letter sent to Daschle, which was opened on October 15 by one of his staffers in the Hart Senate Office Building.

The letters being held at the facility in Virginia had not been decontaminated on FBI orders, who wanted to keep the letters in their original state so they could be used as evidence in a court case.

When that Daschle letter was first discovered, authorities gathered all mail in all Senate offices and quarantined it for further investigation. Leahy's office is in the Russell Senate Office Building, which was closed after the Daschle letter was found. The building was reopened when spot checks for anthrax turned up negative. The Hart building remains closed for decontamination after several anthrax "hot spots" were found there.

Leahy, who serves as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said officials have taken the appropriate steps.

"Our Senate leaders and officers did the right thing in isolating the Senate's mail, and my staff and I appreciate all that is being done to resolve this threat," he said in his statement.



 
 
 
 



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