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'Suspicious powder' sent to Gore office; hoax suspected

A firefighter dons protective clothing before entering the hotel where Gore's office is located.
A firefighter dons protective clothing before entering the hotel where Gore's office is located.  

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (CNN) -- Tennessee authorities are testing a "suspicious white powder" that was in an envelope opened Tuesday at former Vice President Al Gore's office in Nashville to determine if it contains anthrax.

An FBI official told CNN that investigators believe the white powder was sent as a hoax, but the bureau has not confirmed that officially.

Gore's office manager, Mary Patterson, opened the small package at approximately noon CDT (1 p.m. EDT).

Patterson and Gore's Tennessee director, Robert McLarty, immediately turned off the office air conditioning and contacted local authorities, who dispatched a hazardous-materials team to the site, in the city's Loews Hotel.

Gore's offices in the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel will remain closed, at least until test results come back in four days.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer reports on a letter containing 'suspicious powder' sent to the Nashville, Tennessee, offices of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore (August 26)

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Patterson described the package as a smaller-than-usual envelope, typically used to write personal correspondence. She said she noticed a stamp on the back of the envelope that said, "This Letter Has Not Been Inspected By The Corrections Department." She said the letter was handwritten, but she stopped reading its contents as soon as she saw the white powder.

Patterson is believed to be the only person who came into direct contact with the substance, Lawson said.

"There were about 25 people in the office, although she was the only one who came in contact with the suspicious envelope," Lawson told CNN. Patterson has shown no symptoms of any illness, Lawson said.

Nashville authorities have dealt with more than 400 similar reports in the past year, and none of the substances involved has tested positive for anthrax, Lawson said.

"This is pretty much the same except for the nature of the office -- it's high-profile," she said.

Added Gore's daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff: "People who are in the public eye and are controversial public figures have to be on the lookout for things like this, and my father is no exception."

Gore is vacationing with his wife Tipper this month in Washington state and was notified of the incident.

"He was immediately notified," Gore spokesman Jano Cabrera said. "He called both Mary and Robert personally talked to them at length, asked if they were OK and is getting updates as they become available."

-- CNN Political Editor John Mercurio and Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena contributed to this report.




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