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Initial tests show ricin in letter to Obama

Apr. 17, 2013 - 12:58PM   |  
The Secret Service is investigating a suspicious letter sent to the president, officials said Wednesday.
The Secret Service is investigating a suspicious letter sent to the president, officials said Wednesday. (AFP)

WASHINGTON — The Secret Service is investigating a letter containing a “suspicious substance” that was addressed to President Obama, the agency confirmed Wednesday, and at least three U.S. senators also reported receiving suspicious mail.

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said the letter to Obama tested positive for the substance ricin.

The letter was sent to Obama on Tuesday and was intercepted at the White House mail screening facility, according to Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary.

The White House mail screening facility is a remote facility, not located near the White House complex, Leary said.

The White House declined to comment, deferring to the FBI and Secret Service, which is leading the investigation.

The revelation of the suspicious letter to Obama comes less than 24 hours after U.S. Capitol Police confirmed they were investigating a letter addressed to Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., that tested positive for ricin in a preliminary examination.

Obama was briefed on the suspicious letters Tuesday night and again Wednesday morning, said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

Another suspicious package was received Wednesday morning at the Washington offices of Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., according to Shelby’s spokesman Jonathan Graffeo. He said the package is being investigated by Capitol Police and it was not known if it was similar to the ones addressed to Obama and Wicker.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., issued a statement saying that a suspicious letter also was received Wednesday morning at his Saginaw, Mich., field office. He said the staffer who received the letter did not open it and turned it over to authorities, who are investigating.

“We do not know yet if the mail presented a threat,” Levin said.

The letter to Wicker, which was intercepted at an off-site Capitol mail facility, was found to contain a “white granular substance” and was quarantined before a preliminary test indicated the substance was ricin, the statement said.

“The material is being forwarded to an accredited laboratory for further analysis,” according to the statement authorized by U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine.

The Capitol Police have closed access to the Hart Senate Office Building due to a suspicious package. People on other floors of the building are being told to go into their offices.


Aamer Madhani, Peter Eisler and Kevin Johnson write for USA Today.

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