Ricin Likely Mailed to Obama, U.S. Senator

Barack Obama State of the Union 2013
President Barack Obama gave his first State of the Union address of his second term Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013.
President Barack Obama gave his first State of the Union address of his second term Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013.

Federal authorities are investigating letters sent to President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) that contained a suspicious substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin, a lethal biological warfare agent.

The U.S. Secret Service immediately quarantined the letter to Obama that was received at a mail screening facility offsite from the White House, the front of which was cordoned off by yellow tape Tuesday, officials said. Lab test results will take 24-48 hours to confirm if the substance is Ricin.

“The investigation into these letters remains ongoing, and more letters may still be received,” the FBI said in a statement that did not indicate if there was a written message in the envelope. “There is no indication of a connection to the attack in Boston.”

The mail case broke a day after the Boston Marathon bombings that left three dead and nearly 200 wounded. The FBI has said at least one of the two bombs was built out of a pressure cooker filled with projectiles.

The apparent Ricin mailings are similar to letters containing Anthrax that were mailed to two U.S. Senators and several New York City-based news outlets for weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Five people died and 17 were hospitalized for exposure and the FBI’s suspect killed himself.

U.S. Capitol Police, which responded with its HAZMAT crew, described the powder in the latest case as a “white granular substance.”

Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, referred most questions about the case to the FBI and said Obama is scheduled to travel Thursday to Boston, where he will speak at an interfaith service.

“Any time a suspicious powder is located in a mail facility, it is tested,” Carney told reporters Wednesday.

Operations at the White House and the Capitol Complex have not been affected as a result of the investigation, authorities said, but other cases of suspicious packages have been reported Wednesday.

“On the House side, at least, it’s business as usual,” Samantha Slater, spokeswoman for Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills), told the Press. “What they’ve found so far is on the Senate side.”

She added that she noticed the garbage cans were dismantled Wednesday outside the U.S. Capitol Building.