Boston Marathon bombings

US intercepts letter laced with ricin sent to Obama

FBI says investigations into the letter sent to Obama and another sent to Senator Roger Wicker showed 'no indication of a connection' to the Boston Marathon bombings

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 April, 2013, 2:30am

Two letters suspected of containing the deadly poison ricin and addressed to US President Barack Obama and a senator were related and bore a postmark from Memphis, Tennessee, it was revealed yesterday.

An FBI intelligence bulletin said both letters were dated April 8, and contained the message: "To see a wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance." Both letters were signed: "I am KC and approve this message".

The FBI said the Obama letter contained a "granular substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin" and had been intercepted at a facility outside the White House that screened the president's mail.

The revelation of the Obama letter came a day after authorities intercepted a letter containing ricin that was bound for the officer of Senator Roger Wicker.

On a day of drama in Washington yesterday, parts of two Senate office buildings were cleared after the discovery of suspicious packages. US Capitol Police confirmed a man was being questioned but the buildings reopened without incident.

The letter addressed to Wicker, a two-term Republican senator from Mississippi, was detected on Tuesday during a routine mail inspection at a Michigan facility. Wicker released a brief statement, saying the matter was under investigation by the FBI and US Capitol Police.

"I want to thank our law enforcement officials for their hard work and diligence in keeping those of us who work in the Capitol complex safe," he said.

I want to thank our law enforcement officials for their hard work and diligence in keeping those of us who work in the Capitol complex safe

The FBI said investigations had found no link between the letters and the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured 170, but added to increased security tension.

The SITE monitoring service, which says it provides news and analysis "on the jihadist threat", reported that Wicker was the target of anger from US-based militia groups and white supremacists for his vote that helped move forward gun reform debates in the Senate.

Ricin, when inhaled, can cause respiratory problems. If swallowed the protein is lethal in even minuscule quantities.

The episodes echo the mysterious series of letters laced with anthrax that were sent to lawmakers and some journalists after the September 11 attacks in 2001, killing five people.

Congressional mail has been screened off-site since the 2001 incident. Three Senate office buildings were shut in 2004 after tests found ricin in mail that had been sent to the Senate majority leader's office.

The biological agent was also sent to the White House and the Department of Transportation in November 2003. There were no injuries in those incidents.

The Senate mail facility will be closed for the next two to three days for tests.

Agence France-Presse, The New York Times, Bloomberg