Man arrested for mailing ricin to Obama, senator
By Lynn Sweet Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief
A Prince George's County, Md. firefighter dressed in a protective suit walks into a government mail screening facility in Hyattsville, Md., Wednesday, April 17, 2013. Police swept across the U.S. Capitol complex to chase a flurry of reports of suspicious packages and envelopes Wednesday after preliminary tests indicated poisonous ricin in two letters sent to President Barack Obama and a Mississippi senator. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON — A Mississippi man was arrested Wednesday in connection with the mailing of letters containing poison to President Barack Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), a law enforcement source told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The two letters were intercepted at screening centers — located away from the White House and Capitol — and tested positive for ricin, a killer toxin.
The letters each had the same message and were each postmarked April 8, 2013, from Memphis, Tenn., according to an FBI bulletin reviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times. The letters said “to see a wrong and not expose it is to become a silent partner to its continuance.”
Each letter was signed “I am KC and I approve this message,” according to the FBI bulletin.
Ricin powder poured out of the letter to Wicker when screeners at the remote postal facility — who work wearing biohazard suits—checked the contents. Each letter sent to the Capitol and the White House is slit opened and undergoes a series of tests to determine if it contains any hazardous material.
The stepped-up security is a legacy of the anthrax- and ricin-laced letters that hit the Capitol and other parts of Washington in 2001, rattling nerves because it came shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks.
That the letters were intercepted, a law enforcement official said, showed the system worked.
According to a law enforcement official and the FBI, the ricin attack was not related to other scares on Capitol Hill on Wednesday or the Monday Boston Marathon bombings.
The ricin-laced letter to Wicker was intercepted on Tuesday. The FBI said in a statement, “there is no indication of a connection to the attack in Boston.”
Adding to stepped-up security concerns on Wednesday was the delivery of three suspicious packages — described as sealed envelopes — to three Senate offices in the Hart and Russell Senate Office Buildings and a suspicious letter sent to the Saginaw, Mich., office of Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.)
Law enforcement authorities were notified after a man dropped off the envelopes in Russell and Hart. Senate personnel are instructed not to accept sealed packages that have not gone through a screening. The envelopes were found to contain political material and the man was later released.
Levin said law enforcement authorities were testing the suspicious letter — arriving with no return address or a full address to Levin’s office, triggering the concerns of a staffer.
“We got to be smart enough to look for suspicious things and my staffer was, in Saginaw,” Levin said.
Asked if he had concerns about security, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) told the Sun-Times: “It shows our system is working. They catch things like that.”