Anthrax Letter Sent to Daschle

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Anthrax Letter Sent to Daschle

By RON FOURNIER AP White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON (AP) A letter opened Monday in the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle ``had anthrax in it,'' President Bush said. The envelope was field-tested shortly after being received, and the staffers who were exposed were being treated, he said.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Bush said ``there may be some possible link'' between Osama bin Laden and a recent flurry of anthrax-related developments.

``I wouldn't put it past him but we don't have any hard evidence,'' he said of the man suspected as the leader behind Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington that killed thousands.

Within a few hours of the delivery of the letter to Daschle's office, officials in the House and Senate issued orders to all congressional offices to refrain from opening mail.

A memo from the House sergeant-at-arms said the mail would be ``picked up ... for additional screening and returned to you as soon as possible.''

Doug Hattaway, a spokesman for Daschle, said the majority leader had informed his staff of the developments in a conference call.

The suspicious package was received at the majority leader's office in a Senate office building across the street from the Capitol.

Separately, one source said that when it was opened, a powdery white substance fell out. Capitol Police were summoned, the office sealed, and the workers immediately given a text for anthrax exposure. There was no immediate word on the results of those tests.

But Bush, in responding to a reporter's question, said he had just talked with Daschle. ``His office received a letter and it had anthrax in it. The letter was field-tested. And the staffers that have been exposed are being treated.''

The president made his comments after a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, the latest in a steady stream of foreign leaders to visit Washington in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

The president said additional tests are being conducted on the letter. It ``had been wrapped a lot,'' he said, and there was ``powder within the confines of the envelope.''

He said the powder itself had been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for additional testing.

The disclosure came after days of unsettling reports of anthrax scares in three states, including the death of one man in Florida last week.

``The key thing for the American people is to be cautious,'' said Bush.

-- PHO (owennos@bigfoot.com), October 15, 2001

Answers

The "field tests" are generally pretty lousy -- notorious for false positives (and false negatives). They might have a role on the battlefield, but are of limited utility in current domestic cirumstances. I wouldn't trust this claim until better lab work is done.

-- Andre Weltman (aweltman@state.pa.us), October 15, 2001.

Headline: Letter sent to Senate majority leader tested positive for anthrax

Source: Associated Press, 15 October 2001

URL: http://www.nandotimes.com/front/story/137260p-1394580c.html

A letter opened Monday in the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle tested positive for anthrax, prompting a criminal investigation into a bioterrorism scare that has now spread to Capitol Hill. The letter, which contained a powdery substance, was dispatched to an Army medical research facility at Fort Detrick, Md., for further examination after a pair of preliminary tests in Daschle's office came back positive, Capitol Police Lt. Dan Nichols said.

The Fort Detrick findings wouldn't be available until Tuesday, officials said. The preliminary test, which looks for genetic markers, has a high rate of false positives. One federal official cautioned that further testing is needed to confirm the letter included anthrax.

Daschle was in the Capitol and was not exposed to the letter, which was opened in his other office a block away in the Hart Senate Office Building. Aides who may have been exposed to the letter were tested and being treated with the antibiotic Cipro as a precaution, said Dr. John Eisold, attending physician in the Capitol.

Daschle said about 40 people were in his office when the letter was opened. It was initially unclear how many may have been exposed and were being treated. The senator said his office was being quarantined while officials awaited test results, and it would be closed for several days while it is cleaned.

In Trenton, N.J., Postal Inspector Tony Esposito and FBI officials said the letter to Daschle was postmarked in Trenton on 18 Sep 2001, the same date and postmark on a letter that infected an NBC employee in New York last week. Officials also were testing a female mail carrier and male maintenance worker in Trenton who reported possible symptoms of anthrax, Esposito said...

-- Andre Weltman (aweltman@state.pa.us), October 16, 2001.


The usual media sources report that the D.C. letter was confirmed positive by more definitive tests; but the subsequent reaction is clearly way over the boundary of what seems sensible.

-- Andre Weltman (aweltman@state.pa.us), October 16, 2001.

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