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Tainted Letter Addressed to Leahy
The Associated Press
Nov 17 2001 7:20AM

WASHINGTON (AP) - Capitol police closed two Senate office buildings to test for anthrax spores after investigators discovered a contaminated letter addressed to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
The letter was found Friday in a batch of mail that had been removed from congressional office buildings and segregated. It was uncertain, however, whether the letter ever reached one of Leahy's two offices, said Susan Neely of the Office of Homeland Security.

It would be the second letter bearing anthrax known to have been sent to Capitol Hill.

Dr. Greg Martin, a Navy physician who advises the Capitol police on anthrax, said is unlikely that anyone was sickened by the letter. Martin said the contaminated letter has been out of circulation for at least five weeks and anyone infected by it would have already fallen ill.

``We have gone five weeks and we know from experience that the first two weeks are the most dangerous,'' he told reporters.

The letter was postmarked Oct. 9 from Trenton, N.J., as was the one sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and contains similar handwriting, investigators said. One law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the return address - a fourth-grade class at a nonexistent school in New Jersey - also was the same.

For investigators, it is another piece of evidence that may better define a wispy trail of leads that has produced no suspects.

The discovery came as about 15 National Guard troops took up posts on streets on the outskirts of the Capitol and its neighboring office buildings to relieve police who have been working long hours. It was the first time in three decades that armed soldiers have protected the complex.

The letter was located in one of more than 250 barrels of unopened mail sent to Capitol Hill and held since the discovery of an anthrax letter to Daschle, D-S.D., on Oct. 15, the FBI said.

Hazardous materials specialists began sorting the quarantined congressional mail earlier this week at a facility in northern Virginia, the FBI said.

Traces of anthrax have been found in about a dozen senators' offices in the Hart Senate Office Building across the street from the Capitol. That building remains closed for cleaning with chlorine dioxide gas.

Leahy's office is in a different building, but it wasn't clear where the letter was when mail deliveries to Congress ceased Oct. 15.

As a precaution, the Senate Russell and Dirksen buildings will be closed beginning Saturday to be tested for anthrax. A Capitol police spokesman, Lt. Dan Nichols, said it was possible the Leahy letter was in one of those buildings before all undelivered mail to lawmakers was seized and taken away. Congress recessed Friday for Thanksgiving and will reconvene Nov. 27.

Investigators have said for weeks that there may be another anthrax-tainted letter. They have been hunting through unopened mail that has been under quarantine since postal workers were diagnosed with inhaled anthrax.

Four people, including two Washington postal workers, have died from inhaled anthrax. But until Friday, only one letter carrying the germ inside the envelope had been found in Washington.

Although terrorism from abroad has not been ruled out, officials believe the anthrax attacks came from someone in the United States. However, they have not discovered the source of the letters. The second letter sent to a high-profile Democrat adds to the thin body of evidence.

``FBI and U.S. Postal Service investigators examining sequestered congressional mail have another letter which appears to contain anthrax,'' the FBI said in a statement Friday night.

FBI Director Robert Mueller called Leahy, who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, at his suburban Virginia home to tell him about the letter.

``I appreciate his call,'' Leahy said. ``This is a law enforcement matter and I will leave it to the proper authorities to report what they know and the procedures they are taking. I am confident they are taking the appropriate steps and that eventually they will find this person.''

Three other letters with anthrax inside have been found, all of them bearing similarities. Letters to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw and the New York Post appear to be photocopies. The third letter went to Daschle. All had block lettering and used the date style of 09-11-01.

Investigators also believe the anthrax in those three letters is the same Ames strain that is common to the United States