Three letters containing the deadly toxin ricin and addressed to President Barack Obama, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) and a third figure campaigning for gun control measures were intercepted over the last week in Washington and New York, federal law enforcement officials said Thursday.
FBI spokesman Chris Allen said that the bureau is investigating and awaiting more sophisticated testing from an accredited laboratory. The mailings were the latest in a rash of letters mailed to politicians and government figures since April. One mailed last week to a federal judge in Washington state led to an arrest, while letters to Obama, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker and a Mississippi justice court judge in April resulted in a bizarre series of events resulting in the arrest of the operator of a martial arts business in Jackson, Miss. several weeks ago.
The new letter addressed to Obama was intercepted at the White House mail facility on Thursday, said law enforcement officials who were not authorized to speak for the record. It contained similar language and the same postmark as letters discovered in mail addressed to Bloomberg last Friday and on Monday, in a letter to Mark Glaze, a Washington-based political consultant who is director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, authorities said.
Officials at the U.S. Capitol are warning lawmakers there to be on the lookout for similar letters.
"Please be advised that multiple mailings containing threats and a suspicious substance have been received at locations in New York and Washington, D.C.," according to Terrance W. Gainer, Senate Sergeant at Arms. "The suspicious substance in these cases has been preliminarily identified as ricin. Thus far, no mailings are known to have been received at a congressional office; however, I do not have sufficient information to assume letters aren’t destined for a Member at a state office or even their home."
The letters, he wrote, are addressed to individuals who have publicly expressed support of gun control legislation, postmarked out of Shreveport, Louisiana, on 20 May 2013 and mention the constitutional right to bear arms.
Ricin is a poison found in castor beans that, if refined and inhaled or ingested, can prove lethal within days. The ricin found in envelopes allegedly mailed by the Mississippi suspect had not been refined into an easily inhalable powder, law enforcement officials said. They declined to characterize the potency of the latest letters.
--Greg Gordon and Anita Kumar