LEAHY MAIL CONTAINS SAME MESSAGE AS DASCHLE LETTER



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Last Updated

09 Jan 2003

Source: Washington Post, December 7, 2001.

Leahy Mail Contains Same Message as Daschle Letter

By Susan Schmidt, Washington Post Staff Writer

A letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) believed to be laden with anthrax spores contains a threatening note identical to the one in an anthrax-contaminated letter mailed to Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), the FBI announced yesterday.

The contents of the Leahy letter were made public yesterday after scientists at an Army lab at Fort Detrick painstakingly removed it from the envelope, taking extraordinary care to preserve for testing as much as they could of the fine powder in the envelope.

Investigators hope a detailed analysis of the letter and the powder might provide new clues in their so-far frustrating probe into the anthrax attacks, which caused 15 illnesses, including five deaths, over three months.

The Leahy letter appears to be a photocopy of a handwritten note, and is exactly the same as the photocopied note sent to Daschle, the FBI said. It is dated "09-11-01" and reads: "You can not stop us. We have this anthrax. You die now. Are you afraid? Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great."

Both letters were mailed Oct. 9 from Trenton, N.J. In late September, NBC News and the New York Post received anthrax-laced letters containing photocopies of a slightly different note written in the same hand.

The Leahy letter, which was discovered by investigators before it was opened, contained a small mound of fine white powder, giving scientists their first chance to test and examine a substantial quantity of what they believe are highly virulent anthrax spores. FBI officials said testing on the material to try to determine where it was produced will likely take weeks.

Before it was opened, the letter, suspected of containing billions of deadly spores, was placed in a sealed box that allows for manipulation by scientists using attached gloves. On Wednesday, the envelope was carefully opened by a lab worker using tiny scissors, and a sample of the anthrax was removed for testing. Yesterday, the letter was pulled out with tweezers for examination.

Also yesterday, the post office inspector general opened an investigation into whether officials rushed the reopening of the Bellmawr, N.J., post office after anthrax spores were discovered there.

Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D-N.J.) asked for the investigation, contending that the facility was reopened twice before it had been fully cleaned and inspected. Andrews said he believes postal officials in Bellmawr were pressured by superiors in Washington to reopen the building quickly after each of a series of closures in late October and early November.