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Anthrax sent to Senate matches Army strain



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The anthrax found in letters sent to two U.S. senators is a genetic match to a strain of the bacteria maintained by the Army since 1980, a senior government official said Tuesday.

The official cautioned that does not really narrow the possible source for the anthrax, because the Army distributed it to labs in the United States and overseas.

A spokesman for the Army's medical laboratory for biological warfare defense at Fort Detrick, Maryland, which maintained the anthrax and studied the letter sent to Sen. Patrick Leahy, concurred.

The Agriculture Department, which developed the anthrax, distributed it as well.

The senior official said the genetic link lacks any "gee wow" value because there are still "a number" of possible sources of the anthrax.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Monday investigators suspect the source of the anthrax is domestic but offered no elaboration.

"There is nothing that has been final that has been concluded, but the evidence is increasingly looking like it was a domestic source," Fleischer said.

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Investigators are aggressively scrutinizing all labs that have anthrax, sources said, and are conducting interviews with all individuals -- including scientists and security personnel -- who had access to the stock, sources said.

The Leahy letter was one of two tainted missives sent to Capitol Hill. Another was sent to the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Other anthrax-laced letters were sent to NBC News and the New York Post.

Eighteen anthrax infections -- including five fatal cases -- have been confirmed since the letters began turning up in the mail in early October.

A CIA official admitted last weekend the existence of a CIA bio-warfare program that tested anthrax to find ways of defending the United States against bioterror.

The official insisted the CIA was not the source for the anthrax contained in the contaminated letters.

-- CNN National Correspondent Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.



 
 
 
 



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