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FBI profiles anthrax letter writer

By Susan Candiotti
CNN Washington

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The three anthrax-tainted letters at the heart of a post-September 11 outbreak of biological terrorism were all but certainly written by the same person -- probably a male loner who might work in a laboratory, FBI officials said Friday.

The officials, linguistic and behavioral experts who have been analyzing the three known anthrax letters, made their assessments more than a month after the first anthrax outbreak in Florida, where no letter was ever recovered -- and at a time of growing congressional frustration over the lack of progress in the investigation.

Seventeen people have been diagnosed with anthrax infections since early October; four of them have died.

"It is highly probable, bordering on certainty, that all three letters were authored by the same person," the officials said. Two of the letters, sent to NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw and the New York Post, were described as "identical copies."

CNN's David George reports on the progress made in homeland security since the September 11th attacks (November 9)

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Letters containing anthrax bear similarities 

The other letter, sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in Washington, "contains a somewhat different message than the others," the officials said.

The anthrax in the Daschle letter, the officials said, "was much more refined, more potent and more easily dispersed" than the anthrax in the other two.

At a separate briefing for reporters, postal officials said much of the anthrax crisis remains a mystery. Authorities still don't know the exact location where the letters originated in the Trenton, New Jersey, area. And they've not been able to rule out the possibility that more than three letters were involved.

"Trying to get a handle on this is like trying to get a hold of a forest fire," said Deputy Postmaster General John Nolan conceded.

Other observations:

-- "The author uses dashes in the writing of the date (09-11-01). Many people use the slash to separate the day, month, year."

-- The name and address on each envelope is noticeably tilted on a downward slant from left to right. This may be a characteristic seen on other envelopes he has sent. -- "Behaviorally, the author is likely an adult male. If employed, likely to be in a position requiring little contact with the public."

-- "He may work in a laboratory. He did not select victims randomly," sending the letters to specific people and addresses. -- The writer is a "non-confrontational person, at least in his public life" who "prefers being by himself more often than not."

-- He may have become more secretive and exhibited an unusual pattern of activity. Additionally, he may have displayed a passive disinterest in the events which otherwise captivated the nation. He also may have started taking antibiotics unexpectedly.

Federal officials have asked anybody with "credible information that might help identify this person" to contact the FBI at 1-800-CRIMETV (274-6388) or at

The FBI said that the public in the past has helped the agency solve high profile cases by coming forward to identify the author by what he wrote or how he wrote it. The Unibomber was arrested after his own brother told authorities he recognized phrases in Ted Kaczynski's published manifesto.

Post office on letter paths

U.S. postal officials provided more details about the path of the three letters at their briefing. They said identification codes have provided some clues.

The Brokaw and Post letters arrived at the Trenton, New Jersey, processing center, in Hamilton Township, on September 18 and had their postage canceled within three hours of each other. Still, officials could not say definitively whether the letters arrived together at the post office.

Those two letters passed through the same letter canceler, and a worker who did maintenance on that machine later contracted cutaneous anthrax.

The Daschle letter arrived in the Hamilton Township facility October 9 and was canceled at 5:45 p.m. It arrived October 11 at the Brentwood facility in Washington, where four postal workers contracted inhalation anthrax and two of them died.

One of the postal employees who died, Joseph Curseen Jr., worked at the sorter that handled the Daschle letter. The other, Thomas Morris Jr., worked in a government operations section where the letter was also processed.

Several other sorters also tested positive for anthrax contamination at the Brentwood facility. Postal officials said those machines were downwind of the sorter that handled the Daschle letter.

The two postal employees who survived their bouts of inhalation anthrax worked in those downwind areas.


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