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White House- bound ricin letter posted on Web

From Kevin Bohn and Kelli Arena
CNN Washington Bureau

This letter addressed to the White House contained ricin.
This letter addressed to the White House contained ricin.

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Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Ricin
Bioterrorism

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The FBI is posting a letter on its Web site in hopes that someone will recognize the handwriting and phrases the writer used and help authorities find whoever is sending ricin through the mail.

Ricin is a deadly poison with no known antidote, derived from the castor bean.

One letter was addressed to the White House but intercepted at an off-site processing facility. That letter and the accompanying envelope is now readable on the FBI's Internet site.

Authorities say the envelope is the first example of handwriting from the perpetrator. On the envelope the Zip code is scratched out and "20500" is written above it.

The FBI has also made public some of the contents of an October 17 typewritten letter in which the writer threatens to "turn D.C. into a ghost town The powder on the letter is RICIN" if changes in how truckers' hours are regulated were not changed.

The wording on the letter is similar to that of a different typewritten letter dated October 15 that was discovered at a mail facility in Greenville, South Carolina. That letter, which was not mailed but was believed to have been carried in, also demanded a reversal of new regulations that required longer rest periods for truck drivers.

Both letters were signed "Fallen Angel."

Officials say the FBI is hoping the presentation of the new evidence, especially the handwriting on the envelope, will generate new leads. The bureau previously offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for the letters.

The FBI hopes someone recognizes the handwriting on this envelope.
The FBI hopes someone recognizes the handwriting on this envelope.

As part of its investigation, government sources confirm a federal grand jury in November subpoenaed records from the company Mail Contractors of America. Among the information requested were driver logs and time sheets for nine truckers, several of whom made deliveries to the Greenville processing facility where one of the ricin letters was found.

Mail Contractors handles a large portion of the nation's mail transportation.

Ricin discovered in Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's officer earlier this month shut down three Senate buildings for several days until they could be examined and tested. No one became ill.

Authorities are examining whether there is any link between the toxin found in Frist's office and that mailed in two letters signed "Fallen Angel."

Jonathan Tucker, a chemical and biological weapons expert from the U.S. Institute of Peace, said ricin is 200 times as potent as cyanide although not as deadly as anthrax. It cannot penetrate the skin unless the skin is broken, and heat is deadly to the toxin.

But if inhaled or injected, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, one milligram of ricin can kill an adult.

If inhaled, ricin can cause death in 36 to 48 hours from failure of the respiratory and circulatory systems. If ingested, it causes nausea, vomiting and bleeding of the stomach and intestines, followed by failure of the liver, spleen and kidneys, and death by collapse of the circulatory system.

Injected ricin immediately kills the muscles and lymph nodes near the site of the injection. Failure of the major organs and death usually follows, the CDC says.

In one of the most notorious Cold War assassinations, Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was killed by a poison dart filled with ricin and fired from an umbrella in London in 1978.


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