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Workers at Cheney's house tested for anthrax

By John King

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A small group of workers at the vice president's residence on the grounds of the Naval Observatory in northwest Washington were tested for anthrax exposure Friday, sources told CNN.

Initial tests of mailroom equipment at that location were negative, but some of the mail that comes to the property is handled at a remote CIA processing facility, where trace amounts of anthrax have been detected.

Vice President Dick Cheney has spent most of his time since the September 11 attacks staying at a separate secure location, not at the official residence.

"It is a small group, and it was done as a precaution," said a source familiar with the group that was tested. Social workers and stewards at the residence were among those tested, the sources said.

Equipment at a small mailroom at the site was also tested and initial results were negative. Results of more reliable lab cultures are due back later Friday, a law enforcement source said.

Some of the mail received at the observatory and the vice president's residence comes from the CIA's Langley, Virginia, processing center, which tested positive for a trace amount of anthrax, "so people are tracing back to any places that are on the mail chain from that facility," a source said.

Like other government remote mail centers, mail to the CIA center initially is processed at the Washington's Brentwood mail processing center, which was declared a crime scene after two of its employees died of inhalation anthrax.

The law enforcement source also told CNN that lab cultures of the remote White House mail facility at Anacostia Naval Station had come back positive for trace amounts of anthrax. That facility was closed earlier this week after a swab found trace amounts of anthrax on a mail slitting (opening) machine.

The lab cultures, like the swab, registered trace amounts of anthrax in the range of "a couple hundred" spores, the law enforcement source said. It takes a spore count in the 4,000-5,000 range to cause illness and in the 8,000-10,000 range to be considered potentially lethal.


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