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Official: CIA uses anthrax, but no link to letters

From David Ensor
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The CIA uses anthrax in its bio-warfare program but the bacteria did not make it into tainted letters sent to two U.S. senators and several news organizations, an agency official said Sunday.

The confirmation that the CIA has anthrax comes less than a week after the U.S. Army admitted it has produced small amounts of the potentially deadly bacteria for years.

But, just as Army officials denied any connection to the anthrax letters, a CIA official said the anthrax detected in letters sent earlier this fall "absolutely did not" come from CIA labs.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that the FBI is focusing its anthrax investigation on a contractor who worked with the CIA. The newspaper said the contractor may be the source of the "Ames strain" of anthrax found in letters sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, NBC News' anchor Tom Brokaw and several other news organizations. But the CIA official, while confirming the agency has small amounts of the Ames strain for testing purposes, told CNN "we did not grow, create or produce" the anthrax in the letters, and "we are not the source of this material."

Meanwhile, experts continued Sunday to fumigate the Hart Senate Office building, closed since aides in Daschle's office opened a letter filled with anthrax spores on October 17.

"This was very serious anthrax, very highly milled and very dangerous," House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt said Sunday. "This certainly has been a tougher decontamination job than anybody expected."

The FBI is looking for someone or some group who began sending anthrax-laced letters through the mail in mid-September. Five people have died in recent months of inhalation anthrax, including three postal or mail-room employees.


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