Security/Emergency Information

More on our plates: suspicious letters

Posted on April 17, 2013

From the FBI: A second letter containing a granular substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin was received at an offsite mail screening facility. The envelope, addressed to the President, was immediately quarantined by U.S. Secret Service personnel, and a coordinated investigation with the FBI was initiated. It is important to note that operations at the White House have not been affected as a result of the investigation.

Additionally, filters at a second government mail screening facility preliminarily tested positive for ricin this morning. Mail from that facility is being tested.

Any time suspicious powder is located in a mail facility, field tests are conducted. The field and other preliminary tests can produce inconsistent results. Any time field tests indicate the possibility of a biological agent, the material is sent to an accredited laboratory for further analysis. Only a full analysis performed at an accredited laboratory can determine the presence of a biological agent such as ricin. Those tests are currently being conducted and generally take 24 to 48 hours.

The investigation into these letters remains ongoing, and more letters may still be received. There is no indication of a connection to the attack in Boston.

The targets of these suspicious letters were the President and a Senator and there is no reason to believe that Jewish institutions are at risk. However, we recommend that all institutions (and businesses) that have mailrooms should review their mail screening and handling procedures with staff.  Please advise your mailroom personnel not to handle letters or packages that look suspicious (discoloration, stains, or emits an odor).  Personnel should immediately leave the area and dial 911. Personnel should make sure that no one re-enters the area until the NYPD/FDNY Hazmat Unit declares it safe.

Read Safe Mail Handling from DHS and find the USPS page on mail security, including suspicious mail and packages, here.

Posted in Mail Screening
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