Packages believed to contain the deadly poison ricin were sent to President Trump, Defense Secretary Mattis, and Admiral John Richardson on Monday. CNN reports the Secret Service has confirmed such a letter was sent to Trump but says it never reached the White House:
An envelope addressed to President Donald Trump contained a substance suspected to be ricin and appeared to be connected to similar envelopes sent to the Pentagon, a law enforcement source told CNN.Two pieces of mail delivered to the Pentagon mail facility on Monday have initially tested positive for ricin, according to a US defense official.When asked about the letters sent to the Pentagon, a Secret Service spokesman told CNN that “the Secret Service can confirm receipt of a suspicious envelope addressed to the President on Oct. 1, 2018.”
The FBI picked up the two packages sent to the Pentagon but hasn’t yet said what if found in them. Ricin is a byproduct of castor oil production and does not happen by accident. We’ll have to wait for more information on that. Meanwhile, the NY Times notes that ricin has been a part of previous terror plots:
In 2011, four Georgia men were arrested and later sentenced to prison for plotting to spread the toxin simultaneously in five American cities, targeting federal and state officials. That same year, American counterterrorism officials said they were increasingly tracking the possibility that Al Qaeda would use ricin in attacks against the United States.
Two years later, a Mississippi man sent letters containing ricin to President Barack Obama and a Republican senator in an elaborate attempt to frame a rival.
The list of incidents involving ricin is much longer and includes several situations that could be described as domestic disputes, albeit bizarre ones. But clearly, in this case, with three top US leaders as the intended targets, terrorism of some type is a possibility. Or could it be that the sender targeted four leaders?
Also today, there was an incident involving a white powder suspected of being some kind of poison which turned up at Sen. Cruz’s election headquarters in Texas. The Houston Chronicle reports that, after the building was cleared and two people were hospitalized, it was later determined the substance was not hazardous.
Two people were hospitalized after being exposed to a “white powdery substance” that was addressed to Sen. Ted Cruz’s Houston campaign office, according to the Houston Police Department.
Tests later determined that the substance was negative for any hazardous substance, the Houston Fire Department said.
However, there’s one more confusing wrinkle here. NBC 4 in Washington is now reporting that all four letters were sent by the same person and that none of them are believed to be harmful:
Four suspicious letters that appear to have come from the same person were sent to the White House, the Pentagon campus and Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign headquarters in Houston on Monday and Tuesday, law enforcement officials told NBC News…
Officials told NBC News they do not consider any of the letters to be dangerous. They said they have promising leads on where the letters originated. No information on a suspect was released.
The letter sent to Cruz’s office apparently did not contain ricin. But the letters sent to the Pentagon were flagged as testing positive for ricin. And at least at this moment, several major media outlets are reporting those packages are believed to actually contain ricin.
Something doesn’t add up here. Either the Cruz story is not related to the others or the packages somehow tested positive for ricin without actually being harmful. There may be other explanations but those are the two that occur to me at the moment. Given the seriousness of this, even if no ricin was involved, I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more about it in the coming days. If there are any big developments tonight, I’ll update this post.
Update: This CBS story connect the letters sent to Trump and the Pentagon but not the one sent to Cruz’s office. This report also indicates that substances which test positive initially sometimes test negative under more thorough testing.