FBI: Ricin Letter Suspect Arrested In Mississippi

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OXFORD, Miss.
(AP) — A man in Mississippi has been arrested and accused of sending
letters with suspected ricin poison to President Barack Obama and other
leaders.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel McMullen said the man was arrested Wednesday. His name wasn't immediately released publicly.

Authorities
still waited for definitive tests on the letters to Obama and Sen.
Roger Wicker, R-Miss., which had raised concern Wednesday at a time when
many people were jittery after the Boston bombings.

An FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press said those two letters were postmarked Memphis, Tenn.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

In
a capital city on edge, letters sent to President Barack Obama and a
Mississippi senator tested positive for poisonous ricin in preliminary
checks, and authorities chased a stream of false alarms about seemingly
suspicious packages and mail sent to senators in Washington and beyond.

Authorities
still waited for definitive tests on the letters to Obama and Sen.
Roger Wicker, R-Miss., which had raised concern Wednesday at a time when
many people were jittery after the Boston bombings.

An
FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press said those
two letters were postmarked Memphis, Tenn. Both letters said: “To see a
wrong and not expose it, is to become a silent partner to its
continuance.” Both were signed, “I am KC and I approve this message.”

The
letters were intercepted before reaching the White House or Senate. The
FBI said Wednesday that more testing was underway. Preliminary field
tests can often show false positives for ricin.

As
authorities scurried to investigate three questionable packages
discovered in Senate office buildings, reports of suspicious items also
came in from at least three senators' offices in their home states.

Sen.
Carl Levin said a staff member at his Saginaw, Mich., office would
spend the night in a hospital as a precaution after discovering a
suspicious letter. The staff member had no symptoms, Levin said in a
statement. He expected to learn preliminary results of tests on the
letter by Thursday.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.,
said suspicious letters at his Phoenix office had been cleared with
nothing dangerous found. A package at Sen. John Cornyn's Dallas-area
office also was declared harmless, a fire department spokesman said.

All
three packages in the Capitol complex turned out to be safe, Capitol
police spokeswoman Makema Turner said late Wednesday. But a man was
still being questioned after being stopped in connection with the
packages, she said.

All the activity came as
tensions were high in Washington and across the country following
Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and
injured more than 170. The FBI said there was no indication of a
connection between the letters and the bombing. The letters to Obama and
Wicker were postmarked April 8, before the marathon.

Capitol
Police swiftly ramped up security, and lawmakers and staff were
cautioned away from some parts of the Hill complex. After hours of
jangled nerves, officials signaled it was safe to move throughout the
area and people settled back to normal, if watchful, activity.

Sen.
Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said that police had a suspect in mind in the
Wicker mailing, someone who “writes a lot of letters to members.” She
made the comment Tuesday as she emerged from a briefing by law
enforcement on the Boston bombing. Authorities declined to comment on a
possible suspect.

Obama's press secretary, Jay
Carney, said mail sent to the White House is screened at a remote site
for the safety of the recipients and the general public. He declined to
comment on the significance of the preliminary ricin result, referring
questions to the FBI.

At a House hearing,
Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe noted there had been ricin alerts
since the notorious 2001 anthrax mailings and procedures are in place to
protect postal employees and help track down culprits.

“Over
the course of years we've had some situations where there have been
ricin scares,” Donahoe said. “Until this date, there's never been any
actually proved that have gone through the system.”

After
the hearing, Donahoe said he didn't know whether the latest letters had
been proven to contain ricin. He also told reporters that people
sometimes mail substances that mimic the poison. No postal workers have
reported illness connected to the incident, he said. Ricin, derived
from the castor plant, is at its deadliest when inhaled.

Even
during the flurry of concern, normal business continued across most of
the Capitol and its office buildings, with tour groups passing through
and visitors streaming in and out of Wicker's office.

Senate
Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said in an email that suspicious
packages were dropped off at the offices of two senators. Sen. Richard
Shelby, R-Ala., said in a statement his office had received one of them.
A third package was found in an atrium on the first floor of a Senate
building.

As the discoveries spread concern,
police sealed off a hearing room where Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and
Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were
testifying. At one point, officers advised Sen. Joe Manchin and aides
not to board an elevator because suspicious packages had been found on
several floors of the Hart Office Building. “They just told me there's
something suspicious and they're looking into it,” Manchin said.

Amy
Keough of Stow, Mass., and her family were searching for an open
entrance to the Russell Senate Office building and walked by a U.S.
Capitol Police hazardous materials vehicle. The Keoughs had been
visiting Washington for several days, but Monday's marathon bombing was
on their minds.

“We don't know really what it
is that's going on,” Keough said. “We're from Massachusetts, so right
now anything is possible, with all the events in Boston.”

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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