Authorities are responding to what is being described as an attempted biological attack at the Pentagon. Envelopes containing ricin were intercepted en route to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson. The poison was located during screening at a postal facility near the Pentagon.
The FBI has now taken control of the investigation. It is unclear if this attack was related to a similar situation developing at Sen. Ted Cruz’s Houston campaign office. Two of his employees were hospitalized after they opened mail that contained a white powder. What the powder is, and the extent of the employees’ injuries remains uncertain.
“All mail sent to the Pentagon via the US Postal Service on Monday was placed under quarantine as a precaution and all workers from Cruz’s Houston campaign office were evacuated,” The Daily Mail writes.
The two intercepted envelopes with the known ricin were addressed to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chief of Naval Operations, John Richardson, yet neither of the men came into contact with the envelopes.
“The Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected a suspicious substance during mail screening at the Pentagon’s remote screening facility. The envelopes were taken by the FBI this morning for further analysis,” spokesman Col. Rob Manning said in a statement.
Ricin is derived from castor beans. The natural toxin, once refined, is deadly if inhaled. As such, it has become a popular weapon for assassins and terrorists who want the anonymity available from a mailed letter.
In this case, though, as in many others, the intended recipient isn’t the one at risk. Their employees bear the brunt of the danger. Ricin induces nausea and results in vomiting that can lead to hemorrhaging. Most fatalities occur due to blood loss or respiratory failure.
“On Tuesday, October, 2, 2018, in coordination with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, FBI Special Agents took possession of two suspicious envelopes that had been screened at the Pentagon mail facility,” The FBI said in a statement.
“Those envelopes are currently undergoing further testing. As this is ongoing, we will have no further comment.”
“Since the anthrax attacks which killed five people after the powder was distributed through mail in 2003,” DM notes, “the US Government has increased measures to protect workers and officials from exposure to any harmful substances.”
While these scans may protect politicians and some military leaders, they aren’t in place at many local political offices, leading many to suspect that the attack on Sen. Cruz’s campaign office is related.