The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

April 17, 2013

Corinth, Miss. man accused of sending letters with ricin

(Continued)

All three packages in the Capitol complex turned out to be safe, Capitol police spokeswoman Makema Turner said late Wednesday.

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said that an individual who was responsible for the suspicious packages in the Hart and Russell Senate office buildings on Tuesday was detained and released on Wednesday. The packages were not hazardous.

Gainer said the man was "not particularly harmful, although terribly disruptive."

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.

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.

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.

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."

Wicker in a written statement thanked the FBI and U.S. Capitol Police for "their professionalism and decisive action in keeping our family and staff safe from harm."

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