Now Washington Has a Ricin Scare on Its Hands

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 16 2013 7:09 PM

Now Washington Has a Ricin Scare on Its Hands

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A letter sent to Sen. Roger Wicker's (R-MS) office has tested positive for ricin, a deadly poison.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Just in case the past day hasn't been intense enough, the latest reports out of Washington, D.C, suggest the Capitol has a ricin scare on its hands:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

An envelope that tested positive for the deadly poison ricin was intercepted Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol's off-site mail facility in Washington, congressional and law enforcement sources tell CNN.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was told the letter was addressed to the office of Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi. After the envelope tested positive in a first routine test, it was retested two more times, each time coming up positive, the law enforcement source said. The package was then sent to a Maryland lab for further testing. Senators were briefed on the matter Tuesday evening and told the congressional post offices would be temporarily shut down.
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Politico and the Associated Press are both reporting similar versions of the report, although the AP is careful to note that the substance could be ricin or another poison. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, told reporters after the evening briefing that the letter was caught in a screening facility and never actually made it to Capitol Hill. "That's why we have an off-site screening facility for mail," she said. According to Politico, she also suggested that authorities have IDed a suspect.

Ricin is a poison made from castor beans that can kill you if ingested. According to the CDC, it comes in several forms, including powder and pellets, and can be dissolved in water.  It's perhaps most well-known as the poison used in the assassination of the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov. The news of the ricin-laced letter is sure to spark memories of 2001, when several lawmakers received letters containing what is believed to have been anthrax.

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