Report: Suspicious Envelope Sent to Senator Wicker Contained “Ricin”

Posted: Apr 16, 2013 6:45 PM

An envelope reportedly sent to Senator Roger Wicker (R-MI) tested positive for a potentially lethal substance. Politico has the details:

An envelope sent to an office of Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) included a substance that has tested positive for Ricin, two sources say.

It was not immediately clear when the envelope was received or whether it was sent to his Washington, D.C., office or a field office.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FBI Director Robert Mueller are briefing senators now.

So what exactly is Ricin? Well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s a kind of poison:

  • Ricin is a poison found naturally in castor beans. If castor beans are chewed and swallowed, the released ricin can cause injury. Ricin can be made from the waste material left over from processing castor beans.
  • It can be in the form of a powder, a mist, or a pellet, or it can be dissolved in water or weak acid.
  • It is a stable substance under normal conditions, but can be inactivated by heat above 80 degrees centigrade (176 degrees Fahrenheit).

And, if ingested, can cause death:

  • Ricin works by getting inside the cells of a person’s body and preventing the cells from making the proteins they need. Without the proteins, cells die. Eventually this is harmful to the whole body, and death may occur.
  • Effects of ricin poisoning depend on whether ricin was inhaled, ingested, or injected.

Stay tuned for updates.

UPDATE I - Reid confirms the Senator was targeted:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Reid says letter with ricin or another poison sent to Sen. Roger Wicker.

UPDATE II - Thankfully, it never reached his office:

UPDATE III - Here's some more info:

UPDATE IV - A suspect has apparently been identified (via Politico):

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said members were briefed that the substance had been found in a letter and a suspect has been identified.

McCaskill said the letter came from an individual who frequently writes to lawmakers. She wouldn’t identify the person but confirmed officials had identified someone.

McCaskill said state offices have been told what to look for if there are more letters containing the toxic substance.

UPDATE V - ABC News is reporting that the envelope was mailed from Tennessee:

UPDATE VI - So far, according to Senator Angus King, there’s no reason to believe the envelope is connected “in any way” to the bombings in Boston:

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said at this point there wasn't "any information that it's in any way connected with what happened in Boston."

"It may just be an unfortunate coincidence," said King, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

UPDATE VII – CNN’s Dana Bash reports:

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