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White House Mail Handling Facility Tests Positive for Traces of Anthrax - 2001-10-23

Traces of anthrax have been found on a machine that opens mail for the White House. Bush Administration officials believe there is no direct threat to the President or administration staff.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says traces of anthrax were found Tuesday on a machine that opens mail for the White House at a remote location several miles away. "Test results showed it to be positive for a small concentration of anthrax," he said. "The facility has been closed for further testing and decontamination. Tests will be performed on all mail received at this site to determine its source. All employees at this site are being swabbed and tested. Mail room employees at the White House will also be swabbed and tested. Environmental sampling throughout the White House has all shown negative."

None of the mail-handling employees have yet shown symptoms of anthrax. Mr. Fleischer says he is confident that no one in the White House has been exposed, but investigators have not yet found the source of the contamination. It may be a letter already delivered to the White House or a letter still at the offsite mail-opening facility.

Mr. Fleischer says the anthrax was discovered as part of regular tests on White House mail-handling equipment that have intensified since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Two Washington postal workers have died from anthrax after investigators believe they handled an anthrax-laced letter delivered to Capitol Hill. The bacteria has also been discovered in mail delivered to media outlets in New York and Florida.

Mr. Fleischer says President Bush is confident that there is adequate security in place to protect him from contamination. "The president also has confidence in the security procedures that are in place at the White House," he said. "The president expressed his concern for the people who work at the facility. The president also said that this is another example of how this is a two-front war. That there are people who would seek to do evil to this country, that there are people who mean us harm and they have mailed letters obviously to high impact places the news media, Majority Leader Daschle, perhaps in this case to the White House, and the president understands that these are enemies that we face who that are seeking to create the most disruption in our society, and he is determined not to let them succeed."

Mr. Fleischer says the administration suspects that international terrorists are behind the series of anthrax attacks but there is still no hard evidence linking the outbreaks with the violence of September 11.