President Bush says there is no hard evidence linking suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden to a series of anthrax scares in the United States, but Mr. Bush also says he won't rule out a connection.
The president said Monday he is concerned about the anthrax-contaminated letters that have turned up in three states and Washington, D.C.
The latest landed at the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Mr. Bush learned of this new case as he was wrapping up talks at the White House with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. When they emerged to face reporters, the president delivered the news.
"I just talked to leader Daschle," Mr. Bush said. "His office received a letter and it had anthrax in it."
Similar letters were reported earlier in Florida, New York and Nevada. The president was asked if he thinks Osama bin Laden is responsible. Mr. Bush said it is possible. "We're watching every piece of evidence. We are making sure that we connect any dots that we have to find out who is doing this. I wouldn't put it past him, but we don't have hard evidence yet," he said.
Later, White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said that given the events of September 11, it makes sense to look at a possible link between the anthrax-laced mail and Osama bin Laden - the prime U.S. suspect in the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"Just circumstantially one has to worry there may be some sort of link because of the timing here," she said.
Ms. Rice said to the best of her knowledge no contaminated mail has arrived at the White House. "Like everybody else, we are being very cautious about what we open. The American people ought to be cautious about what they open. There is absolutely no reason for panic. But if anyone is suspicious about a package or a letter then they should get in touch with officials about it," she said.
Overall White House security has been stepped up in recent days, but Condoleezza Rice would not give details. She said she would not talk about specific precautions.