Media warned amid anthrax scare
Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2008 9:30 pm
By SUDHIN THANAWALA
Associated Press Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ The FBI is warning media outlets to be vigilant about opening their mail after a California man was arrested on suspicion of sending more than 100 hoax letters labeled “anthrax” to newspapers and TV stations.
Marc M. Keyser, 66, sent more than 120 envelopes containing a compact disc that had a packet of sugar labeled “Anthrax Sample” along with a biohazard symbol, the FBI said in a news release. The CD was titled “Anthrax: Shock & Awe Terror.”
None of the packets has so far tested positive for hazardous material, the agency said. Authorities did not say what was on the CD.
More mailings will probably be received over the next few days, authorities warned. Recipients should contact their local FBI office, said FBI agent Steve Dupre.
Dupre said the arrest is not connected to another series of bogus mailings containing a white powder that were sent to financial institutions and announced by the FBI last week.
Keyser was taken into custody without incident at his home in Sacramento on three counts of sending a hoax letter, the FBI said. At least some of the packages had Keyser’s return address on them, said Dupre.
Keyser is being held at the Sacramento County jail and was expected to make his first court appearance Thursday. It wasn’t known Wednesday evening whether he had a lawyer.
The investigation began after The Atlantic magazine received a letter Monday, Dupre said. The Charlotte Observer newspaper in North Carolina received an envelope Tuesday.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer newsroom was evacuated briefly Wednesday after an editor opened a package that the FBI says appears to be connected to the other mailings. The Seattle Times reported it received a similar package.
The FBI collected the Post-Intelligencer’s envelope. Seattle FBI spokeswoman Robbie Burroughs said it appeared to be part of a wave of mailings that originated in Sacramento, Calif.
“Out of an abundance of caution,” she said the material would be sent to a lab for testing “but the assumption is that it is sugar.”
The letters also were received Wednesday by at least one Sacramento television station, The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper and the office of Republican Congressman George Radanovich in Modesto. A McDonald’s restaurant in Sacramento also received a package.
Radanovich’s office was evacuated early Wednesday after a staffer opened the mailing. Some employees went to a hospital for precautionary examinations and were released with a clean bill of health.
Radanovich spokesman Spencer Pederson said the congressman was at a meeting in Fresno when the package was opened. Pederson said later Wednesday that the office had been cleaned as if the substance were anthrax.
One entrance to the Union-Tribune was closed for part of the afternoon after a large envelope labeled “anthrax” was opened in the newsroom.
Members of a hazardous materials team, all wearing full protective suits, went into the building to test the package. The Associated Press office in San Diego is also in the building but did not receive a threatening mailing.
Anthrax mailed to congressional offices and others in 2001 killed five people and sickened 17.
Associated Press writers Chelsea J. Carter in San Diego, Tracie Cone in Fresno and Erica Werner in San Francisco contributed to this report.