The three U.S. Senate office buildings will be closed today during an investigation of powder found in the office of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist that tested positive for the lethal poison ricin, reports the Washington Post. There have been no public reports of illness or of individuals showing symptoms of ricin poisoning,
The Capitol will remain open, but only “essential Capitol personnel” are to report. All tours were cancelled.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service was checking reports of an unidentified white powder at a postal distribution center in Wallingford, Conn.
Federal officials expressed doubt that the powder was part of a terrorist plot. They said that ricin appears poorly suited to inflicting mass casualties of the kind sought by terrorist groups like al Qaeda. A federal security official said the material is not easily prepared for dispersal in a fashion that would affect many people. “This does not have the earmarks of international terrorism,” the official said. Assuming that the material involved was ricin, he said, “this is more of a criminal issue and is likely to be handled by the FBI.”