WASHINGTON – A suspicious letter addressed to the White House and “similar” to an apparently poison-laced letter sent to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been intercepted, the Secret Service said Thursday.
“The White House mail screening facility intercepted a letter addressed to the White House that was similar to letters previously addressed to Mayor Bloomberg in New York,” Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said.
“This letter has been turned over to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force for testing and investigation,” Donovan said in a short statement sent to AFP.
Two letters sent last week — one to Bloomberg and one to an official with the gun laws group he helped found, Mayors Against Illegal Guns — appeared to be laced with ricin, according to preliminary tests, New York police said.
Bloomberg told CBS late Wednesday that the letter sent to him was “obviously” meant to show opposition to his lobbying for tighter gun laws.
The letters contained “anonymous threats” and “when tested locally, preliminarily indicated the presence of ricin,” New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said.
“The writer, in letters, threatened Mayor Bloomberg, with references to the debate on gun laws.”
ABC television posted what it said was an exclusive picture of the letter sent to Bloomberg on its website. The stained, type-written letter, containing numerous spelling errors, reads:
“You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns. Anyone wants to come to my house will get shot in the face.
“The right to bear arms is my constitutional God given right and I will excersice that right til the day I die. whats in this letter is nothing compared to what ive got planned for you.”
Browne said police who handled the letters had displayed minor symptoms of ricin exposure on Saturday that had since been addressed.
Bloomberg, 71, the third term mayor of New York City and Forbes magazine’s 13th wealthiest person, with a fortune of $27 billion, has spearheaded the movement to tighten gun laws following December’s Newtown school massacre.
He has vowed to take on the nation’s powerful gun lobby, infuriating US conservatives, who also object to his campaign to ban the sale of extra-large soft drinks, accusing him of government overreach.
Bloomberg’s lobbying group plans to spend $12 million on a national ad campaign to counter the National Rifle Association.
Bloomberg said he was “not angry” about the letters, and that the incident did not change the deadly realities of mass gun ownership in the United States.
“There’s 12,000 people that are going to get killed this year with guns, and 19,000 that are going to commit suicide with guns, and we’re not going to walk away from those efforts,” he said.
“I know I speak for all of the close to 1,000 mayors in the mayors’ coalition against guns. This is a scourge on the country that we just have to make sure that we get under control and eliminate.”
The killing of 20 children and six adults in the Newtown elementary school shooting rampage in Connecticut led to widespread calls for tighter gun laws.
But under pressure from the NRA, Congress failed to pass even heavily watered-down legislation drafted in the wake of the tragedy.