Federal authorities are searching for the person who sent letters threatening to contaminate eight Midwestern abortion clinics with anthrax, even though the threats now appear to have been a hoax.
"We now know that these letters appear not to be what they're claiming to be, but just because it's not anthrax doesn't mean it's not a crime," FBI agent Doug Garrison said Sunday. "It's a crime nonetheless to threaten to use a weapon of mass destruction."
Garrison said the FBI has no suspects.
Initial tests on the brownish, powdery substance found in four of the envelopes revealed no trace of the deadly bacteria, which can be used in biological weapons. Results are expected early this week on the other four.
Letters were received Friday or Saturday at clinics in Indianapolis; the southern Indiana towns of New Albany and Scottsburg; Knoxville, Tennessee, and Wichita, Kansas. Three more were received at clinics in Louisville, Kentucky. All eight of the 3-by-5 inch white envelopes bear a Cincinnati postmark.
After a worker opened the letter sent to the Indianapolis clinic Friday, authorities decontaminated 31 people and treated them with antibiotics as a precaution against anthrax. Two people from a Louisville clinic also were treated at a hospital Friday.
Several of the letters and their contents were being examined by officials at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland.