Statement from CIA Spokesman Bill Harlow
Over the past several weeks, CIA has evaluated and revised its mail handling procedures following the discovery of anthrax in the mail at certain US facilities. For the past week, we have been conducting air sampling at the Headquarters buildings. Those tests have revealed no airborne anthrax.
Samples taken of 31 surfaces at the CIA’s Material Inspection Facility (MIF) (a separate building on the compound where mail comes in), and the main mailroom were cultured, the results of which were not available until last night, October 25th. Thirty of those samples have so far come up negative. But one swab, taken at the MIF, revealed a trace amount of anthrax. It is possible that other tests will show additional amounts of anthrax. The amount found in the MIF is medically insignificant – in other words, well below the amount needed to cause inhalation anthrax. Nevertheless, in an abundance of caution, we have closed the MIF temporarily and will be conducting additional testing.
No CIA personnel have shown any signs of being exposed to or having developed any form of anthrax.
Even before this one trace sample was found, we were already moving aggressively to safeguard employees to the greatest extent possible.
For example, CIA physicians have been briefing those Agency personnel who are our primary mail handlers. Our Office of Medical Services has been testing these employees and providing them a course of preventive antibiotics.
It is not yet known how this trace amount of anthrax came into the MIF, but there are some factors that should be taken into consideration.
The US Postal Service Brentwood facility in Washington is known to have handled letters containing anthrax. Mail from Brentwood goes on to some 36 post offices, over 200 substations, which includes most federal agencies in this area, including the CIA. Therefore, it is possible that the trace amount of anthrax found in the MIF facility came from incidental contact with other mail that went through Brentwood.
We are working with representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our own world-class scientists in the Directorate of Science and Technology to do additional testing to ensure the safety of all CIA personnel.
As noted, we have closed the MIF temporarily, but the Agency itself is open and all employees are expected at work. We have taken steps to ensure that no mail comes into any Agency building until we are sure that it is safe to do so.
Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet spoke to the CIA’s workforce this morning, assuring them that safety is paramount and that the Agency will be taking all appropriate steps.