A letter containing the poison ricin and addressed to President Donald Trump was intercepted this week at a postal facility that screens White House mail before it is delivered.
According to the New York Times, the letter was sent from Canada. The Secret Service and the FBI are investigating its origin and have identified a woman as a suspect.
Other letters containing ricin were also sent to a detention facility and sheriff’s office in Texas; they were also intercepted before being delivered.
“The FBI and our U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Postal Inspection Service partners are investigating a suspicious letter received at a U.S. government mail facility,” the FBI said in a statement on Twitter. “At this time, there is no known threat to public safety.”
Ricin is illegal and lethal
Ricin, which can be made from the waste products of processing castor beans into oil, is a dangerous poison when ingested or inhaled. It can kill a person exposed to it within 36 to 72 hours, and there is no antidote.
It is illegal to make or obtain ricin in the U.S. The poison could be used as a biological weapon.
A letter containing ricin and addressed to Trump was also intercepted in 2018 along with letters sent to top Pentagon officials. Ricin letters were sent to Barack Obama and other officials in 2014 as well, the Times said.
Mail sent to the White House and other high profile locations is regularly irradiated and tested for poisons like ricin as a precaution. Mail facilities that screen mail also have protocols in place to detect suspicious mail that could contain toxins.
In the 2018 case, police arrested former Naval officer William Clyde Allen for sending the tainted letters to Trump, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, and FBI Director Chris Wray.
Allen had put his return address on some of the letters, and said he wanted to “send a message” to the government.
When asked why he had castor beans, he said that it was “in case World War III broke out.”
Ricin became popularly known after a character in the TV show “Breaking Bad” used it to try to kill someone, according to USA Today.