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This is a graphic that states Opening of the Letter. An Interview with... Assistant Director in Charge Van A. Harp

Opening of the Letter | Amerithrax | FBI Homepage

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This is a photograph of Van A. HarpHello. My name is Van A. Harp. I am the Assistant Director in charge of the Washington Field Office of the FBI.

As you know, on Friday November 16, 2001, we recovered a letter addressed to Senator Leahy in the Russell Senate Office Building from a large quantity of mail that was quarantined from the Capitol Hill complex. We believed at the time that because of the lettering and the initial test results there may have been Anthrax in it similar to the Senator Daschle letter. We sealed it, secured it, had it delivered to Fort Detrick and since that time we have been very deliberate and methodical in developing a methodology to examine--to open and examine the letter.

We have enlisted some of the best minds available with this specialty to come up with this methodology and, of course, one of the primary concerns are the safety and the health issues. But the science really drives the investigation and the analysis--and we can't hurry that. But, we also wanted to be careful to be able to maximize our ability to examine both the letter and the contents of the letter. But, also this has never been accomplished or been required to be performed before and on top of all the other considerations, both the safety and health and the science, we have one other, that is the forensic and investigative. Ultimately, the results of what we do have to be admissible in court.

There were a number of precautions that were taken very deliberately, and that was to maximize again our ability to analyze and benefit from this letter. It was opened under a controlled secure sterile environment in which we controlled motion and air. Again in a abundance of caution for the safety, the health, and to maximize whatever may be in that letter. Our objective--we hope to learn in the final analysis, literally, who did this and how they did it. And these examinations are critically important because we feel they will provide investigative leads to help bring this investigation to a conclusion because we do have 5 homicides we believe and at least 13 other attempted homicides. So, every bit of information, every bit of evidence, and every additional bit of information and evidence are critically important--and it may help bring resolution to this investigation.

We have been very deliberate and cautious in our approach to the letter in order to maximize our ability to analyze and test for investigative results and investigative leads what was in that letter. Because there is a finite amount of material in that letter, it's going to take a very cautious analytical approach. So those tests and examinations will not be completed in the next few days. We expect that it is going to take weeks to complete everything we hope we can complete in the analyses of that material again with the objective in learning who made the Anthrax, or what we believe is Anthrax, and how they did it in order to build a prosecutable case.

I would like to point out one other thing, and that is there is a reward of a million and a quarter dollars and we are very interested in any information that can be provided.

This has been a very focused and intensive investigation ever since the first Anthrax was discovered and identified. In addition to the local agencies around the country in Miami and Newark and New York and the Washington metropolitan area whose help has been extremely vital, I think it is appropriate to recognize that the United States Postal Service--particularly the postal inspection; and the military, again primarily through USAMRIID [United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases] up at Fort Detrick--a scientific community; the EPA's CID--they have been instrumental [and] we could not have accomplished this without their assistance; and the Capitol Police--they have responded unselfishly and their diligence and dedication has truly been appreciated.