Spokesman Bill Harlow
October 26, 2001
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 CIAs 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
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
Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet spoke to the CIAs workforce
this morning, assuring them that safety is paramount and that the Agency will
be taking all appropriate steps.