Feds arrest suspect in suspicious mailings, Obama declares emergency


The FBI arrested a man suspected of mailing poison-laced letters to federal officials and President Obama declared an emergency in Massachusetts on Wednesday as authorities continued their response to this week’s two apparent terrorism incidents.

FBI agents arrested Paul Kevin Curtis, 45, at his residence in Corinth, Miss., believing the man to be responsible for suspicious mailings addressed to the White House, a U.S. senator and a Mississippi justice official, according to a Justice Department statement.

Authorities had not determined for certain whether the letters to President Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) contained ricin, but the Justice Department said preliminary tests showed positive results. The letters never reached their intended destinations.

A Prince George’s County, Md. firefighter walks out of a government mail screening facility in Hyattsville, Md. on April 17. (Alex Brandon/AP). A Prince George’s County, Md. firefighter walks out of a government mail screening facility in Hyattsville, Md. on April 17. (Alex Brandon/AP).

Obama’s emergency declaration on Wednesday authorized the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate relief efforts related to the Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured 176 earlier this week.

The president also ordered federal aid to help state and local authorities deal with the tragedy.

The Justice Department credited a long list of agencies for taking part in the investigation that led to Curtis’s arrest, naming the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces, U.S. Capitol Police, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Secret Service, the Homeland Security office in Mississippi, the Mississippi National Guard and a host of local police departments.

The U.S. Postal Service screens all first-class mail to and from domestic addresses, but it pays special attention to mail destined for federal offices, sending it to a privately operated irradiation facility in New Jersey to kill potentially harmful biological agents, according to a 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office.

For more details on this topic, read Ed O’Keefe’s 2011 Washington Post article on the mail-screening process.


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Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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