Fed still analyzing 600 letters to find source of positive anthrax test

Monday, December 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Workers at the Federal Reserve were still going through hundreds of letters Monday in an effort to locate the source of a positive reading for anthrax last week.

``So far we have not identified the source or sources of last week's positive results,'' said Fed spokesman Dave Skidmore.

He said it had been determined that about 600 pieces of mail were in the batch that tested positive for anthrax instead of the 100 to 150 pieces of mail that officials had estimated last week were involved. Skidmore said it probably will be midweek before all the testing is completed.

``It is just a very labor-intensive process going through each piece of mail,'' he said.

The testing is being done in two trailers set up in a courtyard of the Fed's headquarters as a temporary mail processing facility.

The temporary center started operations following the appearance of the anthrax-tainted letter mailed to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in October. No mail enters the Fed's two office buildings until it has been screened in the mail sorting trailers.

The Fed, as a security precaution, canceled a public meeting of its board Friday, but officials said the central bank's interest-rate-setting panel will hold its last meeting of the year as scheduled Tuesday. The discussions of the Federal Open Market Committee are not open to the public.

The 600 pieces of mail that are being examined were sorted by risk categories with hand-addressed letters the first to be tested. Some of the mail carried postmarks from October, indicating it had been in the system for some time.

Until the testing is completed, officials said, they will not be able to determine whether the source of the positive anthrax reading in the Fed's mail came from cross-contamination with other mail or whether it represents a new anthrax letter.