Several suspicious envelopes were sent to top U.S. officials yesterday; two of the envelopes were confirmed to contain ricin.
A third envelope, sent to the White House, was intercepted by the Secret Service, who would not confirm what the envelope contained or even if it was related, but said it never entered the White House.
The two envelopes of ricin were sent to SECDEF James Mattis and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson. Neither envelope reached its target; instead, they were flagged during a security check at an outside mail processing center.
Meanwhile, two people were taken to the hospital for evaluation after exposure to a “white, powdery substance” in a package addressed to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at his campaign offices in Houston. The package was tested and the substance was ruled “negative for all hazardous substances.” The story was removed from the national Fox News page, but remained Wednesday on the local affiliate’s page.
Ricin has long been used as a terror weapon; the poison is a naturally-occurring byproduct of castor bean processing, but can also be refined further into powder, mist, or other delivery systems. When ingested or inhaled, it attacks the body’s cells, preventing them from making proteins that they need. From the CDC:
Within a few hours of inhaling significant amounts of ricin, the likely symptoms would be respiratory distress (difficulty breathing), fever, cough, nausea, and tightness in the chest. Heavy sweating may follow as well as fluid building up in the lungs (pulmonary edema). This would make breathing even more difficult, and the skin might turn blue. Excess fluid in the lungs would be diagnosed by x-ray or by listening to the chest with a stethoscope. Finally, low blood pressure and respiratory failure may occur, leading to death.
While many may assume that this is the work of ISIS/Daesh or like-minded Islamic terror cells, this would be an incorrect assumption. The tension in the U.S. is reaching breaking point.
Others may assume that this is a “lone nut,” cooking up poisons in his Ted Kaczinski-like abode in Nowhere, America to feed his personal grudges. Again, probably an incorrect assessment, Either way, however, it signals an escalation in the ongoing conflict that few will admit is already going on.
It’s not the first time this tactic has been used, and it’s hardly an original idea. Back in 2015, a guy named Mohammed Ali tried to buy 500 grams of it on the dark web, unaware that his source was an FBI agent. In 2013, some minor actress sent envelopes with ricin to then-President Obama and NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg in an effort to set up her ex-husband.
This morning it was reported that law enforcement thinks all four were sent by the same person, and that brings up another interesting point: the need to believe in a lone nut. The government, of course, is only too happy to oblige, whether that’s the actual case or not. Never mind, go back to sleep, it’s just one crazy nutjob.
It makes people more comfortable to think of things like this as being the work of one mentally disturbed person. Someone gets arrested and the collective population thinks, “Great, now THAT’S done and I can stop thinking about it and go on with my day.” It’s far less worrisome to consider that it’s just one guy. The alternative — namely, that a group or organization or even agency is responsible — is too frightening to think about, because it means there’s a much bigger problem afoot.
Here’s a hint: there’s a much bigger problem afoot.