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Texas man questioned, but not charged over possible ricin letters

A Texas man has been questioned in connection with three suspicious letters mailed to President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg and Bloomberg's gun control advocacy group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, federal law enforcement officials confirmed to Fox News.

The unidentified man was questioned in New Boston, Texas, about the letters, which were sent from the Shreveport, La., mailing center, about 100 miles away. The man has not been charged and is not in custody, the officials said. They confirmed that they followed up on a call from the man’s wife alleging the suspicious activity.

The officials also cautioned that laboratory testing has not yet positively confirmed that the substance in each of  these letters was ricin. As explained to Fox News, such letters undergo two sets of testing. The first is called “field testing,” which commences at the mail center where it has ended up, or in the case of the gun control group, at the site where a recipient has opened it. The officials confirmed that the executive director of the gun control group opened the letter addressed to the group. Field testing, which was described as “not very precise,” in this case confirmed only that a “biological toxin consistent with ricin” was detected.

The second, more definitive round of testing is presently underway, on all three of the Shreveport letters, at an accredited government laboratory in Maryland. That said, no one seemed to doubt that ricin would be confirmed by laboratory testing.

In the Spokane case, the officials confirmed the arrest and charging of Matthew Ryan Buquet with one count of mailing a threatening communication. That charge stemmed from one of five letters thought to have been mailed from the Spokane area – specifically to U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle. Asked why Buquet was charged only with the offense of mailing a threat, and not with mailing a banned substance, one official implied further charges will be leveled against Buquet, telling Fox News: “I wouldn’t say the charges are over in that case.”

The Spokane letters are believed to include another sent to President Obama; one sent to Judge Van Sickle; one to Fairchild Air Force Base; and one, not yet recovered to a CIA facility. 

Asked how federal authorities would be in a position to know about the existence of the CIA letter if it hadn’t yet been recovered, the officials pointed to interviews and other evidence. Pressed further, one official told Fox News: “Because we know how many castor beans he had in his house, how many he ordered online, et cetera.”

Ricin can be extracted from castor beans.

Officials cautioned that there is “a significant difference” between a trained scientist weaponizing the ricin extracted from castor beans and an individual “taking some castor beans, running them through a coffee grinder, and soaking them in acetone” – a crude and ineffective homemade process that officials said would only be liable to induce, in a recipient foolish enough to go so far as to swallow the contents, symptoms as mild as diarrhea.

James Rosen joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1999. He currently serves as the chief Washington correspondent and hosts the online show "The Foxhole."

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