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Anthrax Letters Go On Display At National Postal Museum

The letter containing anthrax sent to Senator Tom Daschle in 2001.
Smithsonian National Postal Museum
The letter containing anthrax sent to Senator Tom Daschle in 2001.

One of the letters from the 2001 anthrax attacks is on display for the first time. The letter, sent to Senator Tom Daschle, is part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum.

One month after September 11 terrorist attacks, letters containing anthrax were mailed to politicians and members of the media, killing five people, including two postal workers at the Brentwood post office in Northeast Washington.

Museum Curator Nancy Pope says immediately after those attacks in 2001, she wanted the letters for public display. The FBI told her she couldn't have them until after the case was closed. The FBI closed the case in 2010, but the bureau wouldn't release the letters until this year.

Now, thirteen years after the anthrax scare, the ink on the letters was starting to fade, and the FBI reached out to the Smithsonian to help preserve them.

"The moment they got here I started talking to the FBI saying, 'We want them, we want them,'" says Pope. The FBI agreed to loan the museum one of the letters.

The letter sent to Daschle is part of a new exhibit at the National Postal Museum, called "Behind the Badge," which gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at one of the nation's oldest law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The agency worked closely with the FBI investigating the anthrax letters.

"The FBI is really good at a lot of things, but they can't tell you where that letter came from," says Pope. "The postal inspectors know the machine, and the numbers, and the bar code, and they can track, and they did, track the envelope."

Museum visitors will also get to look at other artifacts from postal investigations, including the handcuffs used to arrest Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who terrorized the nation with mail bombs, and the Princeton, N.J. mail box that contained anthrax letters in 2001.

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