Anthrax Found In Federal
Reserve Mail Facility
By Brian Williams

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve Board that sets U.S. interest rates and guides the world's most powerful economy, announced on Thursday that mail possibly contaminated with anthrax had been found at its off-site postal facility set up to head off suspect mail.
The discovery in a batch of 100 to 150 letters forced the Fed to cancel an open public board meeting on Friday that was scheduled to discuss banking measures.
However, Fed spokeswoman Michelle Smith said there were no plans at this stage to cancel a more important private meeting next Tuesday when many economists expect the Fed, led by its chairman Alan Greenspan, to decide again to lower interest rates. The Fed has so far lowered rates 10 times this year.
There were no details available on whether Greenspan was working at the Fed when the discovery was made.
"At this point the Fed has no plans to cancel or to postpone a scheduled December 11 meeting of its policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee that sets U.S. interest rates," Smith said.
The Fed was open for business but all public events have been canceled until further notice.
Since a mysterious wave of anthrax contaminations surfaced in the United States last month, five people have died and 13 infected by a bacterium that can be used as a germ warfare agent.
Two lethal letters containing anthrax were sent to U.S. senators on Capitol Hill in October, and media organizations in Florida and New York have also been targets of anthrax attacks.
There have also been a number of other cases in other locations which law enforcement officials believe are more likely linked to cross-contamination from the key letters.
The officials have not ruled out a connection to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, chief suspect in Sept. 11's hijacked plane attacks on the United States.
In the latest scare, a preliminary test of mail delivered to a secure mail-handling facility where Federal Reserve Board mail is examined before being delivered, tested positive for anthrax exposure late Thursday afternoon, Smith said.
"The contamination was found in a bin of about 100 to 150 letters," Smith said. "We had something in that batch that gave us a positive result. Now we are testing everything."
She said that since first reports of anthrax-contaminated mail surfaced, the Fed has processed all mail through the secure mail-handling facility set up in its headquarters courtyard.
Mail is not distributed inside the Federal Reserve buildings until it has been cleared of contamination.
"The anthrax was detected through a routine swab test,' Smith said.
There were six workers -- three Fed employees and three contract workers -- at the mail facility when the discovery was made. They were all wearing environmental protective gear and respirators.
"No one was in any danger at any time during the period that the contaminant was detected or afterward," Smith said.
Since the anthrax wave started, hundreds of postal workers throughout the United States have been given antibiotics as a precaution when it was determined they may have come in contact with suspect mail.
Smith said it had not been possible to determine so far where the suspect mail was posted.

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