The ricin letters sent to President Barack Obama and at least two U.S. Senators harmed no one, but still caused great alarm for lawmaker’s and their staff. Paul Kevin Curtis of Corinth, Mississippi was arrested for sending the letters. Curtis felt he had discovered a conspiracy to sell human body parts on the black market.
There was initial concern that the ricin letter to President Obama and the Senators were connected to the Boston Marathon bombings. Similar fears occurred during the anthrax incident after 9/11. Following that unrelated scare, all mail for members of Congress and the President is sorted at an off-site location.
The ricin letters were also sent to Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican representing Arizona, Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi, also a Republican, and Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan. Fear swept through Capitol Hill, even though all letters and packages go through a screening process. The poison-laced letter to Senator Flake was sent to his Phoenix office, which does not have an independent screening system in place.
All three of the ricin letters were signed, “I am KC and I approve this message.” Since the ricin letters were sent to both Democrats and Republicans, some analysts believed there could be an international terrorism component to the threats. While an act of terror from our freedom-hating enemies was entirely plausible, so was a homegrown attack.
The horrific incidents this week should clearly illustrate to both citizens and lawmakers that danger is lurking around every corner. Realizing our vulnerabilities should not prompt us to stay quartered inside our homes, but instead urge all Americans to be far more prepared.
Unfortunately, the idyllic society we would like to live in does not exist. While we live in the best country on the face of the Earth, we also have foreign enemies and ample homegrown nutcases. The ricin letters should serve as a reminder to be far more diligent in our daily lives.
Being very aware when in public places (and having a concealed carry license) can mean the difference between life and death. The heart-wrenching scenes from the Boston Marathon stirred up many of the same emotions we all felt when watching video footage of two planes crashing into the twin towers. We the people need to put pressure on our elected officials to keep national security and defense on the top of the priority list.
The lack of emphasis placed on border security and foreign students who overstay their visas has got to change. Although we still do not know if the Boston Marathon bombings were an act of foreign or domestic terrorism, we still need to eliminate our vulnerabilities as much as humanly possible.
It seems like we can barely go a single day without reading at least one headline announcing another man-made or natural disaster. Regardless of the death toll or extent of the destruction, each day brings yet more news about some new tragedy in America.
At first I thought this unshakable feeling of foreboding was something only I felt. I have the news on virtually 24/7, I thought perhaps I was just on information overload or too immersed in crime and political reports. But after communicating with readers, friends, and relatives, I discovered that I am far from alone.
Although the reasons for the sense of unease may vary, or involve an unidentifiable source of origin, the looming cloud of apprehension remains. The way I see it, we have three choices: we can bury our heads in the sand, try to live life in a protective bubble, or prepare for the worst and work to prevent or mitigate the impact of a doomsday scenario in our communities. While the third choice will not be an easy task and likely involve some mocking by at least a few neighbors, it is truly the only viable option.
The ricin letters targeted only a few, but illustrated how easily the poison can be obtained. There is no antidote or vaccine for ricin poisoning. A direct inhalation of the poison is reportedly necessary to pose deadly harm. If an Elvis impersonator from Mississippi can either whip up batch of ricin or purchase it from others, so can America’s enemies. While blowing ricin through a mall or subway car will not cause massive deaths like anthrax, it still has the potential to be used as a weapon.
Ricin in its mist form would potentially garner the highest death toll. A 2009 report on ricin as a weapon of mass terror noted the purified toxin from just one castor bean is so lethal that it can kill one thousand people when used in an “effective” delivery system.
The Boston Marathon bombings, ricin letters, and Waco fertilizer plant explosion (which may or may not be an industrial accident) are reminders of the many horrific ways Americans can lose their lives. Hopefully, the powers that be in Washington D.C. have a reaffirmed commitment not to let our guard down anytime soon. Those of us who prefer not to rely solely on Uncle Sam for our health and welfare will likely be stepping up our preparedness efforts.
- Ricin can be deadly when inhaled and is fairly easily made. Unlike anthrax, ricin has to be directly ingested or inhaled at a close distance and is not an airborne poison.
- Ricin can be found naturally in castor beans. If the beans are chewed and swallowed, ricin can be released and cause potentially grave injury. Castor beans are commonly processed to make castor oil. Ricin is actually the mash or waste produced during the oil conversion process.
- Although ricin can be in pellet or mist form, it is most commonly found in a powder form when used as a potential weapon.
- During experimental testing, ricin has been used in a medicine form and has reportedly been able to kill cancer cells.
The potential poison is regarded as a stable substance under normal conditions, according to the Center for Disease Control. Unintentional exposure to ricin is highly unlikely; the material must basically go through an intentional process in order to be used as a poison.
Ricin As A Weapon:
- Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian journalist, died after being attacked by a man wielding an umbrella rigged to release ricin. The ricin attack occurred in 1978. A poisonous ricin pellet was injected into the writer’s skin after being essentially shot out of the umbrella.
- During the 1940s, the U.S. military engaged in experimental testing relating to using ricin as a weapon. Reports about ricin possibly being used during warfare in Iraq circulated during the 1980s. Terroristic groups have reportedly been known to use ricin when targeting their enemies.