Suspect in ricin scare is ex-Navy sailor

Yesterday there were reports that two packages mailed to Defense Secretary Mattis and Admiral John Richardson had tested positive for ricin. Then, later in the afternoon, there were reports that a similar package had been sent to President Trump. An NBC affiliate in Washington, DC suggested those three packages along with one sent to Ted Cruz’s office in Houston had all been sent by the same person. Today, Fox News reports that clues pointed investigators to an ex-Navy sailor as the person who sent the packages:

Packages with suspicious substances — at least two of which initially tested positive for ricin — sent to the Pentagon, White House and Sen. Ted Cruz’s office in Texas this week were part of a coordinated effort by a former Navy sailor, officials told Fox News.

Investigators said one of the envelopes, addressed to Defense Secretary James Mattis or the Navy’s top officer, Adm. John Richardson, contained a return address leading them to believe it came from the sailor, whose name has not been disclosed.

As for the question of what was in the packages, the Chicago Tribune reports they contained castor seeds, the material from which ricin is made: “Dana W. White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman, told reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in Brussels that the substance was castor seeds.”

However, the Military Times is reporting that the letter sent to Cruz’s office is not related to the other three:

A fourth package, which sent staffers to the hospital, was mailed to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, office, however that incident, which was identified to not be a hazardous substance, is not believed to be linked to the other two incidents.

The package sent to Cruz’s office was described as a white powder, which is obviously not the same thing. So perhaps this is just a huge coincidence that there were two stories about poisons sent to politicians on the same day. The fact that Fox News and others are still reporting these might be connected suggests to me the jury is still out.

The identity of the sailor in question hasn’t been released so we obviously don’t know anything about his motivation. Is this the equivalent of a disgruntled worker or is it someone operating from a bigger ideology. I’m leaning toward the former if only because the stunt seemed designed to get attention rather than actually poisoning anyone. But I doubt the Secret Service found this amusing. I suspect this guy is going to face a long stint in prison over this, whatever his motive.

This CBS report mentions Cruz but says it’s unclear if the incidents are related: