Three incidents with ricin-tainted mail between April and May constitute new and uncharted territory in the US. And in two of the instances ricin mail targeting the President has been intercepted. The first, from alleged castor bean pounder J. Everett Dutschke in Tupelo, Mississippi. And now from Shreveport, LA. (Update: The FBI now reports the ricin letter mailings allegedly by Matthew Buquet in Spokane, WA, also include one to the President. That makes three in three, a 100 percent hit rate.)
This is a remarkable series of events, one that should shock Americans. Because while no one has been killed or even seriously made ill in any of the attacks, ricin mailing is insane behavior. And real ricin mailings (as opposed to powder hoaxes), which seem to immediately inspire copycat mail, has never happened.
Perhaps years down the road, there is a Ph.D. thesis in the psychology of domestic poison powder mailers in it. Who thought unrelated people could be so psychotic utilizing the same poison powder ploy?
The newest ricin incident contains a message -- one to the mayor of New York, and a similar one to the President, that marks it as gun nut hate mail, perhaps from Shreveport, Louisiana.
Note blobs of castor powder containing ricin and oil stains on Bloomberg letter.
You will have to kill me and my family before you get my guns ... Anyone [who] wants to come to my house will get shot in the face. The right to bear arms is my constitutional, God-given right and I will exercise that right till the day I die. What's in this letter is nothing compared to what I've got planned for you.
To date no domestic terrorist has produced pure ricin. What is produced is the crude powder of castor seeds. It contains some ricin.
No one has ever been killed in a domestic US ricin incident.
However, now we're in new territory, at least for the short term.
The people who mail ricin-tainted letters likely know, at least in a vague way, that their mail will be intercepted if it is sent to any official of great importance. 9/11 and the
anthraxer, Bruce Ivins, saw to that.
They also must have at least vague recognition that the FBI's WMD unit is now well-prepared to track such cases and there is a good chance they will be arrested.
When ricin mail arrives and a determination is made that active poison is present, one can imagine the FBI and other federal agencies immediately using Internet search, as well as their own tools, to scour the web for language similar to the messaging in the ricin mail.
This can be one Achilles' Heel of the ricin mailer. Another vulnerability is the existence of confidants.
It is one thing to listen to a loony acquaintance rail about the president, or Mayor Bloomberg, and how they will make a poison powder. It is quite another to read in the newspaper that such a thing has been done, that castor beans have been pounded, the words are nationwide, and you might have an idea who did it.
Considering all these things, the three back-to-back ricin incidents indicate a threshold has been crossed. These are people who perceive that they may certainly be caught.
But they do it, anyway. In this case, the individual appears to want everyone to know his words. He is sending a message. It is quite an unusual standard.
This marks a strange and grotesque period as the country enters the summer of 2013. Crazy people engaged in a small and unconnected, but still quite astonishing, national group ricin mailing.
It's a first in attempted American bioterrorism. We're Number 1, the exceptional country.
Analytically, what a castor powder mixture containing ricin looks like after SDS gel electrophoresis. Examples from a ricin domestic terrorism case in the US begin in the lanes to the right of the clear lane. The single band lane to the left is a lab ricin standard. And the arrow denotes ricin component in the crude mixture from castor seeds.
Possible hit or blind alley?
"Authorities, including the FBI, questioned a New Boston, Texas, man Thursday night in connection with an investigation of ricin-laced letters sent to government officials, including President Barack Obama," KSLA-TV in Shreveport, La., reports.
According to ABC News, a source familiar with the case says investigators consider the man to be a person of interest at this time. The network writes that the source says the man's wife "called authorities after she noticed strange material in her refrigerator, and noticed computer searches for ricin."
The grinding or pounding of castor seeds into castor powder containing ricin has its roots in the violent far right in the US. As far back as the late Eighties, American men in this demographic were interested in it, publishing recipes for the process in their pamphlets and books. The books and writings were devoted to collecting knowledge on how to use and make improvised weapons in an insurrection against the US government, or for use in a race war.
Many of the recipes for ricin now found on the Internet descend from the writings of Kurt Saxon, first in a pamphlet called The Weaponeer, and later in The Poor Man's James Bond.
The newest case of ricin mail with its letters threatening the President, Mayor Bloomberg and to his Washington-based gun control group, implicates a philosophy not uncommon in the country's violent far right.
The old blurb on the back of Saxon's The Poor Man's James Bond, has relevance in relationship to the implications of violence, outright threats, in this fresh collection of ricin letters:
"It is bad to poison your fellow man, blow him up or even shoot him or otherwise disturb his tranquility. It is also uncouth to counterfeit your nation's currency and it is tacky to destroy property as instructed in [the chapter] Arson and Electronics ...
"But some people are just naturally crude ... It is your responsibility, then, to be aware of the many ways bad people can be harmful ...
"Also, in the event that our nation is invaded by Foreign Devils, it is up to you to destroy them with speed and vigor. Or -- and perish the thought -- if our Capitol should fall to the enemy within, I expect you to do your duty.
"It is right to share with your enemies, the knowledge in this wonderful book ..."
This bleak philosophy, or attitude -- if you will, has long been associated with America's violent right.
Originally published at Dick Destiny blog. About the author. George Smith has consulted in domestic and foreign ricin cases.