Anthrax Found at White House Mail Facility

By Matt Pyeatt | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

( - The anthrax scare spread to White House operations Tuesday when the infectious substance was discovered on a mail-opening device at the facility that handles mail for the White House.

According to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, anthrax was discovered on a slitter, a mail-opening device at the mail facility, located at a military installation miles away from the White House. No anthrax was found on any of the mail that was screened, Fleischer said.

However, the daily avalanche of mail directed to the White House is initially processed at Washington D.C.'s Brentwood postal facility, where two employees contracted and then died from inhalation anthrax this week. The Brentwood center ships mail to the White House in bulk where it is sorted at the remote White House mail facility.

That White House facility "has been closed for further testing and contamination," Fleischer said. Employees at the site, as well as mail workers in the White House complex itself, were being tested for exposure, Fleischer added.

Among the many letters sent to the White House are those earmarked for "America's Fund for Afghan Children." President Bush's request on Oct. 11, that each American child send a dollar to the White House for relief efforts in Afghanistan, was made prior to the anthrax scares that now plague postal facilities in Washington, D.C. and other parts of the country.

Jimmy Orr, White House spokesman, said the donation letters continue to arrive at the White House in "a very large volume." In fact, more than 226,000 letters had arrived as of Monday afternoon. The White House even created a special zip code to help identify and expedite donations to the Fund.

Orr would not comment, however, on the manner in which the White House is processing the letters, saying that the processing information was a security issue. The amount of money that has been retrieved from the letters is still unknown. "I don't have that information yet," Orr said.

The White House is sending all the contributions to the American Red Cross, which will administer the program for the president, a White House press release said.

Leslie VanSant, spokesperson for the American Red Cross, said her agency has received 186,000 pieces of mail from the White House thus far. "We have only processed 85,000 pieces as of [Monday]. More have come in but we can't process them as fast as they come in," she said.

"All of the mail goes to the White House, they open it and send it directly to us, and then we process it. We take the money out and deposit it," VanSant added.

She also said the mail goes through White House security measures before the Red Cross receives it. "The mail comes to the White House and the White House receives them and puts them through their security measures, and when we get them they are already opened," she said. "When we get them, they've gone through securities. They are cleared."