WASHINGTON -- From a distinct writing style for the number 1 to a letter S that resembles the number 5, notes to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and the New York Post are providing investigators with potentially important clues to whoever sent deadly anthrax in the mail.
The letters were apparently written by the same person, outside forensic document investigators said. They are characterized by neat block printing and a seeming comfort with writing in English that leave the writer's national origin uncertain, the investigators said. In addition, the use of the word Allah also stands out, suggesting either a very conservative Islamic writer or someone posing as a Muslim, according to an Islamic expert.
Despite the ambiguities, the letters have emerged as a focal point of the investigation into biological attacks. A key goal will be to match the distinctive writing with writing on other documents along the New Jersey postal route from which they apparently were mailed, said Gideon Epstein, former chief forensic document examiner for the U.S. Army and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
"It takes time, and it takes resources -- but it's the only physical evidence we have right now," Epstein said in an interview.
The letters to the media are identical, warning both Brokaw and the New York Post editor to "TAKE PENACILIN NOW." By contrast, the message to Daschle was more sinister, proclaiming: "WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX. YOU DIE NOW." All were dated "09-11-01" and all concluded with the phrase "ALLAH IS GREAT."
Justice Department officials released photocopies of the letters Tuesday, on a day in which the Bush administration expressed broad suspicion that the anthrax-laden letters are linked to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"There is a suspicion that this is connected to international terrorists," said Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary. "Our nation is under attack as a result of these mailings."
Attorney General John Ashcroft also raised the possibility, if more guardedly: "We are not able to rule out an association with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, but neither are we able to draw a conclusive link at this time," he told reporters.
Experts Tuesday said the text of the letters left open various possibilities about the sender, ranging from a domestic terrorist to a foreign one, or an American cooperating with foreign terrorists.
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