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Letters threatening anthrax poisoning were first used to terrorize and disrupt reproductive health care clinics in October 1998, just days after the murder of abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian. At that time, about a dozen clinics across the country received letters that claimed to contain anthrax toxin. They threatened that clinic personnel exposed to the letters would die. Since then, additional anthrax threat letters have been received by clinics in February and June 1999, January 2000, October and November 2001, and January 2002. As of January 2002, approximately 654 letters have been received by clinics across the United States.

Letters were postmarked from various places including Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia, New York, and Washington, DC. Early letters contained no return addresses, but after law enforcement agents advised clinic personnel around the country to avoid opening mail from anonymous senders, letters started arriving with phony return addresses that included fictitious medical supply companies, the department of taxation, other clinics, law enforcement agencies, and pro-choice organizations.

While investigation has proven that none of the letters have actually contained anthrax toxin, virtually every case has resulted in frightening clinic staff and patients, disrupting services, and wasting valuable law enforcement resources.

The 554 letters sent via U.S. Mail and FedEx in 2001 have been attributed to anti-abortion extremist Clayton Waagner. Waagner was convicted in December 2003 of various charges including threatening the use of a weapon of mass destruction for sending the letters. He is in prison awaiting sentencing.

Chronology of Anthrax Threat Letters


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