USPS Still Must Address Issues Raised By 2003 Ricin Incident, Lieberman Says

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Postal Service has made significant progress in developing guidelines for identifying and responding to suspicious mail but still needs to improve training and guidance for its postal employees, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report released Monday by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.

The report, requested by Lieberman in 2003 after a letter containing the poison ricin was discovered at a Greenville, S.C. postal facility, found that the Postal Service has since clarified its guidelines for handling such incidents but has failed to address several issues raised by the incident, including the need for additional training and guidance for employees.

“The Postal Service deserves credit for its efforts to make sure postal employees know what they need to do to identify and respond to suspicious mail, but clearly much more must be done,” Lieberman said. “The health and safety of postal workers and the general public depends on effective preparation and planning by the Postal Service, and until postal managers and employees get the guidance and training they need, postal workers and the public will continue to be at risk.”

In its report, GAO recommended that the Postal Service:

•Provide clearer guidance to employees on response actions to take if a mail piece has characteristics of both suspicious mail and mail containing hazardous material

•Expand suspicious mail training for managers and supervisors to include exercises for responding to various scenarios and instructions on how soon inspectors should be called after the discovery of a suspicious mail piece; and

•Provide explicit guidance to managers on communicating with employees and unions about incidents in which suspicious mail is sent for testing, including when and to whom information should be provided.

The GAO report is available at: