A Message to the American Community from U.S. Ambassador Howard H. Baker, Jr.

October 18, 2001

In keeping with my pledge to give you all the information we have about what is happening in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, I want to tell you about two incidents that occurred at our consulate-general in Osaka and the Embassy here.

Yesterday, on October 17, a suspicious piece of mail addressed to Bob Ludan, our Consul General in Osaka, reached his office on the upper floors of the consulate building. It was placed into a plastic bag and sealed. The police were called immediately and they took possession of the piece of mail for testing. Staff members who had come into contact with the envelope were taken to a local hospital for treatment. As a precautionary measure pending final test results from Japanese authorities, something that can take several days, it was decided to close the consulate-general.

Today, October 18, at approximately 2:15 p.m., Embassy mailroom personnel identified a piece of mail addressed to me as suspicious. It was placed in a plastic envelope. The mailroom was closed, the air conditioning system was turned off, and all personnel that might have had contact with the suspicious envelope were identified and taken for medical examination. We will identify all visitors who were in the Embassy today so that they can be contacted if needed. The police were called. They took possession of the envelope and we expect that they will test the contents and give us results in several days.

I determined that the material facts of the two incidents were distinct enough - the envelope addressed to me was quickly sealed in a plastic bag and the letter was isolated to one floor - to justify keeping the Embassy open. We remain open today and will be open for business tomorrow. I have informed my staff that if any of them feel that they need to remain away from the Embassy for the interim period as we await test results, they are free to take administrative leave.

These are disquieting times. I do not know who is sending these letters and why they are doing so. I assume one objective is to create confusion and fear. I believe that Japan remains one of the safest countries in the world and police authorities have been very responsive in addressing our concerns. They are cooperating with us in response to these two most recent incidents. Our job is to be prudent and take measures appropriate to the circumstances and I believe we have done so. I promise that the Embassy will keep you informed of any new developments as they arise.