The Justice Department has released the criminal complaint and affidavit supporting the arrest of Paul Kevin Curtis, the Mississippi man accused of mailing letters containing the deadly poison ricin to President Obama and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
The complaint is pretty boilerplate but the affidavit is interesting reading; it basically describes Curtis as a conspiracy theorist who had corresponded regularly with public officials using the same verbiage he allegedly finally placed in the poisoned letters.
Should we be relieved that this wasn’t part of some sophisticated terrorist plot, or mortified that someone who apparently is stone-cold crazy was able to cook up and mail out a deadly poison?
President Obama today said he’s reversing a long-standing policy of not sending Presidential letters of condolence to families of American service members who commit suicide in combat zones:
“As Commander in Chief, I am deeply grateful for the service of all our men and women in uniform, and grieve for the loss of those who suffer from the wounds of war – seen and unseen. Since taking office, I’ve been committed to removing the stigma associated with the unseen wounds of war, which is why I’ve worked to expand our mental health budgets, and ensure that all our men and women in uniform receive the care they need.
“As a next step and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the military chain of command, I have also decided to reverse a long-standing policy of not sending condolence letters to the families of service members who commit suicide while deployed to a combat zone. This decision was made after a difficult and exhaustive review of the former policy, and I did not make it lightly. This issue is emotional, painful, and complicated, but these Americans served our nation bravely. They didn’t die because they were weak. And the fact that they didn’t get the help they needed must change. Our men and women in uniform have borne the incredible burden of our wars, and we need to do everything in our power to honor their service, and to help them stay strong for themselves, for their families and for our nation.”
A bipartisan coalition of Senators in late May had urged the President to do this. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who co-chairs the Senate Military Family Caucus, was among those Senators and welcomed the President’s announcement today:
“I am pleased that President Obama has reversed this long-standing policy and will begin sending Presidential condolence letters to the families of our troops who die by suicide. This will honor the sacrifice of our nation’s service men and women and their families and do a great deal to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health treatment that prevents so many from seeking the care they need.”
A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators including Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., wrote to President Obama today urging him to reverse a long-standing policy of not sending Presidential letters of condolence to families of American service members who commit suicide.
“We should honor the service of all the brave military men and women who sacrifice for our nation,” Boxer, who chairs the Senate Military Family Caucus, said in a news release. “Ending this long-standing policy will provide comfort to the families struggling with the loss of a loved one, while also reducing the stigma that prevents too many men and women in uniform from seeking the mental health care they need.”
The senators’ letter highlights a growing number of suicides among troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and points to a Department of Defense study which found that between 2005 and 2009, there was an average of one suicide every 36 hours in the military. Many administrations have had this policy of withholding condolence letters from families of military suicides, but opponents of the policy say it’s hurtful to such families and reinforces the stigma within the military surrounding mental health issues.
Besides Boxer, the letter was signed by Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Richard Burr, R-N.C.; Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Richard Durbin, D-Ill.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Mark Pryor, D-Ark.; Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.; Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Mark Udall, D-Colo.; and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
Read the full letter, after the jump…