White Powder for Christmas? No, Thanks!

The envelopes containing white powder started arriving at U.S. embassies on December 15, 2008. As of today, 19 embassies have reportedly received envelopes with the white powder: Berlin, Bern, Brussels, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Luxembourg, Madrid, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Reykjavik, Riga, Rome, Stockholm, Tallinn, The Hague, Tokyo and yesterday, Nicosia. All European posts except one (Tokyo); all EU-member states except two (Bern, Switzerland and Reykjavik, Iceland). Looks like somebody has a nasty Christmas humor; somebody who deserves all 22 criminal statutes gift-wrapped and delivered, preferably with a substantial fine and 20 years in jail.

Is there any rhyme or reason why these posts were selected? One of the journalists during the daily press brief asked if perhaps somebody just went through the alphabetic list of our European posts. You can see the list here, it’s not — or he/she/they/it would have started with Ankara (by capital), or Adana (by post) or Albania (by country). All but three of the recipients were countries in the European Union. If the EU countries were specifically targeted, it does not explain the inclusion of two non-EU states (unless the perpetrator/s were too lazy to look up the composition of the EU) and it also makes me wonder if 12 more letters are in the postal pipelines (12 missions in EU countries have not reported receipt of similar letters).

It makes one curious what kind of choo-choo train runs inside the brain of somebody like this? Is there a serial fiancée visa petitioner out there who was refused visas for his/her multiple girlfriends/boyfriends from EU countries and now felt wronged? But also felt wronged by 40 state governors? That seems so over the top…. couldn’t you just pick up and throw a shoe at somebody instead? I have to admit, that would be a lot of shoes …

One December 19, the FBI released the following statement:

Since Monday, December 8, letters containing a note and suspicious white powder have been received by the offices of more than 40 governors across the country. Additional letters have been received at several U.S. Embassies overseas, said Robert E. Casey, Jr., Special Agent in Charge, Dallas FBI.

The white powder in each of these letters has been field screened and the tests have met with negative results. The powder has been forwarded to local laboratories and testing to date has been negative for biological agents. The FBI has contacted the governors’ offices and the State Department to be on the lookout for additional letters.

Today, Mr. Casey announced the release of additional information regarding these mailings, to solicit the public’s help to identify the person or persons responsible for these crimes. Photographs of envelopes sent to governors’ offices are below. Although the photographs are of the envelopes sent to the governors of North Carolina and Connecticut, they are similar in content to all letters sent to the governors’ offices and embassies overseas.

envelope photos from http://www.fbi.gov

These envelopes have the following characteristics:

#1. The postmarks reflect mailing on December 4, December 8, or December 11, 2008.

#2.The postmark is either “Dallas, Texas” or “North Texas”. The “North Texas” postmark reflects the envelope was processed through the mail facility in Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

#3.The return addresses used have been one of four addresses for FBI offices in Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, and El Paso, Texas. Names have been redacted from these addresses; the FBI is not disclosing the names at this time.

#4.There is a note within the envelope. The content of that note has been the same in each mailing. Although the content of the note is not being disclosed at this time, the meaning of the message is not clear.

Although the substance contained in the mailings is not harmful, the threatening mailings not only constitute a federal crime, but cause alarm to victims and victim institutions and expend costly resources of police, fire, and other emergency responders and state, local, and federal laboratories.

The FBI and United States Postal Inspection Service intend to vigorously investigate these crimes and arrest the person or persons responsible.

The Postal Inspection Service is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for these mailings.

Anyone with information on who may be sending these letters is requested to contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL FBI (1-800-225-5324), the Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455, or local law enforcement. If you receive a letter, please notify the FBI and your local authorities. Information on how to handle a suspicious package can be found on http://www.fbi.gov.

Update 12/25: Our Embassy in South Korea also received white powder in the mail according to AP a couple of hours ago. That makes 20 posts now, with two in Asia.

Update: 12/26: Our U.S. Embassy in Madrid was in the news for receipt of white powder in the mail; and today, the U.S. Embassy in Turkmenistan for receipt of a similar item on the 23rd.
Current count of the white powdered mail received at US missions according to news reports:
Asia – 2
Europe – 19
SCA – 1

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