Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Update on White Powder in Governor's mail

Last Friday, Dec. 12, I had the pleasure of spending an hour in the parking lot of the Cashman Center waiting for an FBI agent to come and read a press release about the "white powder" incident in the Governor's mailroom at the Grant Sawyer Building on East Washington. I had read that same press release before noon, before I even left the newsroom to go wait for the "official" word.

Now I'll give you the "unofficial word." A government source says he spoke with the state employee who handled the letter, and was told the letter had a Dallas, TX postmark, and a return address from San Antonio. The FBI will only say the letters are from Texas. During our brief question and answer session, I asked which city the letters came from, and the agent would only say, Texas. I then asked which FBI field office was directing the investigation and he replied "Dallas." And when I asked him if that indicated where the letters were coming from, he replied "As I've said, the letters are postmarked 'Dallas.'"
Except, he had not said.

I've covered a few "white powder" scares since 2001, and the authorities have only once revealed the final determination on the "white powder." That exception is a funny story. The white powder was found in a box in a sugar factory. Of course, that got a few chuckles in our Florida newsroom. It turned out the powder was a form of silicon used to keep needle-fine pieces of machinery dry. You need to keep things dry in a sugar plant, because wet sugar is a mess.

Today, the FBI's national press office issued this update on the white powder investigation.

For Immediate ReleaseDecember 17, 2008
FBI DallasContact: Special Agent Mark White(972) 559-5000
Suspicious White Powder Letters Received Around the United States
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 for further testing. The FBI has contacted the governors’ offices and State Department to be on the lookout for additional letters.
To date, all letters have been postmarked from Texas. These letters are all similar in nature.
Sending a hoax letter is serious and can have severe consequences. This is a great drain on each city’s response teams.
This investigation is being conducted by the Dallas office of the FBI and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).
Anyone with information on who may be sending these letters is requested to contact the FBI, USPIS, 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

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