More U.S. Senate state-based offices have received mailings containing a suspicious powdery substance, according to an update from Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer sent to senators on Thursday morning.
Like previous mailings received earlier this week by other congressional state or district offices, that powder was found to be harmless, according to Gainer.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., said the senator's Hartford office received a powder-filled letter at about noon on Thursday. Becasuse the address matched the one issued in an earlier warning from Gainer's office, the package was not opened there, but taken away. The powder was later determined in an initial evaluation to be harmless.
The Burlington, Vt., office of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., also received an envelope the same day containing poweder found to be harmless, a Senate official said.
Also on Thursday, the Wichita, Kan., office of Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., reported it had received such a mailing.
“Authorities have assured Senator Roberts that the situation is under control and the office will re-open tomorrow for business as usual,” said Roberts’s communications director, Sarah Little, in a statement. “Senator Roberts’ office in Wichita received a suspicious envelope and reported it to law enforcement who responded immediately.” Little added that the investigation "is ongoing" and that Roberts was in Topeka at the time of the incident.
The Philadelphia office of Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., received a similar mailing on Thursday as well, a spokesman for the senator said, adding that its contents were deemed harmless.
Gainer provided no details as to how many or which lawmakers’ offices have newly joined the list of recipients, which began with news a district office of House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and state offices of Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., had on Tuesday and Wednesday received such mailings.
The harmless powder in each of those initial cases was determined to be corn starch, possibly mixed with some other harmless substance. As of Thursday morning, no additional House members’ district offices were known to have received the mailings, according to the office of House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul Irving.
But in a separate memo sent on Wednesday to Senate offices, Gainer's office had warned, “The author of these letters has indicated that additional letters containing a powdery substance will be arriving at more Senate offices and that some of these letters may contain an actual harmful material.”
In his update on Thursday, Gainer said that only in some of the additional Senate cases has the return address matched the Oregon address found on the earlier known letters.
“In other cases, however, letters had a different return address (though from the Pacific Northwest),” Gainer said.
“While none of the mail received and tested thus far has been found to be harmful, it is clear that the person sending these letters is organized and committed, and the potential to do harm remains very real,” he advises.
Gainer also urges Senate offices “to take this threat very seriously and remain extra vigilant when handling their mail.”
The FBI is spearheading the investigation that has a number of agencies involved. Gainer states in his message: “This rash of suspicious letters demonstrates once again how important it is for Senate offices to follow recommended mail-handling protocols. For the safety of our staff, our constituents, and the institution, it is imperative that all of us know these procedures and follow them vigorously—each and every time.”
He reiterates that all letters and packages from unknown sources should be treated as suspicious, and the mail-handling protocols recommended by the Senate Post Office should be adhered to "at all times.”
“As a reminder, suspicious mail—especially suspicious mail with an Oregon return address—should be set aside and not opened,” Gainer says.