What to Know
Officials are investigating up to 10 explosive packages sent to high-profile Democrats and supporters in nearly a half-dozen states[hhmc]
All had a return address linking to a high-profile Democratic party member; at least one of them also had a white powder envelope[hhmc]
The flurry of incidents began less than 48 hours after a bomb was planted in mailbox at billionaire philanthropist Soros' NY home[hhmc]
Some of the 10 suspected mail bombs addressed to high-profile Democrats and others over the last few days were flawed and not capable of exploding, while others have yet to be fully analyzed, several investigators said Thursday.
In some cases, the flaws were substantial. In others, more subtle, they said.
The news comes after investigators said the devices appeared poorly made and that it was unclear if they were hoaxes or simply cases of bad construction. Earlier in the investigation, officials in multiple states had described the items as live explosives and a number of senior bomb techs briefed on the probe said they had all the components necessary for successful explosions.
At a joint NYPD/FBI briefing in New York Thursday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio urged people to come forward with any information on suspicious packages. Officials revealed it was a retired NYPD detective watching the news Thursday morning who alerted them to a device mailed to Robert de Niro. He recognized the suspicious packages on the broadcast as similar to one he had screened earlier in the week.
Multiple Suspicious Devices Sent Across the Country
FBI New York assistant director William Sweeney said initial analysis of powder found in packages in New York found it posed no biological threat. But investigators cautioned that the analysis is far from complete, and they say anyone who encounters one of the parcels should treat them as dangerous. Officials said they were treating the items as "potential explosive devices".
None of the 10 seized devices detonated, and no one has been hurt.
The latest development could lend credence to a theory NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo mentioned in a Thursday interview with CNN, where one of the devices was sent.
"Theres a theory that the bombs were not intended to explode, but were intended to intimidate," Cuomo said. "If that is the intent, then this is having the desired intent. And it could actually be fueling the group thats doing it."
Investigators familiar with such probes caution against a rush to judgment on any theoretical motive, suspect or group of suspects.
“There's an old saying with investigations, and thats 'assumptions are your enemy,'" said Michael Clark, a retired FBI special agent who now teaches criminal justice at the University of New Haven.
There are no solid leads on a potential suspect or suspect at this point, multiple officials briefed on the investigation said Thursday afternoon.
Authorities are looking into whether at least some of the packages were mailed from a facility in Opa-Locka, Florida, a small city north of downtown Miami. It's possible all the package went through that facility, but it's too early to tell.
Officials didn't elaborate on the reasoning, but the return address listed on each one was the Florida office of congresswoman and ex-Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Investigators are looking into any past incidents involving her office to determine if there could be any connections to the current probe, but have said there is no suggestion she had involvement.
As of Thursday afternoon, there have been 10 such packages. Three — two addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden in Delaware and one addressed to Robert De Niro at a building he owns in Manhattan — were discovered in a flurry of frenzied hours before 10 a.m. Thursday.
The others came in the prior 72 hours: two were addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters of California; ones were also addressed to Hillary Clinton, former President Obama, ex-Attorney General Eric Holder and former CIA Director John Brennan. The first in the series was a mailbox pipe bomb left at the Westchester County home of billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
According to sources, the explosive devices were made from PVC pipe and contained a timer (likely a digital alarm clock) to set off the detonator. The powder contained in the bombs comes from pyrotechnics. X-rays show there was likely shrapnel inside the PVC pipe, law enforcement officials say.
Meanwhile, investigators are working to glean forensic clues to help identify who sent them, gathering fingerprints and DNA evidence while tracking the origin of the packages and the components used. While some have made note of the fact that the devices were not postmarked, multiple officials have said this was not uncommon, and that because of the soft packaging they could not go through automated sorting machines to have their postage canceled.
Larry Johnson, a former head of criminal investigations for the U.S. Secret Service who also served as a special agent in charge of the presidential protective detail, said it is highly likely that the person or people who built the bombs have been previously flagged by law enforcement.
If you have info that could assist the #FBI's investigation of suspicious packages, call 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324) or use http://tips.fbi.gov.