Twelve or more devices sent to military and intelligence agencies on the East Coast came from one source in the Pacific Northwest — and who is now in custody. NBC’s Pete Williams reports that federal authorities are asking media outlets to refrain from publishing the suspect’s name, but that he was someone known to law enforcement as a potential threat:
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 27, 2018
CBS clarified that the suspect got picked up last night. The suspect will make a court appearance today, at which point in time the indictment will be released:
NEW: An arrest has been made in Washington State in connection with a series of suspicious packages that were found at military bases in the Washington, D.C. area, law enforcement source tells CBS News https://t.co/bVTJ8iDWZz pic.twitter.com/uW3yUIrkyO
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 27, 2018
ABC News also got confirmation from multiple sources that an arrest had been made and that it appears to have been one source for all of the packages. There is still some question as to whether any of them were live threats or intended, as Williams reports, just to scare the recipients. Some are still arriving:
Multiple independent sources with direct knowledge confirmed to ABC News that authorities have arrested a suspect in the Seattle area in connection with the suspicious packages sent to government facilities. …
Michael Howard, an Army spokesman, confirmed reports that one of the suspicious packages was sent to National Defense University at Fort McNair around 8:30 a.m.
That package contained explosive material, testing positive for black powder and residue. An X-ray indicated a suspected GPS and an expedient fuse attached. The package was eventually rendered safe and no injuries were reported.
If these were hoaxes, what was the point? These facilities have mail rooms to screen letters and packages, which is how they got identified as potential threats. Even live bombs will get detected in most cases before anyone attempts to open them, which makes sending them pointless in any case, but especially when the whole package remains available for forensic investigation. We just saw in Austin how well forensic investigators do even after detonations; it’s a lot easier when the packages are intact. Sending them through the mail makes that even easier. According to NPR, one official claims that they located the suspect 12 hours after the packages began to arrive.
Is that due to investigative excellence or forewarning? Williams’ sources suggested that the suspect has been previously known to law enforcement, but that could mean anything from a “known wolf” terrorist to someone with a rap sheet. Given the pointlessness of this effort, it’s probably closer to the latter than the former, but people don’t go into either tasks with a surfeit of intellectual heft. Whatever the reasons or intent, the suspect had better be prepared to face terror charges and spend much of the rest of his life pondering his choices.
Stay tuned for the indictment, which may answer some of these questions … or may leave us still scratching our heads.
Update: The local Fox affiliate explains the “known threat”:
The official says the packages contained black powder along with rambling, nonsensical notes similar to those the man has been known to send in the past. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly before an official announcement.
So he’s basically a crank that had already come to their attention, but not at a level that justified intervention — or at least that’s what it seems now. Those assumptions have been known to be contradicted later.