FBI widens investigation into suspicious letters

At least 10 governor's offices have received white powder this week

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2008

Initial tests of the suspicious white powder sent to the Alaska governor's office did not indicate any danger, though a more thorough analysis in Anchorage was underway Wednesday, officials said. Meanwhile, the FBI's investigation continues to widen as more governors' offices report receiving similar letters.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

A press release from the FBI's Dallas office leading the investigation reported that at least 10 states have now received similar letters this week, all postmarked from Dallas. The release indirectly describes the letters as a hoax.

"Sending a hoax letter is still a federal crime and has serious consequences," it states.

Eric Gonzalez, an FBI agent and spokesman out of the Anchorage office, said receiving letters with suspicious substances happens occasionally, but was struck by the incidents' timing and geographic breadth.

"We have so many offices receiving these letters all at one time," Gonzalez said.

Alaska's letter was opened in a third-floor mail room in the Court Plaza Building, aka the Spam Can, on Main Street in downtown Juneau. The building was evacuated Tuesday and remained locked down through Wednesday as a precaution, said state Leasing and Facilities Manager Tanci Mintz.

Capital City Fire and Rescue decontaminated and released three people who were directly exposed to the substance on Tuesday. There were no known injuries. A seven-person team with the National Guard flew in late Tuesday for on-site testing. The team took evidence with them back to Anchorage for more thorough testing Wednesday morning.

The building, where 123 people from various state departments work, is expected to reopen today, Mintz said. Some workers were sent home Wednesday while others were moved to other offices, Mintz said.

The letter was addressed to Gov. Sarah Palin's predecessor, Frank Murkowski, who lost a re-election bid two years ago.

The other governor's offices that received similar letters were in Rhode Island, Michigan, Mississippi, Alabama, Minnesota, Montana, Missouri, Indiana and Maine, the FBI reported.

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