Date
October 29, 2018

US law enforcement agencies intercepted at least 14 packages allegedly containing small amounts of explosive material, addressed to prominent Democratic National Committee (DNC) officials, as well as key DNC supporters, between Oct. 22-26.

Some of the suspicious packages were recovered without incident, though others triggered evacuations and brief transport disruptions in New York City, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Miami, Sacramento, and elsewhere. So far, all suspected explosives have been neutralized, and no injuries have been reported. Police have one suspect, Cesar Sayoc, in custody; it is unclear whether Sayoc acted alone. Additional devices will likely be found in the coming days.

All suspected "pipe bombs" were reportedly shipped via the United States Postal Service (USPS) or private courier. There is a distinct targeting pattern, the incidents are linked, and the effort was clearly planned well in advance. Sayoc reportedly used the same post office in Florida to send the devices.

 

Timeline

  • Monday, Oct. 22:
    • A suspicious package was discovered at the Westchester County, N.Y. residence of billionaire DNC donor George Soros.
  • Wednesday, Oct. 24:
    • A suspicious package was discovered at the Chappaqua, N.Y. house of DNC presidential candidate and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
    • A suspicious package addressed to former President Barack Obama and was intercepted by the US Secret Service in Washington, DC.
    • A suspicious package addressed to US Rep. Maxine Waters was intercepted at by police at a Maryland sorting facility.
    • A suspicious package addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan was found at CNN's offices in the Time Warner Center in New York City, N.Y.
    • A suspicious package was discovered in the Sunrise, Fla. office of US Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, but addressed to former US Attorney General Eric Holder. The Florida address was listed as a return address.
  • Thursday, Oct. 25:
    • Two suspicious packages addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden were discovered in at postal facilities in Wilmington and New Castle, Del.
    • A suspicious package addressed to actor Robert De Niro, was discovered at the Tribeca Production Studio in Manhattan, N.Y.
    • A second suspicious package addressed to US Rep. Maxine Waters was discovered at a postal sorting facility in Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Friday, Oct. 26:
    • A suspicious package addressed to the office of US Sen. Cory Booker in Camden N.J. was intercepted at a postal facility in Opa-Locka, Fla.
    • A suspicious package addressed to former Director of National Intelligence  James Clapper was intercepted at a postal facility in Manhattan, N.Y.
    • A suspicious package addressed to US Sen. Kamala Harris was intercepted at a postal facility in Sacramento, Calif.
    • A suspicious package addressed to billionaire Tom Steyer was intercepted in Burlingame, Calif.

 

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NYPD bomb squad on the scene of a reported suspicious package.

Police arrested Sayoc, a 56-year-old man from Aventura, Fla., on Oct. 26. Sayoc has a criminal arrest record stretching back to 1991, that includes felony theft, drug battery, fraud, and battery. He was also previously arrested for threatening to bomb the Florida Power & Light Company in 2002. He is a registered Republican and owns a van covered in pro-Trump and other politically charged decals. He declared bankruptcy in 2012, and several indicators suggest that Sayoc was homeless or living in his vehicle.

 

Sayoc faces five federal charges:
  • Interstate transportation of explosives
  • Illegal mailing of explosives
  • Threat against former presidents and certain other persons
  • Threatening interstate communications
  • Assaulting current and former federal officers

 

Regardless of his intent, however, Sayoc was clearly an inexperienced bombmaker. The devices in question were extremely rudimentary. It is unclear which explosive compound was used or even if the devices were operational. Even if the devices were functional, package bombs are not particularly effective for targeted assassinations or mass-casualty attacks. Package bombs are certainly lethal and can easily trigger panic, but they are often more preferred for the standoff they afford the attacker than the power or precision they yield. It is also possible that Sayoc did not intend to inflict serious harm, but rather aimed to send a message.  The suspected pipe bombs were shipped in parcels riddled with warning signs – misspelled address labels, postage stamps on courier envelopes, excessive packaging tape, and no attempt to conceal the devices or their initiating systems inside the packaging – all textbook red flags.

 

Looking Ahead

Additional incidents involving package bombs are likely in the coming days. Clients can mitigate this threat by establishing and disseminating clear processes and procedures for screening and handling deliveries. Employees should undergo routine training on responding to bomb threats. Clients should also establish thorough evacuation plans with clearly marked exit routes. Finally, companies are advised to maintain relationships with local law enforcement and coordinate evacuation drills as often as possible. 

 

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