Lieberman latest target in terror-by-mail campaign

Washington — Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman is the latest target of a terror campaign that involves packages filled with a powdery substance that initial testing have shown to be harmless.

The senator’s Hartford office received a suspicious package Thursday, and staffers quickly quarantined it and called local and Capitol Hill authorities, said Lieberman spokeswoman Whitney Phillips.

She said initial tests on the substance in the mailing indicated it is harmless, but the substance is undergoing additional testing.

Lieberman’s staff had been told by Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer to be on alert for mailings with a certain Portland, Ore., address. The suspicious package bore that address, Phillips said.

In a memo sent Wednesday to all Senate offices, Gainer also 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.”

Suspicious packages began arriving in congressional state and district offices earlier this week. House Speaker John Boehner and Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, both Republicans, were the first to be publicly identified as receiving such packages in their district and state offices.

Then Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., received a powdery mailing in her Seattle office Wednesday.

The harmless powder in each of those initial cases was determined to be cornstarch, possibly mixed with some other harmless substance.

But the packages prompted an FBI investigation and extra security measures by the Capitol Police.

On Thursday, Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., reported receiving mailings with a powdery substance at their state offices.

Those mailings, like the one to Lieberman’s office, are thought to contain a harmless substance.

Not all of the suspicious packages had a Portland, Ore., return address. Some have a different return addresses, but they were also 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,” Gainer advised Senate offices.

He also urged staff “to take this threat very seriously and remain extra vigilant when handling their mail.”