Official addresses Senate community in time of 'heightened alert'
April 17th, 2013
08:53 PM ET
12 months ago

Official addresses Senate community in time of 'heightened alert'

(CNN) - While an arrest has been made in connection with possibly contaminated letters sent to President Obama and Sen. Roger Wicker, a string of other incidents took place in Washington this week, causing confusion and anxiety on Capitol Hill.

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer addressed those concerns in a memo to the Senate community Wednesday night.

Recent Events
Dear Senate community:

A series of unrelated incidents-the bombing in Boston; ricin discovered in mail by our postal personnel; another letter, of similar content intercepted, but intended for the President; the capture of a man with a gun on the east front yesterday; and the information about suspect packages in a few state offices-contributed to a bit of anxiety today. Added to this were simultaneous suspicious package incidents unfolding in the Hart and Russell buildings. While the United States Capitol Police (USCP) were investigating the circumstances of the packages, the individual who improperly brought those packages into the Capitol complex was apprehended by the police on the first floor of the Hart building. He had additional packages and, frankly, was not very cooperative. The staff did a great job in recognizing the packages as suspect and notifying the police. The USCP did a super job in locating and detaining the person of interest.

The tricky part of all this is getting the best information we can to you while an incident is unfolding. By design, some were told to remain in their offices (shelter in place), and others were told to evacuate. Some floors were off limits, and some staff could not get into the Hart or areas of the Russell, while others were allowed to leave. Each direction was a function of the situation in the area of the suspicious items, the perceived threat, or where the "suspect" was being detained.

Dealing with the unknown is dangerous and time consuming. USCP hazardous material specialists must deal with the suspect package. Simultaneously, intelligence officers, agents, and uniformed personnel are going about their business, gathering facts, and managing the area. This is labor intensive, requires attention to detail, and must be thorough. Lives are at risk-your lives.

Today, as is their practice, the USCP was pushing available limited information. During the course of an investigation, the USCP will keep those in affected areas periodically apprised through the use of Senate Alerts. Our media partners, bless their inquisitive hearts, were also doing their job as they too were trying to get it right. You were flooded with much information of mixed value, which sometimes doesn't seem quite sufficient. I really do understand that and we will continue to provide with what we can, and when we can, without compromising ongoing operations. The bottom line of this multifaceted event was a positive one. The packages were not dangerous; they contained nothing hazardous; and the person of interest was, while interesting, not particularly harmful although terribly disruptive. He was admonished but released. (This is the price of an open campus.) This temporary displacement or sheltering in place is absolutely an inconvenience; but it is equally absolutely necessary. Failure to discover the suspect package can be catastrophic. After this week, is there any question of that?

I appreciate your patience and understanding as the USCP continues their vital role to provide for our safety during this time of heightened alert. In closing and in reference to the suspicious mail incident that has developed earlier this week, I would like to encourage staff to continue reporting all suspicious activity to the USCP as we work to ensure the safety of the Senate community. The Sergeant At Arms, in conjunction with the USCP, the FBI, and other law enforcement partners are continuing to investigate all incidents that affect the safety and security of the Senate community. As I indicated to you earlier, do not accept mail unless it has been screened.

Thank you for your cooperation and please call the SAA Office of Intelligence and Protective Services at 4-2525 or the USCP Threat Assessment Section at 4-1495 should you have any questions.

Terry


Filed under: Congress
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Catmandew

    Maybe now the DC government officials will start doin their jobs! This incident is a sign of unhappy people outside the beltway.

    April 17, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  2. Marie MD

    Maybe they will now think twice about their useless contributions to the US and their constituents.

    April 18, 2013 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  3. GI Joe

    Oh, bless their precious little special butts. They have safety in their buildings as they leave us out here knowing Al Quaida is advertising for terrorists to buy guns in the U.S.A. No background checks required.

    April 18, 2013 06:57 am at 6:57 am |