Former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who was reportedly the target of a suspicious package found, said the spate of package bombs mailed to Democrats and other critics of President Donald Trump are acts of domestic terrorism.

All the people targeted have often been maligned by right-wing critics including Democratic Party donor George Soros, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. October 26, 2018.
All the people targeted have often been maligned by right-wing critics including Democratic Party donor George Soros, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. October 26, 2018. (Reuters)

Suspicious packages addressed to New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper — and similar in appearance to pipe bomb devices sent to other prominent Democrats — have been intercepted, the FBI said on Friday, as investigators scrambled from coast to coast to locate the culprit and motives behind a bizarre plot aimed at critics of President Donald Trump.

The discoveries brought to 12 the total number of devices addressed in recent days to Democratic figures including former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.

The FBI said the package to Booker was intercepted in Florida. The one discovered at a Manhattan postal facility was addressed to Clapper c/o CNN. An earlier package had been sent to former Obama CIA Director John Brennan in care of CNN in New York.

Investigators were analyzing the innards of the crude devices to reveal whether they were intended to detonate or simply sow fear just before Election Day.

Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the devices, containing timers and batteries, were not rigged like booby-trapped package bombs that would explode upon opening.

But they were uncertain whether the devices were poorly designed or never intended to cause physical harm. 

Florida in line

A search of a postal database suggested at least some may have been mailed from Florida, one official said. Investigators are homing in on a postal facility in Opa-locka, Florida, where they believe some of the packages originated, another official said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation by name.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, in an interview Thursday night with Fox News Channel, acknowledged that some of packages originated in Florida.

New details about the devices came as the four-day mail bomb scare spread nationwide, drawing investigators from dozens of federal, state and local agencies in the effort to identify one or more perpetrators.

Verbal sparring

The targets have included Obama, Hillary Clinton, CNN and Rep. Maxine Waters of California. The common thread among them was obvious: their critical words for Trump and his frequent, harsher criticism in return.

Trump claimed on Friday he was being blamed for the mail bombs addressed to his critics, complaining in a tweet sent before dawn, "Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, 'it's just not Presidential!'"

At a press conference on Thursday, officials in New York would not discuss possible motives or details on how the packages found their way into the US postal system. Nor would they say why none of the packages had detonated, but they stressed they were still treating them as "live devices."

"As far as a hoax device, we're not treating it that way," police Commissioner James O'Neill said.

Details suggested a pattern — that the items were packaged in manila envelopes, addressed to prominent Trump critics and carried US postage stamps. The devices were being examined by technicians at the FBI's forensic lab in Quantico, Virginia.

The packages stoked nationwide tensions and fears as voters prepared to vote November 6 to determine partisan control of Congress — a campaign both major political parties have described in near-apocalyptic terms.

Even with the sender still unknown, politicians from both parties used the threats to decry a toxic political climate and lay blame.

"A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News," Trump said on Twitter. "It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!"

Former CIA Director Brennan, the target of a package sent to CNN, fired back.

"Stop blaming others. Look in the mirror," Brennan tweeted.

"Your inflammatory rhetoric, insults, lies, & encouragement of physical violence are disgraceful. Clean up your act....try to act Presidential."

CNN didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment before business hours on Friday.

The list of bombing targets spread from New York, Delaware and Washington, DC, to Florida and California.

The explosive devices were packed in envelopes with bubble-wrap interiors bearing six American flag stamps and the return address of Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies