Crudely made package bombs will provide treasure trove of evidence that will be used to catch culprit: experts
Investigators are working around the clock to identify who is behind the series of package bombs sent to several high-profile Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden.
Fortunately for the victims and investigators, the bombs were crudely made, did not explode and contain a treasure trove of valuable information that can be used to track down the culprit.
“There’s DNA that can be recovered from the device,” Ryan Morris, founder of Tripwire Operation Group, a company that provides explosives training to law enforcement and military officials, told Fox News.
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Morris said that investigators will likely be able to take DNA from the fingerprints found on the tape as well as the saliva from the postage stamps. Each package that was sent had six postage stamps attached. Experts will also test the powder and look for specific chemical markers that can be used to identify the person or persons involved.
Larry Johnson, a former head of criminal investigations for the U.S. Secret Service who also served as a special agent in charge of the presidential protective detail, agrees that bomb makers usually leave evidence – and their signature- behind.
“If there is a human involved, there is a high probability you’re going to get somewhere investigatively,” he told The Associated Press. “There will be no stone left unturned.”
Johnson believes it’s “highly likely” the person who built the bombs will have been previously flagged by law enforcement. The Secret Service maintains a wide database of groups and individuals who have made threats in the past against presidents or other top political leaders and activists via email, letters or on social media.
The FBI said Wednesday that it identified at least seven suspicious packages addressed to prominent Democratic figures over the last three days. Three more packages were discovered Thursday, bumping the total number to 10.
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James Fitzgerald, a retired FBI profiler and forensic linguist who, in 1996, helped catch "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski -- who killed 3 people and injured 23 in bombings between 1978 and 1995 -- told Fox News on Wednesday that the letter sent to John Brennan, the former director of the CIA and a staunch Trump critic, reminded him of something the Unabomber would send because of the amount of stamps used on the package.
“The linguist in me noticed that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the last name is spelled missing a ‘c’ and John Brennan’s name is spelled missing an ‘n’ and that kind of surprised me and I have a feeling that was done on purpose to make this look like somebody who doesn’t really know who these people are and that it wasn’t an honest mistake. If he had this much anger and vitriol against these people, you would think he would know how to spell their names.
Fitzgerald said that “almost all bombers in the past have been single bombers”, but he added what stood out to past campaigns, including Kaczynski and Mark Conditt, the bomber who terrorized Austin, Texas, earlier this year, for the most part mailed their package bombs separately.
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Fitzgerald also said further evidence may present itself.
“There may be some sort of a letter or social media aspect or video tape, or something equivalent to that comes in the mail, a DVD or whatever that claims responsibility for this, but we’re too early, this person had a point they had to make with these devices and quite frankly they’ve made it.”
Fran Townsend, former Homeland Security Advisor in the George W Bush administration, and now CBS News’s security analyst, said the bombs were “not a standard recipe”.
“He didn’t go on the internet and just pull down the standard Al Qaeda recipe which we’ve seen before, so he’s left his own signature, there’s something unique about the way this has been put together which will be very helpful for investigators," she told CBS News.
She added that she thinks there will be plenty of breaks in the case because of the bomber’s perceived sloppiness.
“This is somebody who has made plenty of mistakes – the wrong address to Eric Holder, misspelling John Brennan’s name, John Brennan doesn’t work at CNN, he works at NBC, so this is somebody who has made plenty of mistakes along the way. All the outside packages are identical – six stamps, two tiers, printed labels. This is somebody who has likely left a lot of clues.”
Ralph Basham, Secret Service director from 2003 to 2006, told Vox that he believes the culprit or culprits will be caught quickly, due to the number of experts and investigators involved.
“Authorities will deconstruct this device and find out what materials were used. ATF [the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] has a large database of materials.
“They’ll look for the serial numbers on the parts, track down where those parts were made and who sold them.
“After a while, they’ll come up with a pattern and a possible location where all of these different items came from.
“Through that process, they’ll narrow possibilities down and find the perpetrators. But there’s a little bit of luck in this, as well. It’s not all science. You need a break.”
Basham cautioned that even though the likes of the FBI and ATF are pouring resources into the investigation, it could take more than a month.
“It takes a lot of time to put all the information together: They need to get all they can from the devices and track where the packages came from.”