What We Learned from the Recent Ricin and Mail Bomb Attacks


6 Things We Learned from the Recent Ricin and Mail Bomb Attacks


1. The Threat is Real

These are not hoax devices.”   FBI Director Christopher A. Wray

Many times, the news we hear about mail terrorism involves a hoax effort.  While they continue to investigate the possibility of detonation, there is no question these were intended to be explosive mail bombs to do harm.

The devices found so far have been called improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and they can be very deadly.  Learn more about the threat of explosives in the mail as well as the threat of biological hazards from our earlier newsletters.


2. Dangerous Attacks are Making it Through the U.S. Mail

..the U.S. Postal Inspection Service website says “the overwhelming volume of mail does not permit the Postal Service to screen every piece.” — NPR

There are a lot of questions surrounding how pipe bombs could travel such distances through the U.S. Mail — and even get to their destination without being detected. Screening protocols are in place for the USPS, but the volume is such that not all pieces get screened.

And the danger of biological threats getting through is even greater due to their small quantities. X-ray or bomb dogs cannot detect biological threats.  In order to mitigate all possible danger, mail screening is an important component to your organization’s overall security plan.


3. Attacks Through the Mail are Still Nothing New

America’s long and frightening history of attacks by mail” – CNN

From mail bombs as far back as 1919 to last month’s ricin letters sent to the President, there is nothing new about mail threats getting through to an individual or an organization.

This is a frightening reminder we must stay vigilant.  And we must use all resources available to mitigate possible threats to employees,  assets and organizational reputation.


4. You Won’t Know If or When Your Organization Might be a Target

Mail Bomb Suspect Had a List of 100 Potential Targets, Officials Say” – New York Times

A terrorist or lone wolf’s list could be long, with many types of targets included.  Why one public organization and not another?  We won’t know the reasoning, and that uncertainty leads to possible danger.  There is no question that the best protection is planning ahead for the worst case senario.


5. Mail Screening Works

What all of the attempts have in common…… that they have, so far, been intercepted before they could cause any damage.”  –Wired Magazine

If you stop and think about the fact that none of the mail bombs made it to their targeted end recipient, then it becomes clear that individuals and/or organizations who rely on mail screening are realizing its benefits.  Disaster and possible deaths have been averted by trusted mail screening security services.


6. Even Hoaxes are Damaging and Costly

Mail Bombs Don’t Need to Explode to be Destructive” – The Verge

Fear is the goal of any type of terrorism, including mail targets. So although both incidents this past month were very real — the fact that they did not reach their targets or do bodily harm, does not mean they were not and are not continuing to be destructive.  Furthermore, all the mail employees along the mail route of these dangerous deliveries were put in harms way.


How Can Your Business or Organization Stay Safe?

Basic steps for Mailroom Safety include:

1. Provide training
2. Put a plan in writing
2. Install correct sensor equipment
3. Train employees
4. Run practice drills

If this is not possible, consider outsourcing mail screening to a third party or sending mail to a third party screening facility.

As always, I appreciate your comments.