PHOTOS: Amid mail bomb threat, Postal Service employees served as ‘eyes and ears’ of law enforcement

National security leadership thanked postal employees and their partners in the Postal Inspection Service on Friday for work that led to the arrest of a suspect charged with allegedly sending 13 improvised explosive devices through the mail.

In a press conference at the Justice Department, Gary Barksdale, the deputy chief inspector of the Postal Inspection Service thanked postal employees for serving as the law enforcement agency’s “eyes and ears” this week.

“We appreciate the diligence and awareness,” Barksdale said. “In fact, it was a postal employee this morning that alerted us to one of these suspicious parcels.”

FBI Director Chris Wray said his agency identified the suspect, Florida resident Cesar Sayoc, through a fingerprint found on the envelope containing a mail bomb addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and a “possible DNA connections” on samples found on two additional packages containing explosives.

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“A threat of this scope and of this magnitude requires all of us working shoulder-to-shoulder, and today’s arrest is a testament to the strength of our partnerships and what we can do when we all work together,” Wray said.

Sayoc was charged Friday with five federal crimes, including interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and certain other persons, threatening interstate communications, and assaulting current and former federal officers.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said charges “may change or expand” as the investigation continues, but added that Sayoc, if found guilty, currently faces up to 48 years in prison.

Sessions also thanked law enforcement agencies for working together to make an arrest.

“Please know that from the beginning this investigative team has made this matter a top priority, focusing their great talents and expertise on neutralizing this threat,” Sessions said. “They have moved swiftly and professionally, using extraordinary technical expertise, to apprehend the one alleged responsible.”

This week, packages containing explosive devices addressed to former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, actor Robert De Niro, billionaire philanthropist George Soros, and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Explosives were also addressed to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA director John Brennan by way of CNN’s New York headquarters.

A package containing yet another explosive device was addressed to former Attorney General Eric Holder, but was returned to sender, which was listed as the office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).

Each package arrived in a padded, manila envelope with six American flag stamps and contained a PVC pipe, a clock, a battery, wires and what Wray called “energetic material” that could have exploded through heat, shock or friction.

“Though we’re still analyzing the devices in our laboratory, these are not hoax devices,” he said.

Despite Friday’s arrest, Barksdale warned that additional devices may remain undetected.

“Postal inspectors will remain vigilant and monitor postal facilities to determine whether there are additional mailings that have not yet been discovered,”  he said. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to ensure the safety of the mail, our postal employees, our customers and the American public.”

Postmaster General commends postal employees

Postmaster General Megan Brennan, in a statement Friday, commended postal employees for responding “quickly and effectively to the threat of suspicious packages in the mail stream.”

“We are especially pleased that there have been no injuries. This is a testament to the hard work of our postal employees who were vigilant and aided in these investigations,” Brennan said. “While there has been an arrest, we must remain alert and continue to follow our established suspicious mail protocols. We remain focused on our mission to keep the mail safe and secure for everyone.”

Fredric Rolando, the president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, in a statement Friday also urged postal employees to remain vigilant.

“Don’t let your guard down because an arrest has been made. The threat remains of more devices in the mail stream and the possibility exists of others copying these horrible crimes. Make sure you always stay alert, remember the warning signs and follow the protocols for any suspicious package,” he said.

Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the Homeland Homeland Security Committee, also thanked federal law enforcement agencies on Friday.

“As a former federal prosecutor, I have always had the utmost respect and appreciation for the dedicated men and women at the Department of Justice, FBI, DHS, and other law enforcement officers across this country,” he said. “I want to thank them for their tireless work and applaud their swift action that led to this arrest today.”

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