March 8, 2008 in Nation/World

FBI reports no link between letters, blast

Dan Eggen Washington Post

WASHINGTON – The FBI said Friday that a man who mailed rambling letters to Congress this week featuring a photo of a Manhattan military recruiting station was not linked to Thursday’s bombing outside that station.

Scores of congressional Democrats received identical anti-war letters in recent days that declared “We did it” and included photos of a man standing in front of the Times Square recruiting station, officials said.

But the FBI interviewed the Los Angeles man who sent the letters and concluded he was not the person captured on cameras riding a bicycle before and after a crude bomb exploded at the station, officials said. The FBI also searched the man’s house.

“The letters had no connection to the bombing,” said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI field office in Los Angeles. “It appears to have been a matter of coincidental details and unfortunate timing on his part.”

The letter writer was not identified because he did not commit a crime and is not being charged with any offense, Eimiller said.

The man had sent more than 200 identical antiwar letters to House Democrats, about half of which had been received and processed through mail security screening by midday Friday, one law enforcement official said. Each letter came in a 5-by-8-inch manila envelope with two $1 stamps and a white label bearing a return address, officials said.

Officials said the “we did it” language referred to the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006. “This was a citizen exercising his right to make a political comment to his representatives,” Eimiller said.

No injuries were reported in Thursday’s 3:45 a.m. blast, which broke a glass door and window of the one-story Armed Forces Recruiting Station on a traffic island between Broadway and Seventh Avenue in Manhattan. The crude explosive was apparently placed in a metal ammunition box and left outside the center, authorities said.

Police said a hooded person wearing a backpack and riding a bicycle “in a suspicious manner” was seen in front of the station just before the blast, and Friday said they recovered a blue, 10-speed bike suspected of being used. They are investigating whether the bombing is related to incidents in 2005 and 2007 when a man on a bicycle threw less-powerful explosives at two foreign consulates.

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