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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Suspicious powder sets off scare in two states

The FBI says the white powder enclosed in envelopes and mailed to federal offices in several Northwest cities is inert.

The episode touched off an investigative frenzy at FBI offices in Spokane and Pocatello, Idaho, an Internal Revenue Service office in Bellevue, Wash., and at U.S. attorney offices in Coeur d’Alene and Boise.

Frank Harrill, an FBI supervisor in Spokane, said the letters were set for delivery Monday morning. He said no one was exposed to the powder.

The powder tested so far has been deemed inert, said Tom Rice, spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Spokane.

Yet the mailings constitute a threat, even though it likely isn’t dangerous. Investigators are determined to learn if the letters were a hoax or something sinister. Television station KREM reported that at least some of the envelopes bore a Spokane postmark.

“We consider it a threat,” Harrill said.

In 2001, letters containing anthrax spores were delivered to lawmakers and news media outlets. Five died, and federal office buildings, including the U.S. Supreme Court building were closed and decontaminated.

Powder samples collected Monday in Spokane were sent to a laboratory at the Spokane Regional Health District for testing, said spokeswoman Jill Johnson.

Harrill acknowledged that the white powder envelopes may not have affected services to the public, but it did burden investigators and others affected by the scare.