Federal offices remain closed after scare

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Several federal buildings, including locations in Birmingham and Anniston, remain closed tonight after 9 threatening letters containing a suspicious powder were sent to several Congressmen and Senators around the state.

The FBI says the powder tested negative for anthrax or any other biological agent but they are still treating the situation as a domestic terror incident.

FBI official say the powder inside those threatening letters was a fructose sugar substance.

No Congressmen or Senators were in contact with those envelopes. But there are still several unanswered questions as this investigation continues.

"We've seen this around the FBI and the U.S. and we take it seriously," said Charles E. Regan, assistant special agent in charge of the Birmingham field office. "We assume it's somebody who's got a vendetta against someone for whatever reason, so that's how we address these."

The FBI says the 9 letters had different postmarks, but were all postmarked in the state of Alabama and investigators now believe the sugar-filled mailings came from the same source.

Senators Shelby and Sessions, along with Representatives Bobby Bright, Jo Bonner, and Mike Rogers all received letters. It was one of 3 addressed to Sen. Shelby that was discovered in the Vance Federal Building in Birmingham Sunday.

The rest were found Monday, including 2 addressed to Rogers that were discovered at the federal courthouse in Anniston.

"Until we find out differently, we treat this as a bad product," said Anniston's assistant fire chief David Collins. "Nobody was ever in any danger."

FBI agents say even though the letters now appear harmless, it's a reminder of the need for federal buildings to keep security tight.

"You gotta take certain precautions with what comes in this building and other federal buildings and you train that their mail should be handled in a certain way, but sometimes we get lax and forget about those security protocols that we should be doing," Regan said.

The FBI office in Birmingham will take the lead on this investigation and says it does have leads it is pursuing to find who sent these letters.