(Photo Credit: The Atlantic, March 30, 2018 Issue)
The spate of bombings that took place in Austin, Texas from March 2 to 20 this year had put the nation on edge. Five package bombs exploded. Two people killed. Five critically injured.
For three weeks the lingering questions in the minds of law enforcers were: Is this another Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski-style operation? Is the bomber (or bombers) domestic-bred or from a foreign group? What’s the bomber’s motive or objective?
The news report later revealed that the bombings were the handiworks of Mark Anthony Conditt, a self-professed psychopath who detonated a bomb and blew up himself when the police pulled him over on March 21.
Now, would this kind of terroristic act also happen in a place like Santa Clarita Valley? Yes, it could. In my eight years in counter-terrorism operations, I would say terrorists know no boundaries—they strike in rural and urban areas, in populated and isolated places.
Postal bomb is one of the methods used by terrorists in sowing chaos. A bomb of choice could be in the form of explosive or incendiary device. They come in envelopes no thicker than one-fourth inch or packages not more than twenty-two pounds in weight.
So, what do we do to protect ourselves and our families? Two words—be vigilant. Always be observant at home and at work for any suspicious mails.
Below are pointers in handling postal deliveries. Although they’re designed for persons working in sensitive-government positions overseas and for executives in multinational corporations, personal security, however, is everyone’s responsibility, and so the succeeding guidelines apply to all even to the Santa Claritans.
The bomb can explode when opening the mail so one must be aware of the following tell-tale signs in handling a letter or a package.
● Do you normally receive letters or parcels from domestic or abroad? Pay attention to the foreign name and address of the sender.
● A key to look for is the postmark. Do you recognize the writing? Is it written in foreign style?
● Is the letter or parcel balanced? If it’s lopsided, treat it as a suspect.
● If the weight is excessive for its size, treat it as a suspect.
● Are there any small holes that could’ve resulted from wire punctures?
● Are there any grease or stain marks that could’ve caused by explosive sweating?
● Is there an unusual scent or aroma coming from the letter or parcel, something like the smell of almonds?
● In case of a letter (usually in brown envelope), check if there’s a stiffer that holds the content flat—like cardboard or metal.
● If the feel isn’t like just a folded paper inside, treat the envelope as a suspect.
● Check if there are any unusual outlines if you hold the envelope up to the light.
● Is the flap of the envelope sealed completely? Usually there’s a small gap on both sides. If so, treat it as a suspect.
What to do and not to do when you receive a suspected postal bomb in the office or at home:
● Place the letter or the parcel on the flat surface.
● Make sure to place it in an open space away from the house or office. If not possible, leave it on the flat surface, and then open the windows and doors.
● A bomb explodes strongly when it’s in a closed room.
● Clear the area of all persons immediately.
● Call the Security Staff if you’re in the office to make proper determination of consequent steps.
● When at home, call the LASD-SCV for determination and assistance.
● Don’t bend the envelope or the package.
● Don’t open the letter or the package.
● Don’t place the letter or the package in the water.
What’s the chance of Austin-like incidents happening in Santa Clarita Valley? Not even one-percent. So why this article? Just a heads-up so you or your family members won’t become part of the 0.99-percent targets. There will always be copycats. Remember Thanh Cong Phan from Washington who mailed postal bombs to US military facilities and to the CIA HQS at the time Conditt is wreaking havoc in Texas?
Lastly, I would’ve you think twice of letting your minor children get the packages from your porch or mail box. I’m sure they want to help, and you want to see them off their Xbox and PlayStation. I never let mine. Paranoia? Friend, we’re living in different times.
Please take note, security is always inconvenient, but it’ll keep you and your loved ones safe.