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Monday, May 16, 2022

Government Issues Warning, Local Case Remains Unsolved

Author: Elizabeth Logue Managing Editor

The government issued a televised warning on Monday evening of new terrorist attacks that may surface in the next week. United States Attorney General John Ashcroft stated that the "administration has concluded … that there may be additional terrorist attacks within the United States and against United States' interests over the next week."

The intelligence, according to Ashcroft, is "credible but unfortunately does not contain specific information as to the type of attack or specific targets."

Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Administration (FBI), also spoke at the brief press conference, explaining that the administration had chosen to warn the law enforcement community to be on highest alert. Ashcroft acknowledged that the advisory had been issued to 18,000 law enforcement agencies throughout the United States.

Ashcroft said in the press conference that additional security precautions were being taken by government agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, among other government agencies.

By Tuesday afternoon, CNN confirmed that heightened security measures were being put into place by these agencies. There is a visual flight ban effect within 30 nautical miles of the John F. Kennedy International Airport between the hours of 6:45 p.m. and 2 a.m. in response to the World Series Game at Yankee Stadium. The flight restrictions will be in effect until midnight on Nov. 6, CNN reported.

Additionally, 80 facilities such as power plants and Energy Department areas imposed restricted flying rules.

Director of Public Safety and Associate Dean of Student Affairs Lisa Boudah said that because the Department of Public Safety is not a law enforcement agency, it did not receive specific warnings from the government. She continued, "We are on alert in the sense that we know what's going on in the community and in the country, and are trying to be cautious and prepared for anything that comes up." She stated that if a threat should occur, the Department of Public Safety would defer to the Middlebury Police Department.

Thomas Hanley, chief of the Middlebury Police Department, shared the same sentiments, saying that the Police Department has and will continue to be on "high alert." Hanley reported that he did not anticipate any specific threats to Middlebury, but that even though the Police Department is "not doing anything differently" since Monday's press conference, it "will continue to be attuned" to unfolding events as they occur.

Update on the Suspicious Envelope

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 struck close to home in Middlebury on Monday, Oct. 15 when the College mailroom received a suspicious letter addressed to a staff member. When The Middlebury Campus reported the events on Oct. 17, the letter was being held by the Middlebury Police Department and was waiting to be taken to the Vermont Department of Health in Burlington.

Two weeks since The Campus first reported on the finding, the parcel is still being analyzed by the Vermont Department of Health. Middlebury Chief of Police Thomas Hanley said that the contents of the envelope had not yet been revealed and provided no indication of when the Vermont Department of Health would relay definitive lab results to the department.

He stated that there is "concern all over the state" about the threat of anthrax and terrorism, but noted also that the American people have been faced with terrorism to a lesser degree for years in this country.

Citing the currently stringent U.S. mail protocol in place, and the Police Department's strict classification of suspicious mail, Hanley is not waiting anxiously for the results of the Vermont Department of Health's tests.

Hanley said that alarming letters and packages are classified in one of three categories: threatening, suspicious or hoax. If a piece of mail is seen as a threat by the Police Department, the Vermont Department of Health is notified, as was the case with the Oct. 15 incident.

Suspicious letters are "not even opened," said Hanley, but are instead destroyed. A letter is labeled a "hoax" only if a police investigation clearly proves it to be such.

—Elizabeth Logue, Managing Editor