It is only a matter of time before the identity of the US “mail bomber” is revealed, thanks to forensics—and then it will be determined if the bombs originate with the “right wing,” or, as many suspect, the left wing, in an attempt to engender sympathy for the Democrats ahead of the upcoming mid-term congressional elections.
According to an Associated Press article, Larry Johnson, a former head of criminal investigations for the U.S. Secret Service who also served as a special agent in charge of the presidential protective detail, said that bomb makers usually leave evidence behind.
“If there is a human involved, there is a high probability you’re going to get somewhere investigatively,” he said.
The article went on to quote Johnson as saying that it is “highly likely” that the person or people who built the bombs have been previously flagged by law enforcement. The Secret Service maintains an extensive database of individuals and groups who have made past threats against presidents or other top political leaders, either through letters, emails or on social media.
“A good percentage of the time, this is not the first time whoever is responsible for this will have stuck their neck out,” Johnson said. “Those looking to do revenge or harm to someone, it doesn’t just come to them one day.”
Among the first steps for investigators will be retracing the path of the packages through the postal system or courier service used to deliver them.
According to the report, the U.S. Postal Service operates a sophisticated imaging system that photographs the outside of each piece of mail processed across the country and can be used to determine the specific location of where it was sent.
This was how, for example, the woman who sent poison ricin through the mail to President Barack Obama and then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2013, was tracked down.
The envelopes and packaging materials themselves will also be closely scrutinized.
“It will be a treasure trove of forensic evidence,” said Anthony Roman, a private security and investigations consultant. “As human beings, we are filtering off our DNA everywhere we walk, everywhere we sit.”
Even the most careful bomber is likely to leave behind genetic material that could be used to identify them, especially traces of sweat, saliva or skin cells. There may also be fingerprints or hair.
Roman said investigators will also be collecting all available video camera footage taken from where the packages were mailed and delivered, as well as interviewing any potential witnesses in the area.
Because the devices were intercepted before they exploded, forensics experts will be able to carefully disassemble the devices and examine the components. They’ll examine the wiring, the initiating system, any timing device and seek to identify what type of pipe. The design of the bomb will be compared to other explosive devices recovered in the past.
“It’s not an insurmountable task,” Jimmie Oxley, the co-director of the University of Rhode Island’s Center of Excellence in Explosives, Detection, Mitigation and Response, said. “There’s a ton of evidence out there. Unless this is a really, really smart person, they will find out who did this.”