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New York Mayor: Suspected Mail Bombs Are ‘Absolutely Terrorism’

Bill de Blasio
JUSTIN LANE/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Authorities again asked for the public to contact the FBI, NYPD, and other law enforcement agencies for any tips as to the source of suspicious packages sent with suspected explosive devices to CNN, actor Robert De Niro, former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other public figures.

At a press conference in New York, law enforcement representatives declined to provide many details of any leads they may have, and would not confirm reports that at least some of the packages were sent from Florida.

“This is absolutely terrorism,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, noting that it fits the definition of “an effort to use violence to make a political impact.”

NYPD police commissioner James P. O’Neill characterized the devices as suspected explosives, but declined to go into detail as to their characteristics or whether any were found to be functional. All have been sent to an FBI facility in Quantico, Va., for examination.

A white powder that was found in an envelope sent to CNN was deemed as “not biological,”  said the FBI’s Bill Sweeney.

Calls to the NYPD tip line, 1-888-NYC-SAFE, were up 139% on Wednesday, authorities said.

O’Neill said that “first and foremost, my message today is that New Yorkers are safe. He said that there were no credible threats, but that residents and visitors should remain vigilant.

Ten packages have been identified, including those addressed to former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder, De Niro, billionaire philanthropist George Soros, and two to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and two to former Vice President Joe Biden. CNN received a package that was sent to former CIA Director John Brennan.

John Miller, the deputy commissioner, said the package sent to De Niro’s Tribeca production office was spotted by a retired NYPD intelligence bureau detective who now works in security for the actor.

Miller said that the retired detective “was awake and watching the news saw an image of the packaging and it struck him that it looked very much like a package he had received on Tuesday in mail he was to screen for Robert De Niro Prooductions in their offices on Greenwich street.

“Based on his experience, he knew how to call the bomb squad directly,” Miller said. The package was safely removed.

In a speech, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that  “ee condemn the actions that led to these activities in the strongest possible terms and are determined to make sure that we get to the bottom of it and that justice is done.”

In other developments on Thursday:

Major contribution: AT&T, the parent company of WarnerMedia and CNN, announced that it was contributing $250,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Its CEO, Randall Stephenson, said that “journalists around the world do the important work of holding leaders accountable, exposing the truth, & telling the stories that need to be told. Threats to journalists are, at the very core, threats to freedom and liberty.”

He added, “Leaders may not like everything that is written about them. I know I don’t. But journalists serve as an indispensable check on power. They do the hard and often unpopular work of shining a light on issues that matter, so that people are better equipped to make decisions for themselves.

Hollywood reaction: Some industry figures reacted with a sense of anger to reports of a suspicious package directed at De Niro and to President Trump casting blame on the media.

“The aim was murder. To kill Trump opponents,” director Ava DuVernay wrote on Twitter. “Bob De Niro is a producer of our CENTRAL PARK FIVE film. We prepped in his building. Still casting there. This isn’t about packages. This is about people. Killing people who disagree with Trump. His finger pointing can’t change that.”