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Campus Police bulletin on packages reprinted

(In response to a flurry of local publicity, Tech Talk is reprinting the text of a bulletin issued on April 26 by the MIT Campus Police.)

As a result of this week's letter bomb incident in Sacramento, CA, involving a timber industry administrator, we wish to review cautionary information which we have previously distributed concerning letter bombs.

As previously stated, while the likelihood of your ever receiving a bomb in the mail is remote, in light of this week's incident and the string of past incidents since 1978 (including two letter bomb incidents at the University of California and Yale) we are advising the community to be cautious when examining incoming mail. Keep in mind that a bomb can be enclosed in either a parcel or an envelope, and its outward appearance is limited only by the imagination of the sender.

Since mail bombs have some unique characteristics, the following information is being provided to help assist you in identifying a suspect mailing. This information has been compiled with information obtained from the US Postal Inspection Service and the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators.


Mail bombs may bear restricted endorsements such as "Personal" or "Private." This factor is important when the addressee does not usually receive personal mail at the office.

Addressee's name/title may be inaccurate.

Return address may be fictitious.

Mail bombs may reflect distorted handwriting or the name and address may be prepared with homemade labels or cut-and-paste lettering.

Mail bombs may have protruding wires, aluminum foil or oil stains and may emit a peculiar odor.

Cancellation or postmark may show a different location than the return address.

Mail bombs may feel rigid, or appear uneven or lopsided.

Parcel bombs may be unprofessionally wrapped with several combinations of tape used to secure the package and may be endorsed "Fragile-Handle With Care" or "Rush-Do Not Delay."

Package bombs may have an irregular shape, soft spots or bulges. There may also be excessive or uneven weight distribution.

Package bombs may make a buzzing or ticking noise or a sloshing sound.

Pressure or resistance may be noted when removing contents from an envelope or parcel.

If you are suspicious of a mailing and are unable to verify the contents with the addressee or sender:

1. Do not open the article (or squeeze, drop, prod or push it).

2. Isolate the mailing but do not place it in a confined space such as a desk drawer.

3. Notify the MIT Campus Police immediately: dial "100" from an MIT phone or 253-1212 from a pay phone.

If you have any questions concerning the above guidelines or suspicious mail, please contact the MIT Campus Police Special Services Division at x8-9724.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 10, 1995.

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