- Associated Press - Friday, January 7, 2011

PIKESVILLE, Md. (AP) — Two packages sent to Maryland’s governor and transportation secretary that ignited when they were opened contained the same note railing against highway signs urging motorists to report suspicious activity, investigators revealed Friday.

The message read: “Report suspicious activity! Total Bull–-! You have created a self fulfilling prophecy.”

Numerous pieces of physical evidence were recovered from the scene of the package sent to the transportation department, State Fire Marshal William Barnard said, but police have not yet identified any suspects.

The packages, addressed to Gov. Martin O'Malley and to Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley, have been taken to the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., for forensic analysis.


They were opened within a 15-minute period Thursday at state government buildings 20 miles apart.

The workers who opened the packages singed their fingers, but there were no significant injuries.

Soon after, mailrooms across Maryland were cleared and two other suspicious packages uncovered, though they turned out to be a toner cartridge and laptop batteries.

Explosive material wasn’t found in either package that ignited and authorities aren’t sure if any other dangerous packages are out there, but mailroom employees were back at work Friday. They had pictures of the packages and were advised to be vigilant about anything suspicious.

Meanwhile, the packages have prompted officials in at least four nearby states to be more vigilant.

Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat, had said previously that the mailing sent to him complained about highway signs that urge motorists to “Report Suspicious Activity” and give an 800 number.

“Somebody doesn’t like seeing that sign,” Mr. O'Malley said late Thursday.

A worker ripped the pull tab on the first package, addressed in typeface to the recently re-elected governor and adorned with holiday stamps, in Annapolis where mail for Mr. O'Malley’s office is routinely checked. The building is just blocks from the governor’s office, which is inside the State House in the heart of the capital.

An administrative assistant to Ms. Swaim-Staley opened the second package on the fourth floor of the Department of Transportation headquarters in Hanover, near the secretary’s office.

Both had incendiary devices inside and produced puffs of smoke and a smell similar to a match being struck, authorities said.

Maryland’s terrorism tip line is widely shown on overhead highway signs. The state also uses the signs to post information about missing children and, to the ire of some drivers, added real-time traffic estimates to major highways in March. Some commuters complained drivers slowed to read the signs and backed up traffic. At Mr. O'Malley’s request, the state studied the issue and removed the real-time postings from one congested area on the Capital Beltway. There are 113 highway signs statewide.

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