Inspection Service Home Page



October 17, 2011

Media Hot Line 202-268-3700, or

U.S. Postal Inspection Service Marks the

10th Anniversary of the Anthrax Attacks

It has been 10 years since the anthrax attacks of 2001. Five people died, including two Washington, DC, postal employees. Other postal employees were sickened by their exposure to anthrax. Since that time, the men and women of the United States Postal Inspection Service have worked tirelessly to identify the threat and the terrorist responsible for this tragedy. As a result of our efforts, we were able to reassure postal employees and customers that the mail is safe, helping to restore America’s confidence in the mail.

Starting right after the attacks, we saw a sharp increase in the reporting of suspicious or unknown items in the mail. This caused us to adapt and evolve our capabilities to handle this new threat. In the ensuing 10 years, more than 400 Postal Inspectors have received extensive training and have been equipped with cutting-edge technology to detect a wide spectrum of threats. Inspectors have responded to more than 52,000 incidents of suspicious mail since 2001. Last year, Postal Inspectors responded to 3,500 incidents, a rate of about 300 per month. The responses typically involved mail containing suspicious powders, liquids, or other potentially hazardous items. These specially trained Inspectors have been strategically deployed throughout the United States and continue to remain vigilant in investigating threats of suspicious mail under our Dangerous Mail Investigations program.

There are other initiatives we’ve undertaken to sharpen our efforts to protect employees, customers, and facilities. Expanded and improved Postal Service and Postal Inspection Service preparedness initiatives include:

  • Enhanced mail screening to support overall Postal Service operations. Using specialized equipment, Postal Inspectors conduct threat assessments and screen substances to determine if they are hazardous and the mailpiece poses a threat to employees or the public. Special mail screening for events of national significance and during heightened terrorist threat periods is also conducted by Postal Inspectors when required.

  • Improved intelligence-gathering capabilities. Cooperating fully with other federal agencies, the Postal Inspection Service has enhanced its intelligence capabilities to ensure threats are identified and national-level response support can be provided.

  • The training of thousands of postal employees to ensure they, as well as postal equipment and procedures, are in a constant state of readiness to successfully manage any emergency—without interruption. Our outreach also extends to external audiences. Postal Inspectors instructed more than 3,100 groups—employees, mailers, media, and government agencies—on best practices for mail security and crime prevention last year.

  • Installation of Biohazard Detection Systems at every mail processing facility in the United States. BDS allows for rapid investigative responses by Postal Inspectors to ensure employees are protected and hazardous mail is identified.

These technologically advanced tools enable Postal Inspectors to support and protect the Postal Service. Over our 200 year history of investigating postal crimes, we have constantly adapted to stay a step ahead of criminals and their schemes. We will continue to use this approach in our security responsibilities. Our efforts will evolve to support and protect the Postal Service. And to ensure America’s confidence in the mail.

With our ability to deliver correspondence and serve commerce to all American households comes a corresponding duty to ensure that we enforce the laws that defend the nation’s mail system for dangerous and illegal use. We are proud to do our part to ensure the U.S. Postal Service remains “America’s most trusted government agency.”

# # #

About the U.S. Postal Inspection Service
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is one of the oldest federal law enforcement agencies in the country. For more than 200 years, Postal Inspectors have protected the U.S. Postal Service, secured the nation’s mail system and ensured public trust in the mail. To learn more, visit