Political News

USDA to reopen offices in NC, 4 other states after threats

Posted August 30

— The U.S. Agriculture Department said Tuesday it had closed offices in Raleigh and in four other states after receiving anonymous threats that it considered serious.

USDA spokesman Matthew Herrick said in a statement that the department had received "several anonymous messages" late Monday that raised concerns about the safety of USDA personnel and facilities. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office on North Carolina State University's Centennial Campus was closed until further notice, as were USDA offices on Bland Road in north Raleigh, Fort Collins, Colo., Hamden, Conn., Beltsville, Md., and Kearneysville and Leetown, W.Va.

N.C. State issued a WolfAlert safety notice Tuesday afternoon, noting that two faculty members also received an email threat, and campus police determined that several dozen people at Virginia Tech also received the same email threat.

Security guards were posted outside the APHIS office on Centennial Campus, although the rest of the building was open. N.C. State spokesman Mick Kulikowski said no classes were interrupted or other offices closed.

Herrick said the USDA is working with the FBI and federal and local law enforcement to determine whether the threats are credible.

In an email to employees, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said USDA is closing the offices "due to the serious nature of these threats." He did not characterize the threats or say how they were received, but asked employees to be aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious activity.

In his memo to employees, Vilsack said employees could telework or take authorized leave.

White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said the Department of Homeland Security is working with USDA "to ensure the safety of their offices and the personnel that work there."

The offices closed cover seven USDA agencies in addition to APHIS: the Agricultural Research Service, the Food Safety Inspection Service, the Forest Service, the National Agricultural Library, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Office of the Inspector General and USDA departmental management.

In an email Tuesday night, a USDA spokesman said that all offices in Raleigh would open as usual Wednesday. Several other offices will remain closed until more security enhancements are in place, he said.

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