Rambling letters to military led feds to man suspected of mailing suspicious packages

WASHINGTON -- Hours after news that suspicious packages were turning up in and around Washington, D.C., an arrest was made on the other side of the country. Thanh Cong Phan, 43, appeared in court in Washington state a little more than 24 hours after 11 packages he allegedly mailed arrived at military bases in the D.C. area. 

Phan had a history of writing crank letters to the military, and rambling notes included in the packages immediately fingered him as a suspect. He was arrested at his home in Everett, Washington, on Monday night, much to the surprise of a neighbor.

"I'm in shock, I don't know what to say, its so close to my house," the neighbor said.

Phan has been charged with one count of shipping explosive materials, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

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Thanh Cong Phan

CBS NEWS

The packages contained what the FBI called "potential destructive devices" and were sent to government mail-processing facilities at the CIA, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Fort Belvoir, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and Fort McNair.  

The package at Fort McNair was addressed to the National Defense University and contained black powder and a fuse. One at Fort Belvoir was meant for the National Geospatial Agency, the intelligence organization which analyzes spy photos taken by satellites. Another package was addressed to the Secret Service. 

None of the packages exploded.

The motive for mailing the packages is unclear and the FBI warns that additional packages may show up at other mail processing facilities in the D.C. area.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.