Some U.S. Agriculture Dept offices reopen with increased security

August 31, 2016 2:22 PM EDT

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By Timothy Mclaughlin and P.J. Huffstutter

(Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which had closed some offices after receiving anonymous email threats, said it reopened most with increased security on Wednesday, but others remained shuttered as further precautions were put in place.

The USDA closed offices in five states on Tuesday and is working with local and federal authorities, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to determine the seriousness of the threats, department spokesman Matthew Herrick said in an emailed statement on Tuesday night.

Most offices, Herrick said, would reopen on Wednesday “with additional security enhancements, including the presence of law enforcement or security personnel.”

A USDA spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday that all but three offices had reopened.

The Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service offices in Hamden, Connecticut, as well as the USDA office in Leetown, West Virginia, remained closed.

“For those remaining offices, a bit more time is needed either to get additional security enhancements in place for a safe and secure opening or to make official notifications to union representatives,” Herrick said.

The agency hopes to reopen the offices as soon as possible, he added.

One email message was sent to multiple employees at USDA offices in Hamden; Fort Collins, Colorado; Beltsville, Maryland; Raleigh, North Carolina; and Kearneysville and Leetown, West Virginia, Herrick said on Tuesday.

In West Virginia, Jefferson County Sheriff Pete Dougherty said by telephone that his office was notified of the threat on Monday by a USDA employee in the Kearneysville facility in the northeastern part of the state.

"They were going to break into the building," Dougherty said.

Dougherty said the emailed threat did not name the facility specifically, and was similar to, or the same as, electronic threats sent to other facilities.

A number of other universities were also threatened this week, school officials said.

(Reporting by Timothy McLaughlin and P.J. Huffstutter in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)



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