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White powder investigated

BISMARCK -- A suspicious white powder delivered to Gov. John Hoeven's office Thursday morning is probably harmless, preliminary tests show.

Nevertheless, the state Highway Patrol, Health Department and the FBI will continue to investigate the case and no matter the outcome, a suspect could face federal charges.

"Even if it's a hoax, it's considered a threat of a use of a WMD (weapon of mass destruction)," FBI spokesman E.K. Wilson of Minneapolis said.

Hoeven is now one of 20 governors around the country whose offices have received envelopes containing white powder this week, Wilson said. All carried a Dallas postmark, he said.

The governor's ground floor office staff called the Highway Patrol about 10:30 Thursday morning while opening the day's mail, after finding an envelope with the powder, Patrol spokesman Lt. Michael Gerhart said.

The patrol sent the governor's ground floor staff upstairs to the main governor's office on the first floor for the day and locked down the ground floor office. Troopers then called in the Bismarck Fire Department, which did a preliminary test which showed the substance not containing any threatening substances. The Fire Department, using hazardous material handling protocols, sealed the envelope in a special container and troopers took it to the state Health Department's lab, Gerhart said.

Another preliminary test at the lab also showed the substance likely not harmful, Gerhart said. Nevertheless, the Health Department will conduct a thorough test on what the substance is.

Hoeven spokesman Don Canton said the governor's ground floor staff will not return to their regular office until Monday, when the Health Department tests are done and the powder is confirmed as benign.