Did LA Officials Panic Over a Dumb Prank?

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As you all know by now, schools in Los Angeles were closed today because authorities received a “credible threat” of some kind of attack. So far, all we know is that (a) it came via an email routed through Germany, (b) it contained the word allah un-capitalized, and (c) several other cities, including New York, received the same message. Was it wise to shut down every school in LA over this? Mike O’Hare says no, essentially because the threat strikes him as ridiculous, not credible.

This makes me curious: do we ordinary citizens ever get the chance to evaluate these threats after the fact? I get that it’s sometimes unwise to release a lot of information about events like this, but it also means that we never get to weigh the judgment and common sense of our elected officials. O’Hare thinks the risk that this was a genuine threat is infinitesimal. It seems the same way to me. After all, any half-bright teenager can write an anonymous email and route it through a proxy server somewhere just for laughs. Was there anything more to it than that?

Well, maybe there was, but they’re not telling us. Maybe there really was a good reason to believe this might be a genuine threat.

Or, maybe it was just a prank email and everyone panicked. I don’t live in Los Angeles, but if I were a taxpayer there I’d sure like to know more about this. City officials will almost certainly say they can’t comment further because the FBI is investigating yada yada yada, but I suspect they just don’t want to admit that they panicked over a dubious threat. I wonder if we’ll ever be allowed to know?

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Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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