Skyfall at the FBI

A poorly chosen Internet address briefly had web surfers wondering whether an FBI press release warning of terror attacks was a hoax.

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The FBI’s stark, two-sentence press release telling an already jittery nation to brace for “additional terrorist attacks within the United States … over the next several days” was anything but funny. Yet it seems as though someone in the Bureau’s headquarters was indulging in a little gallows humor when the release went up on the FBI’s official website Thursday afternoon. The press release was initially posted under a web address more evocative of Chicken Little than Usama bin Ladin: fbi.gov/presrel/presrel01/skyfall.htm.

“A lot of people thought it was a hoax,” said bureau spokeswoman Angela Bell. “The phones just lit up. They thought the FBI web site had been hacked.”

But the press release was genuine, its ill-chosen address the product of insufficient oversight. “The writer just happened to name it that,” Bell said. “It got forwarded to the Internet people and they didn’t change the name.” Although she called the web address “unfortunate,” Bell stated no fewer than four times that there was absolutely “no correlation” between the file name and the content of the press release. “It was not an intentional thing, it was not a malicious thing, it just happened.”

In response to the alarmed phone calls, the FBI replaced the offending “skyfall” with Thursday’s date. How long was the original version online? “Probably two hours,” Bell said. “Way too long.”

The FBI would not provide the name of the agent responsible for the file name. Asked if any disciplinary action had been taken, Bell laughed and said “the error was caught yesterday and ‘handled’ yesterday — for lack of a better word.”

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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