Focus Concern on Schools in Six States
October 7, 2004 6:37 PM   Subscribe

Focus Concern on Schools in Six States I had recenbtly read that when alerts are issued, Bush support moves up. Now we have this alert based on info from a captured terrorist in Iraq. Our govt, we are told, downloaded building plans for a number of public schools. Alas: the material according to the article was found in the Summer--School begins around Labor Day...and now the alert is made?
posted by Postroad (19 comments total)
This is another politically-motivated warning. They want to change the news--it's killing them.
posted by amberglow at 6:50 PM on October 7, 2004

I don't know - the warning is based on facts and focuses on schools which are known to have been investigated by (presumed) bad people. If I were going to make a big political spectacle out of it, I'd imagine the warning would be far more sensationalistic, have our homeland security warning level upgraded a shade, be accompanied by press releases about protecting our children, etc.

As it stands, there's precedent that terrorists like to do bad things to change election outcomes, they've been known to target schools, and a suspect in Iraq downloaded info about a few of ours. This just sounds like a level-headed response to me. If it turns out that the info has been held back for months or is fake, then I'd be more inclined to believe it was political manipulation.
posted by mragreeable at 7:33 PM on October 7, 2004

The info has been held back for months. They found the info in Iraq in July. That letter was followed by an announcement Thursday that federal law enforcement authorities notified six school districts in five states last month that a CD found by the U.S. military in Iraq contained crisis-planning information about their schools. The downloaded information found in Iraq in July -- all publicly available on the Internet -- included an Education Department report guiding schools on how to prepare and respond to a crisis, one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity --from here
posted by amberglow at 7:46 PM on October 7, 2004

It's interesting how this information wasn't worth sharing with the affected districts before now, even though it's been available since July.

That's exactly the sort of thing which makes a lot of people talk.
posted by clevershark at 7:54 PM on October 7, 2004

Interesting that the districts for the most part happen to be in swing states - Florida, Oregon, Michigan and New Jersey. Doesn't hurt to throw in a couple in a Dem. state (CA) and one in a solid Rep. one (GA) to make it look like its a coincidence.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:16 PM on October 7, 2004

The material may have been found in July, but the school massacre in Beslan didn't happen until September...maybe that, not poll numbers, spurred the warnings that it could happen here too.
posted by Asparagirl at 8:34 PM on October 7, 2004

But shouldn't the finding of the material have prompted the warning? It would have been too late if Beslan had happened here. We've had warnings over less.
posted by amberglow at 8:39 PM on October 7, 2004

The material may have been found in July, but the school massacre in Beslan didn't happen until September...

So, it's still a matter of waiting until people die and then reacting, then? Proactive policies, indeed. I thought this was the "pre-emptive strike" administration. Clearly, I'm confused about what "pre-emptive" means in this context.
posted by Jimbob at 8:48 PM on October 7, 2004

"Clearly, I'm confused about what "pre-emptive" means in this context."

2. a. preĀ·empt To take the place of; displace: A special news program preempted the scheduled shows.

Sounds exactly like what this administration has been doing all along.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:04 PM on October 7, 2004

Here is a link from the local paper here in beautiful Salem, Oregon which provides a little more information. It seems Bush and Co. are trying to distract attention from our local teacher inservice meetings.
posted by fatbobsmith at 9:07 PM on October 7, 2004

Even if the motivation for releasing the information obtained in July was the Beslan tragedy, that still doesn't explain why it wasn't released until now.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:10 PM on October 7, 2004

Also, I swear to Baal, if I see "could be linked to al-Qaida" in one more news article...

The Atkins Diet! Could be linked to al-Qaida! Film at 11!
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:11 PM on October 7, 2004

USA Today has the full AP story. It is odd, but I'm willing to go along with Asparagirl's theory. What's actually happened here is threefold:

* A disc with downloaded school information was found in Iraq in a location with some connection to insurgent activities. The school districts involved were individually notified (presumably most will take down such information post-haste).

* The Education Department sent out notification to school districts based on an analysis of the Beslan incident and made security recommendations, some specific and obvious, others vague and confusing.

* The FBI and Homeland Security sent out information to law enforcement based on the same or similar analysis of Beslan.

It's a little "October Surprise" but Beslan certainly gives them plenty of cover, and it's clear that there are points to consider based on that experience. But just like 9/11 it's unlikely that the exact same strategy would be re-used, so we're probably preparing for the wrong thing again. Still, I'd rather these warnings be coordinated with other departments -- this is much more appropriate than your average Tom Ridge statement. The timing probably has something to do with both Beslan and security grants. Nevertheless, you'd expect such a far-reaching announcement to come with public resources, say, here or here; instead it seems to have been put out there on an isolated newsletter service that isn't online.

Here's the probable Education Department crisis guide referenced; it comes in the form of a 2-page brochure and a lengthy but somewhat general 146-page booklet -- more "Schools should develop a security plan" than "Security plans should be X, Y, and Z". Its primary contribution under the heading "Terrorism" is to recommend that school systems implement ... you guessed it ... a color-coded threat matrix. I didn't find much in this guide that could be considered terribly valuable to the goal of planning a takeover, except insofar as there might be outward signs of a school district being more, rather than less, prepared for such an eventuality -- the bureaucratic equivalent of putting a "Protected by HomeAlarmCo" out front.

Actually, I'd rather see the Beslan analysis, myself. That would be interesting.
posted by dhartung at 9:36 PM on October 7, 2004

According to the Secretary of Education, the schools are stuffed just full with terrorists.
posted by MrBadExample at 10:40 PM on October 7, 2004

These schools wouldn't happen to also be polling places would they?
posted by birdherder at 11:20 PM on October 7, 2004

Mr. BadExample and birdherder, why do you hate Amurika?
posted by nofundy at 5:48 AM on October 8, 2004

Meanwhile, German Spy Chief Says Bin Laden Is Alive
posted by mr.marx at 6:56 AM on October 8, 2004

The Bush administration has cried wolf too many times for this or any other terrorist warning between now and the election to be taken seriously. Waiting almost a month after the Beslan attack to announce a threat that based on information that was discovered in July is shady.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:24 AM on October 8, 2004

Ah, now they're saying it's nothing... U.S. officials say no terror threat linked to disk with school data
posted by amberglow at 9:39 PM on October 8, 2004

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