Thursday, October 07, 2004

This afternoon, Atrios and other bloggers linked this suspiciously timed story:

The Education Department is advising school leaders nationwide to watch for people spying on their buildings or buses to help detect any possibility of terrorism like the deadly school siege in Russia....

The advice is based on lessons learned from the Russia siege. But there is no specific information indicating a terrorist threat to any schools or universities in the United States, [Deputy Education Secretary Eugene ] Hickok said.

Now ABC has this:

Schools in six states in particular are being watched closely based on information uncovered by the U.S. military in Baghdad this summer, law enforcement and education officials told ABC News.

A man described as an Iraqi insurgent involved in anti-coalition activities had downloaded school floor plans and safety and security information about elementary and high schools in the six states, according to officials.

School officials in Fort Myers, Fla.; Salem, Ore.; Gray, Ga.; Birch Run, Mich.; two towns in New Jersey; and two towns in California have been told to increase security in light of the discovery.

Officials in the New Jersey towns, Franklinville and Rumson, were notified by counterterrorism officials last month that their schools had been possibly singled out....

And William Matthews, superintendent of schools in Jones County, Ga., sent a letter to parents, faculty and staff last week notifying them that security was being increased during the election season....

...though the information was recovered in July, it was not given urgency until the attack in Beslan....

Is it odd that nothing was said last summer, when the information was recovered (even to officials of the schools involved)? Was anything said around the time of Beslan siege, which was at the very beginning of September? When last month did the Jersey school districts get their notification? What about the others?

And, of course, we know that nothing was said to the general public until Kerry pulled up even with Bush in the polls.

And of the eight schools involved, five are in swing states. Curious? (And I can't help wondering where the California schools are -- given the fact that every state on California's border is a swing state.)

And the guy who downloaded the floor plans was an Iraqi insurgent? You mean, in the middle of a guerrilla war, these guys are planning the sort of transoceanic terror strike that takes Al Qaeda years of time and training to execute? What -- in between sticking IEDs in dead goats? Wow, that's thinking big.


UPDATE: WJRT in Flint, Michigan has this (emphasis mine):

First of all, there is no need for parents to panic at this point. Walt Reynolds of the Bay City office of the FBI confirmed Birch Run [Michigan] was one of the cities mentioned in what he calls "dated and vague intelligence."

That being said, the FBI acted swiftly when that intelligence was received, just as it routinely does throughout the year with the thousands of threats that come in. State and local police investigated, along with the FBI.

The good news is that this threat was deemed not credible.

And local news here in New York City suggests that the information could have been downloaded by someone involved in some aspect of Iraqi reconstruction.

"A massacre in the making?" asks this right-wing blogger. Sorry to disappoint you, pal, but apparently not.


UPDATE: There it is, via CNN:

The Department of Homeland Security official said the material was associated with a person in Iraq, and it could not be established that this person had any ties to terrorism. He did have a connection to civic groups doing planning for schools in Iraq, the official said.

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