Did LA Officials Panic Over a Dumb Prank?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


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?

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 crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will 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.

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 crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will 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.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate