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A tale of two cities’ reactions to a terrorist tactic.
A bomb threat reportedly emailed to officials in both Los Angeles and New York City has one city locking down its schools, while another is calling the whole thing a “hoax.”
Classes at all Los Angeles Unified School District schools, including 900 schools and 187 public charter schools, were canceled Tuesday morning after the receipt of an email claiming that multiple specific schools were the targets of a jihadist terror attack. LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines called the threat “rare” but “credible,” according to KABC in L.A.
“I, as the superintendent, am not going to take the chance with the life of a student,” Cortines said during a press conference.
Robo-calls went out to the parents of LAUSD students informing them of the possible threat. It said: “As a result of a threat received, the superintendent has directed all schools to be closed today.”
The decision to cancel classes has left some 640,000 students with a day off.
The email was sent from an IP address originating in Frankfurt, Germany, according to L.A. officials, though it’s possible the message was sent through a proxy address from another location.
Across the country, NYC officials said they received the same email, whose sender threatened to blow up the city’s schools, according to the Associated Press, but quickly decided the threat was a “hoax” due to multiple errors in the message.
“The immediate assessment by the intelligence division—again, in consultation with the FBI—was there was nothing credible about the threat,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday. “It was so generic, so outlandish, and posed to numerous school systems simultaneously. … There were wording choices and other indicators that suggested a hoax and not something we could associate with jihadist activity.”
New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton, the former chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, said L.A. officials’ response to the email was a “significant overreaction.”
“These types of things are intended to create fear,” Bratton said.
The emailed bomb threat—credible or not—comes amid rising fears of terrorist activity in the United States following deadly attacks in Paris last month and a shooting in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 people dead.
Stoked by political rhetoric in an election year, the threat of Islamic terrorism remains relatively low. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on NYC and Washington, D.C., Islamic terrorism has killed 45 people, far fewer on average than many other threats.
Update 12:26pm CT, Dec. 15: L.A. officials say the email was sent from an IP address in Germany.
Update 2:50pm CT, Dec. 15: New details have emerged about the threat email sent to the LAUSD and other school districts. According to the New York Times, the email contained multiple mentions of “Allah,” some of which were not capitalized—a failure an Islamist jihadist would almost certainly not commit.
Furthermore, the email is said to have come from “[email protected]” As cybersecurity reporter Brian Krebs points out, Cock.li is an email service frequented by users of the online community 8chan, among others.
LA school threat reportedly came thru cock.li, a service popular on 8chan. Cock.li published subpoena from NYC re similar email threat.
— briankrebs (@briankrebs) December 15, 2015
Cock.li’s website lists more than 3,000 accounts linked to the 8chan.co domain. The service claims it has more than 63,000 accounts in total.
Photo via daveynin/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Andrew Couts is the former editor of Layer 8, a section dedicated to the intersection of the Internet and the state—and the gaps in between. Prior to the Daily Dot, Couts served as features editor and features writer for Digital Trends, associate editor of TheWeek.com, and associate editor at Maxim magazine. When he’s not working, Couts can be found hiking with his German shepherds or blasting around on motorcycles.