Patterico's Pontifications


Twitter Threats to Airplanes on the Rise, Grounding Many Planes

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:47 am

Just look at how easy it is to screw with our economy:

Since Saturday at least 20 different U.S. passenger planes have been targeted by bomb threats on Twitter, and federal authorities say even more threats were delivered via social media during that same period but were not publicized.

At least eight threats were posted on Twitter Tuesday from three different accounts.

. . . .

On Saturday, two planes were escorted by fighter jets to Atlanta’s airport after bomb threats were made via Twitter. A day later, a Delta Air Lines jet from Los Angeles to Orlando was diverted to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after a threat was made on Twitter.

Authorities are comparing it to SWATting:

While such threats are not new, they said, the high number in a short period forces them to choose between informing the public and inspiring copycats.

They said the activity was akin to the sporadic outbreaks of “Swatting,” in which pranksters try to get SWAT teams to respond to a location where no hostage or other threatening situation is actually occurring.

Swatting was widespread in the L.A. area in 2013, and many celebrities were victimized. Calls or computer messages came into police departments claiming a celebrity was being held at gunpoint, leading to an armed response and creating the potential for injuries.

The LAPD dealt with the issue by refusing to acknowledge or publicly comment on the cases.

Here’s the video report:

We’re told the FBI is on the job. Good luck to them. I’m past the point where I have a high degree of confidence in the ability of the FBI to solve cybercrimes. Maybe they’ll solve these particular crimes, and maybe they won’t. It may depend in part on whether the assigned agents are slugs or talented and skillful operatives; both types exist in the FBI. Success will also certainly depend on some degree of luck.

But what appears certain is that random people behind a computer keyboard can apparently hit a few keystrokes and ground a plane. That should concern everyone.

30 Responses to “Twitter Threats to Airplanes on the Rise, Grounding Many Planes”

  1. Neither would happen if law enforcement exercised greater restraint in reacting to things. You don’t need to storm a building guns blazing when it’s obvious there’s no resistance, and you don’t need to send fighter jets after a plane with a bomb on it. What’re they gonna do? Shoot down the plane?

    JWB (6cba10)

  2. Maybe we should spread the rumor that these guys making bomb threats on Twitter also made anti-Muslim videos.

    They’ll have them in jail by close of business today.

    Steve57 (a04df5)

  3. i don’t think this is very much like swatting really unless a passenger is identified by the twitters as having malicious intentions

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  4. What Steve57 said.

    And I wonder what would happen if some jackbooted thugs showed up at the perps residence, cuffed them and put them on a plane to Fumbuckistan.

    f1guyus (9cbd15)

  5. Zimmerman really knows how to pick the ladies.

    Steve57 (a04df5)

  6. RIP: Romney campaign.

    Kevin M (25bbee)

  7. During the Senate Watergate Committee hearings, Harry Reasoner joked that eveyr bomb threat gets 15 minutes (each Senator had 15 minutes) Too bad he apologized. He had the right idea.

    Why don’t they just ignore these threats or reports?

    This may be a strategy to get us to ignore a genuine report, but I think you can probably tell the difference. I don’t know if our security protovols should be based on the idea that everybody involved is completely stupid.

    Surely there’s even an algorithm you can devise to distinguish between somebody phoning in abomb report (that if it were true, there’d be no reason to expect it reported) and somebody seeing something, or knowing something, saying something.

    The credit card companies are pretty good at distinguishing possible fraud from genuine authroized spending. (they do err on the side of caution, (like jumping at spending in grocery stores of over $500) but not too much.

    Now, if the perpetrators of this can be discovered, then maybe it won’t matter that they are taking these seriously. Otherwise you could work this predictable behavior itself into some kind of criminal plot.

    Sammy Finkelman (e806a6)

  8. 3. happyfeet (a037ad) — 1/30/2015 @ 8:14 am

    i don’t think this is very much like swatting really unless a passenger is identified by the twitters as having malicious intentions

    That did happen to. They said that the passenger in Seat 26 on one of those planes had a loaded has a loaded mac.11.

    Sammy Finkelman (e806a6)

  9. @1– I continue to wonder about the fighter escort thingy. As stated, what would they do? They can’t scan for a bomb and even if they could and did find one… then what? They could document the fact that the bomb exploded and the plane crashed, but that would become pretty obvious, even without the fighters watching.

    Dare we call it another level of security theater? But it does give a couple of jet-jockeys some flight time to keep their ticket valid… if that is an issue.

    gramps, the original (9e1415)

  10. So years ago I knew a woman who, as a junior high school girl, apparently phoned in a bomb threat when Jimmy Carter was supposed to visit her school (this is her story). She got a nice scary visit from both the Secret Service and the FBI.

    And a record.

    The point is that if there is no “cost” to the hoaxer, they will continue. It doesn’t “cost” them anything. Personally, I think people like this should be held financially responsible for every single bit of the emergency response. And have their faces all over the news.

    But that’s not how we live anymore.

    Simon Jester (c8876d)

  11. Some years back, an Athenian businessman, rich enough to afford a private secretary but not rich enough to afford a private plane apparently, was running late for his flight. So he phoned in a bomb threat to the airport. The police were waiting for him when he got there because … wait for it … he had his secretary place the call and she said “Please hold the line for Mr. Dumbassopoulidakidis”.

    nk (dbc370)

  12. Since the purpose of SWATting is to get someone killed I don’t see how this is like SWATting. Unless they tweet that a specific person has a bomb on the plane, it is not like SWATting.

    Saying it is like SWATting is like calling everything racist, it diminishes the meaning of the word.

    Tanny O'Haley (c674c7)

  13. Ah, the FBI … the most overrated law enforcement agency in history. The Keystone Kops had a higher clearance rate.

    SPQR (4764ea)

  14. The FBI: lawyers with guns.

    edoc118 (10aed3)

  15. Maj. Eaton: We have top men working on it right now.

    Indiana: Who?

    Maj. Eaton: Top… men.

    tweell (f742c6)

  16. stuff like this is why obama wants a kill switch on the internet if he doesnt have one already…

    sound awake (a5c9f1)

  17. @13; and accountants.

    Steve57 (a04df5)

  18. Z’s ladies need to up their standards… a lot. I’d never ride in a vehicle with that guy… he’d probably turn onto MLK Boulevard; run out of gas, and get me shot.

    steveg (794291)

  19. It is past time for Congress to pass indemnification legislation for businesses and individuals who refuse to bow to terroristic threats. Unless and until it does, we are down to single yahoos dictating terms for hundreds of millions of folks. This is simply not sustainable.

    Ed from SFV (60f25d)

  20. The Zimmerman case was a strange phenomenon.

    Was he at the right place, but it was the wrong time?
    Was he at the right time, but it was the wrong place?
    Wrong place, wrong time?

    At the very least he proves that guns are not for f***wits. If he did not have his Magical Talisman of Kel-Tec he probably would have stayed back like the police told him to, and not have walked into a situation he had to shoot his way out of.

    nk (dbc370)

  21. It is past time for Congress to pass indemnification legislation for businesses and individuals who refuse to bow to terroristic threats.


    nk (dbc370)

  22. he’s just a guy, who volunteered to aid his fellow tenants, the lesson taught it to let the break in and assaults continue

    narciso (ee1f88)

  23. good point Mr. F

    happyfeet (a037ad)

  24. How come when they tweet bomb threats they can’t track them down and end their useless existence?

    mg (31009b)

  25. nk #22 – The legal tort statutes must be amended so that a given company or individual who refuses to act on “threats” can not be sued for that decision on the rare occasion when the threat results in an actual attack. We can not go on honoring every single “threat” as credible, resulting in “foreseeability” for any victim of an actual attack.

    We must carry on our lives with the courage to take occasional hits from evil. Otherwise, we will be beholden to the lowest common denominator of fools (and menaces) who make “threats.”

    I am torn as to the question of public notification of a given threat. The general notices and color coding are patently ridiculous and serve no good purpose. But, what about a given Walmart or ballpark or airport? Do we announce all threats, regardless their credibility? I wouldn’t. However, if we give credence to every fool, as the saying goes, the terrorists have already won.

    Ed from SFV (3400a5)

  26. “It may depend in part on whether the assigned agents are slugs or talented and skillful operatives; both types exist in the FBI.”

    In what proportions? I’m guessing 95%-5%, and not in a good way.

    Lawyers with guns? No, DMV clerks with guns.

    Fred Z (5db617)

  27. The FBI agents I’ve known are a cut above most people in intelligence, character and conscientiousness. The Chicago office, at least, also has a physical fitness level maintenance requirement. No overweight, swag-bellies. Two or three of them were also my neighbors. The one whose kids went to school with my daughter was also on the regional SWAT team.

    nk (dbc370)

  28. I confess one more bias. They’ve sent three of our governors and one of my Congressmen to prison. 😉

    nk (dbc370)

  29. Why the fighter escorts for bomb threats? Because the world has changed post 2001. Look at the history, most of the time when some joker got on a plane prior to 2001 with even a fake bomb they would use the bomb as the threat to cause a plane to help them defect or to take a bunch of hostages. If they didn’t outright blow the plane up in the air to either make the statement or to get a specific target on that plane. The terror threat has changed now from hostages and wanting PR to outright death of the terrorist and the target site. So the possibility that some nutter has a bomb and wants to turn the whole jet into a guided missile has to be an accepted possibility now.
    As to shoot or no shoot, from some of the research papers at the federal defense universities like NDU, NPS, NWC, Air War College; all have tossed in various masters and doctorate research papers on anti-terror strategy this issue of kill the airplne or not and it’s a tough nut to crack. It’s the same sort of question like the infamous “Trolley Problem” in ethics and philosophy. Do you kill one or a few for the greater good of the many?

    Charles (f34766)

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