Since February 13th, the University of Pittsburgh has received –as of today 4/12/2012 at 11:27am– over 70 bomb threats, sometimes two or more per day. There might be threats being communicated even as I write this article. Despite sirens echoing through side streets and a conga line of bomb squad officers and police cars, people are pretty calm and disconnected –it’s become routine.
(We livestreamed the first threat. I happened to be waiting for class a block away. This video is shaky and mostly of my crotch. That’s because A) I like people looking at my crotch and B) I didn’t want the police to see me filming.)
It is a terrorist tactic to call in a threat then watch how the police react and how the occupants evacuate the building to safety. By that standard, the emergency response has been a joke. When police clear the Pitt buildings, they’ve gathered the people outside very near the building. How does that make sense? Imagine if there was a real bomb the size of the Oklahoma City manure-truck explosive planted by Timothy McVeigh. Almost half of a giant, multi-story concrete building –the federal building– and a parking lot full of cars were completely demolished by that blast. What if the Pitt Bomber’s plan is to blow people up after they have been evacuated? Evacuating people to 20 feet outside of the building that is under threat of explosion is completely irresponsible.
The threats appear to be more about a show of power than anything else. I’ve noticed that the threats usually follow pretty close to a Chancellor Nordenberg email about “Pitt is taking serious measures concerning these bomb threats.” Personally, I feel it’s a bit of a lulz game. The bomb-plotter is making the administration look like fools for the fun of it. Of course, I couldn’t possibly know the intentions and motivations of a person or group who are calling in bomb threats on a near-daily basis, but it seems to be for the sole purpose of provoking a reaction. Even if that reaction is inadequate on the part of police and ho-hum on the Pitt building occupants.
With the caveat that I don’t know the “bombers” mindset in place, here is what I think about the Pitt Bomb-Plotter. It’s a student and the kid lives in South Oakland. I can tell by a string of buildings that were threatened together. More specifically: Posvar Hall -> Frick Fine Arts Building -> Cathedral -> Chevron building. This string follows a walking path from South Oakland to Peterson Event Center where the undergraduates work out in the gym. Because of the odd times for Chevron building threats, I think the “bomber” (if we can even call him or her that) works out at the gym, but is not a member of an athletic club; the schedule has been too erratic.
Update: WPXI this morning reported the capture of “the bomber” at Pittsburgh International Airport. The suspect is a 65 year old man, Mark Krangle, a retired university professor. Police nabbed him as he stepped off a plane.
Opinion: Do I believe it? Nope. This is not the profile of a person that can make over 70 bomb threats. He has made terrorist threats to faculty before, and that is why I don’t believe Krangle is the faux-bomber. Authorities were able to trace the terrorist threats against the faculty back to him because he didn’t conceal his tracks by using email proxies. The real “bomber” must use email proxies to email in his threats or anyone with a basic understanding of information technology would have caught the bomber on the first or second email. Personally, I think Krangle is just an old nutjob who was copycatting the real bomb threat person. Agents picked him up because he’s a wackadoo who wrote a “manifesto” that straddles the line between a brilliant observation of the American political-economic power structure and monkey-shit ramblings about a conversation he had with Jimmy Carter in 1970.
If you would like to follow it, there is a very well kept blog on the bomb threats as they’re called in: Stop the Bomb Threats.