Thursday, October 07, 2004

Government Hobgoblin Alert: They're coming for your CHILDREN!

From the Associated Press via Yahoo!...

U.S. Alerts Schools About Terror Threat

Thu Oct 7,12:28 PM ET

By BEN FELLER, AP Education Writer

WASHINGTON - The Education Department has advised 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 warning follows an analysis by the FBI (news - web sites) and the Homeland Security Department of the siege that killed nearly 340 people, many of them students, in the city of Beslan last month.

"The horror of this attack may have created significant anxiety in our own country among parents, students, faculty staff and other community members," Deputy Education Secretary Eugene Hickok said in a letter to schools and education groups.

The safety advice is based on lessons learned from the Russia incident. But there is "no specific information indicating that there is a terrorist threat to any schools or universities in the United States," Hickok said.

Federal law enforcement officials also have encouraged local police to stay in contact with school officials and have encouraged reporting of suspicious activities, the letter says.

In particular, schools were told to watch for activities that may be legitimate on their own — but may suggest a heightened terrorist threat if many of them occur.

Among those activities:

_ Interest in obtaining site plans for schools, bus routes and attendance lists;

_ Prolonged "static surveillance" by people disguised as panhandlers, shoe shiners, newspaper or flower vendors or street sweepers not previously seen in the area;

_ Observations of security drills;

_ People staring at or quickly looking away from employees or vehicles as they enter or leave parking areas;

_ Foot surveillance of campuses involving individuals working together.

The effort is the latest by the Education Department and other federal agencies to encourage school officials to maintain and practice a plan for responding to emergencies.

After the terrorist takeover of the Russian school, President Bush (news - web sites) asked his top advisers to review their strategies for dealing with hostage situations, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has said.

The federal government is advising schools to take many steps to improve the security of their buildings. Those include installing locks for all doors and windows, having a single entry point into buildings and ensuring they can reach school bus drivers in an emergency.

The Education Department sent its letter by e-mail Wednesday to school police, state school officers, school boards, groups representing principals and many other organizations.

The Homeland Security Department also sent a bulletin Wednesday to federal, state and local emergency officials to provide fresh guidance based on the review of the school siege in Russia.

Take the president's last name and strategically insert two "l"s and an "it" and that's what this warning is full of.

Oh man, where to begin...? I spend a lot of times in public schools: my wife teaches at one and a few years ago I taught in some as a substitute teacher. And nothing has convinced me yet that what happened at the school in Russia is anywhere likely to happen here.

First of all, the hostage-takers in Beslan had a location from which to plan their attack. That's not so easy to pull off here, particularly if the supposed target is a school in a rural area or a small town. Those responsible for the Russian school incident had come from nearby Chechnya: they had ample opportunity to scope out the school and lay out details for the assault, all the while remaining inconspicuous. It would be VERY difficult for any group of people approaching the profile of the 9/11 terrorists to find a place in the United States from which to attack a school. Such a thing would require a minimum of ten such people (there were thirty of the Chechen group that held the school in Russia captive) and although a few might conspire to take over a few airliners, it would take MUCH more planning and coordination to consider a school as a target while keeping a low profile. That rules out any cause for concern on a national level.

Terrorists wanting bus routes?! Any given school system will have that information posted on its website. Not to mention that most publish their routes in newspapers prior to the beginning of each school year.

When was the last time you saw a shoe shiner or a flower peddler? For that matter, when was the last time you saw one named "Mohammad Atta"? To be succinct: just how DUMB does the federal government think we are?! Look, terrorists are NOT stupid: Boris and Natasha might get away with dressing like hobos to steal Bullwinkle's magic hat, but not a 27-year old man looking for potential sniper positions. They're smarter than that. And, they know that we're usually smart enough to KNOW that they're smarter than that.

"Observations of security drills"? Okay, what exactly is a "security drill"? My wife's school has fire drills and tornado drills, but this is the first I've ever heard of a "security drill". And they don't exactly come with much forewarning either. So unless a "street sweeper" is spending three weeks standing on the curb waiting for a school to have its monthly fire drill, there's nothing to worry about.

"People staring at or quickly looking away from employees..." So which is it? And "foot surveillance of campuses involving individuals working together" doesn't pass the smell test the least bit. Even when I was in elementary school many moons ago, ANYONE who looked out of place in a school without a visible visitor's pass of some kind was grounds for being halted by security or police. I saw it happen more than once. A public school isn't a place you can just walk around inside of without being noticed by the close-knit faculty and staff of the place... and if an individual couldn't get away with it, how could two or three or more? It's not like a group of Middle-Eastern strangers standing next to the water fountain aren't going to arouse some curiosity, after all.

Folks, this thing reeks of desperate electioneering on the part of the Bush campaign. This administration has spent the better part of the past three years creating and maintaining an atmosphere of dread and despair in this country, trying to make us paranoid enough to trust and rely on them without question. Heck, they don't even pretend they're not doing that anymore either: Vice-President Cheney practically threatened Americans with terrorism unless he and Bush were re-elected. And now these fearmongers are using public schools - and the children within them - to cultivate even more anxiety.

There's no sale here, 'cuz Bush's boys are hawking a bill of goods with this but I ain't buying.

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