US police say a wave of bomb threats across the country is not ‘credible’

NEW YORK (WASHINGTON POST) - The authorities across the country said they were responding on Thursday (Dec 13) to bomb threats made to several locations, though some law enforcement officials were quick to say that these messages were not believed to be credible.

Similar threats appeared to stretch from coast to coast, prompting investigations on colleges campuses in Washington state and Pennsylvania and spreading across cities such as New York, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco.

Police in New York said the threats they received were “sent electronically” to places across the city, and they linked these messages to the others reported across the country.

“We are currently monitoring multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city,” the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism bureau said in a message posted on Twitter. “These threats are also being reported to other locations nationwide (and) are NOT considered credible at this time.”

The threats on Thursday came less than two months after a Florida man was arrested and charged with mailing homemade package bombs to opponents of President Donald Trump. Threatening messages have also forced evacuations and spurred unease in communities across the country in recent years.

Last year, a man in Israel was arrested and charged with making threats to Jewish communities and institutions in the US, all through phone calls and e-mails. In 2015, threatening e-mails later viewed as a hoax prompted the Los Angeles school system to shut down every school.

As word of the threatening messages spread on Thursday, the FBI said in a statement: “(We are) aware of the recent bomb threats made in cities around the country, and we remain in touch with our law enforcement partners to provide assistance. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activities which could represent a threat to public safety.” 

Other law enforcement agencies and academic institutions echoed the message from the New York police. A spokesman for the Chicago police said that city had received threats similar to the others, but he noted that there was “no elevated threat level” there.

In the nation’s capital, police said they received 11 e-mailed bomb threats between about 2pm and 3pm that law enforcement authorities attributed to the same situation echoing across the nation.

The San Francisco police said they responded to threats received at about 10am local time across the city, noting that there were “similar threats” in “several other cities across the United States”. 

The police in Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second-largest city, said businesses there received “what appears to be a robo e-mail saying there is a bomb threat to their business unless they pay money in Bitcoins". 

But, the department added, it “found no credible evidence any of these e-mails are authentic”.

News outlets also reported that they had to evacuate their buildings due to the threats. The Park Record building in Utah was evacuated after staff received the message, the outlet reported, while the News and Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, also reported that it was forced to evacuate its building.

Academic institutions were not immune. A spokeswoman for Pennsylvania State University said the campus police, along with the FBI, were “investigating a message received by individuals in multiple locations on campus and across the state”. 

She said the message on campus was sent via e-mail to eight buildings or facilities there.

“At this time, police say the threat appears to be part of a national hoax, however, an investigation is ongoing,” the spokeswoman said.

The University of Washington said it was “investigating threatening e-mails sent to individuals on campus” and swept buildings before the campus police “determined there is no safety concern”. 

The school said the FBI had “advised that the e-mail is not a credible threat”.