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MIT Says Gunman Hoax Call Mentioned Swartz Case 41

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-the-way-to-protest dept.
An anonymous reader writes "MIT has posted a letter to campus newspaper The Tech providing a timeline of last weekend's 'gunman' hoax. On Saturday morning, Cambridge, MA police were contacted via Internet relay by a tipster who claimed that a someone wearing armor and carrying a 'really big gun' was in Building 7 at MIT (the Massachusetts Ave. entrance to the Infinite Corridor) and was heading towards the office of MIT President Rafael Reif. The call continued for 18 minutes, with the caller eventually claiming that the gunman was seeking to avenge the suicide of Aaron Swartz, who was being prosecuting for alleged illegal downloads of millions of journal articles using MIT's computer network. The caller also identified the gunman as an MIT staff member, who has since been questioned by police and cleared. MIT has been criticized for waiting 1.5 hours before sending a campus-wide alert after the call was received."
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MIT Says Gunman Hoax Call Mentioned Swartz Case

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  • Good grief... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Wednesday February 27, 2013 @11:48PM (#43031117)

    MIT has been criticized for waiting 1.5 hours before sending a campus-wide alert

    No, they are being criticized for not buying into the same paranoia that spawned the TSA, the same paranoia that has transformed police departments into paramilitary gangs, the same paranoia that is moving us as a society closer and closer to being a Police State - if we are not already there. They are being criticized for understanding that it was almost certainly a troll, and terrorizing and traumatizing their student and staff was not warranted based on the information they had.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I sort of agree with you, but to play devil's advocate... what if they were wrong?
      • Re:Good grief... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by BKX (5066) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @12:11AM (#43031235) Journal

        That was my reaction to a botched bomb-threat reaction when I was in eight grade. One of my friends called in the threat to the middle school from the middle school payphone at 7:45 AM. I heard the call, and he definitely said the bomb was in the middle school in a bathroom by the gym. At 8:30 AM, the high school (the two schools share a single campus) was evacuated into the middle school gym. At 9:00 AM, my friend was arrested. The evacuation was completely unnecessary, as they knew he called it by 8:00 anyway. He called his mom right afterward and said that she needed to pick him because a bomb threat had been called in. She called the school to find out if it was true, and they asked, "Wait, how did you know that again?" Anyway, in addition to the evacuation being unnecessary, it was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard. Why would you evacuate an unaffected school's population into the area containing the bomb, and why would you wait an hour and a half?

        • by hedwards (940851)

          Because they have to search the entire school. Just because the threat says that it's a particular part of the school doesn't mean that the caller knows or is being honest about that. So, the entire school was presumably searched and it was determined that there were no bombs, everybody was allowed back in.

          Bomb threats pretty much always result in a thorough search unless there's something that clearly indicates that it's no threat, and even then there's a tendency to err on the side of caution just in case

          • Re:Good grief... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by BKX (5066) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @12:44AM (#43031369) Journal

            You missed what I was saying happened. The middle school had the "bomb". The High School was evacuated. The High School's students were put into the middle school, where the "bomb" was. That's the nonsense.

            • by hedwards (940851)

              Bomb searches are generally pretty quick and gymnasiums typically have very little to be searched.

              This isn't surprising at all, they can search the gym in very little time and keep the students there, then do a thorough search of the grounds and the other buildings. You make it sound like there's something unreasonable all of this.

              It's not nonsense, this is the most reasonable way of proceeding in a case like this.

              • by Discopete (316823)

                Wouldn't an open field away from the structures be a better place to evac. to? The entire student body could probably been formed up by class on the football field and control would have been relatively easy to maintain.

                • by Talderas (1212466)

                  My school evac'd to the football field bleachers. I realized then the idiocy of that since all it meant was a potential bomber need setup the bomb under the bleachers before calling in the bomb threat.

                  • by cffrost (885375)

                    My school evac'd to the football field bleachers. I realized then the idiocy of that since all it meant was a potential bomber need setup the bomb under the bleachers before calling in the bomb threat.

                    Indoor placement yields greater bang for the buck, as it retards shock wave dissipation and maximizes peak overpressure. A more effective scenario would be to place it in the auditorium before an assembly and forgo the phone call altogether.

            • And why would the school believe the "bomber" was telling the truth? How do you know that they DIDN'T search the gym first, clear it, and then realize that since it was clear it was the perfect place to evacuate everyone to while they searched elsewhere? Makes sense to me.
          • by dywolf (2673597)

            Yes, but the obvious FIRST place to look is where they said it was.

            If I tell you there's a man eating lion in your living room, you dont first check to see if it's in the attic.

            • by cas2000 (148703)

              correct. you check the kitchen to see if he's stolen any condiments to go with the lion.

        • by Sarioya (958784)
          Other than school administrators and staff seeming to be complete idiots when it comes to running things, I assume it has something to do with the majority of people tending to do stupid shit when they panic or are faced with a potentially bad situation. In my sister's senior year of high school, they got a call about a man wearing a trench coat with a rifle on the school roof. So they evacuated everybody to the tennis court (They may have evacuated the junior high and/or elementary school there too, I'm
        • by sjames (1099)

          Ages ago, when I was in high school, a tornado went over the school during a REALLY severe storm while everyone was in class. A few minutes later as the storm was breaking up, they ordered everyone into the hall in the duck and cover position. Half an hour later, a friend and I who were more than a bit suspicious snuck outside to the beautiful sunny weather with the clear blue skies (common enough after a spring storm) with a light breeze.

          In other words, the principal was covering his ass. If anyone asked a

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Then they'd be wrong. What about it? You can't worry about every unlikely threat or you'll never be able to accomplish anything.

      • by Weezul (52464)

        It's MIT so they've brains. They probably just called the building to check out the caller's story, realized it was false, and kept him talking.

      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        I sort of agree with you, but to play devil's advocate... what if they were wrong?

        Well, you'd think there would be multiple calls now, wouldn't you? I mean, MIT's not some secure facility - a gunman with a large gun would be spotted by many, and someone else would've seen it and called it in.

        Plus well, there's probably some security guy there wondering where the guy is

        • Well, you'd think there would be multiple calls now, wouldn't you?

          So why did they still issue the alert, 1.5 hours later?

      • by Nyder (754090)

        I sort of agree with you, but to play devil's advocate... what if they were wrong?

        They weren't. And really, nothing else matters.

        You can bring in "but what if this happen" arguments, but they don't matter, because they didn't happen.

      • by Rogerborg (306625)

        what if they were wrong?

        What if we went back in time and assassinated Hitler?

        What if goblins?

        What if we didn't live in unreasoning, trembling fear every moment of every day, but used our brains to analyse threats rationally?

    • by hedwards (940851)

      I take it you've forgotten about VT Tech massacre where the school chose to delay warning the student body about the murderer on the loose. Instead of just 2 people being murdered, the eventual death toll was into the 30s.

    • by kbg (241421)

      You should always take threats seriously even if you think it is 99% certain that it is a hoax. It is better to react many times to a hoax with the results that only some time and money is lost than it is to not react to a single real event that results in people dying.

      • You should always take threats seriously even if you think it is 99% certain that it is a hoax.

        No, no. I'd rather not constantly tremble in fear of the unlikely. This is exactly the kind of mindset the TSA preys on.

  • by Z34107 (925136) on Thursday February 28, 2013 @12:00AM (#43031187)

    A gunman, seeking vengeance for Aaron Swartz, unseen by anyone other than the caller, and magically disappears into thin air when police arrive?

    That's not a hoax. Aaron confirmed for haunting MIT.

  • There are groups who meet regularly at MIT who show up in armor. (The Boston chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism meets there regularly.) They cooperate very well with the campus police. And various fantasy role play groups meet, sometimes with science fiction games, and sometimes they do costumes and what are quite obviously very, very silly plastic guns. So the campus police at MIT do get some practice with calls from confused or frightened people calling aobut what is really nothing.

    This... so

    • by ledow (319597)

      In my country, the dispatcher doesn't get a choice.

      In fact, last night I watched "999", a program that follows the emergency services. They got 18 calls from the same guy, and they went through the same routine every time sending out all the services, and it was always a hoax. Eventually, at the end of the conversations on the phone, the dispatcher would say "Yeah, it's that hoaxer, again" (or words to that effect). Hell, most of the time he called them to the same street for the same things.

      But still th

  • Anyone who has watched CSI knows that it only takes the length of one commercial break to trace a call and have SWAT respond to the site.

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