Monday, Gloucester County, prosecutors announced they found the person responsible for sending violent threats through Facebook, back in October, to several students from Clearview Regional High School in Mullica Hill, New Jersey.
Clearview Regional High School in Mullica Hill, New Jersey.
County Prosecutor Sean Dalton said "A 16-year-old Clearview student was charged yesterday arising out of a joint investigation." Investigators say the juvenile created a Facebook profile page using a fake name and began threatening students.
Dalton said "The postings range from blasting people in the school, acts of physical violence, and other disturbing comments." The accused student, who has been charged as a juvenile, didn?t say why he did it.
Police linked the suspect to falsely reporting a shooting at a restaurant in Mantua, New Jersey and authorities say he harassed people over the phone. These kinds of threats are taken very serious by law enforcement, even if they are only boasting remarks by teenagers like they would make in a school playground.
In December, a Virginia man used Facebook to threat to use explosives in the Washington DC area, writing that he could put pipe bombs on Metro cars or in Georgetown, Maryland at rush hour. It has not been shown that the 25-year-old Arlington County man, Awais Younis, also known as Mohhanme Khan and Sundullah Ghilzai, has not been shown to have acted on his threats.
A Baltimore construction worker was also charged in December with plotting to blow up a military recruiting station in Maryland after the FBI learned of his radical leanings on Facebook. Antonio Martinez, 21, a US citizen who recently converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Hussain, declared on his Facebook page that he hates "Any 1 who opposes Allah." Those kinds of postings were brought to the FBI’s attention and sparked an intensive investigation involving an undercover agent, a secret informant, and a chilling plot to kill military personnel in the United States because they were killing Muslims overseas, according to a filed FBI affidavit.
Arthur Hulnick, a Boston University professor who worked with the CIA for 28 years, said the most serious and deadly terrorists want to act in secret. But he said authorities must devote resources to checking out threats to identify those that might be serious.
"A real terrorist who is going to blow up the Washington Metro wouldn’t put an advertisement on Facebook. He’d just do it," Hulnick said. "But they have to check it out. You can’t ignore it."
Just a few weeks ago a Facebook event posting led to the arrest of half a dozen 12- and 13-year-old girls in Carson City, Nevada. Attack a Teacher Day was scheduled said an invite that went out to about 100 students. All six girls were booked at a juvenile hall with a misdemeanor charge of communicating threats. They received suspensions, the creator of event got five days and the others three days. The girls all insisted the event was a joke, but officials took it very seriously.
Juvenile threats reminded us of William Golding’s book "Lord of the Flies" and movies based upon it. The story is about an aircraft carrying young military school cadets crash lands into the sea near a remote, uninhabited, jungle island. The castaway boys eventually revert to savagery despite the few rational kids’ attempts to prevent that. The story is a social and political thought-experiment using fiction. The plot is often sited to explain juvenile violence on their peers.
Threats sent out on the Internet and social networks are tracked, first, by local law enforcement and can be escalated to the FBI and Homeland Security Department. Those threats can be seen as misdemeanor charges – disorderly conduct and harassment through electronic communications – all the way to felony charges for death threats and threatened bombings. Clearly, everybody needs to understand there can be serious consequences for what they post on Facebook and other social networks.