JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The number of violent threats received by schools across the nation, two in Jacksonville, is alarming. The threats this week include a series of bomb threats received by more than a half dozen historically black college and universities.
An intelligence expert, who specializes in bomb investigations, says the threats received by the HBCUs likely have a different intention than to harm people.
“It's just a great example of how easy it is to be disruptive," Scott Stewart, TorchStone Global Vice President of Intelligence said. “People that really want to kill people or injure people with bombs, don't give warnings. They don't provide these threats.”
Assessing risks is what Stewart does for a living.
He believes the HBCU threats, like the one at Edward Waters University Tuesday, are linked due to the timing of them.
“We've seen that in the past with some of the campaigns that have been directed against Jewish houses of worship, for example," Stewart explained. "They're not tied to any real bomb or any real device, but it's really just meant to cause panic, cause disruption. And, of course, make media attention, like what we're seeing now.”
He says there could be a copycat aspect in play as well.
When investigating whether a bomb threat is credible or not, Stewart says, law enforcement agencies ask the questions:
- Is it specific?
- Is it plausible?
“It's very impractical to think that there's a bomber, or even a small terrorist group somewhere, that is going to be able to place devices at all of these HBCUs all over the country. That's not going to happen," he said. "So, it really does indicate that this is probably somebody just trying to frighten and gain attention.”
According to Stewart, most of the threats that the United States is seeing right now are not coming from sophisticated terrorists, but more grassroot-type terrorists.
“They really don't have a lot in what we call terrorist tradecraft. They don't have a lot of capabilities. And so they're generally pretty bad at doing things like conducting surveillance and planning their attacks," he explained. "And because of that, they're vulnerable while they are conducting that attack. And so, people paying attention to things that happen – reporting suspicious people, reporting suspicious objects – can often really help thwart attacks before they can get off the ground.”