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Rep. Sherman: Parts of email suggested threat was not credible

Craig Clough | December 16, 2015

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Brad Sherman

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Los Angeles) issued a statement today that released more details from the email threat that closed all of LA Unified schools yesterday. He also explained why authorities in Los Angeles and New York ultimately reached the same conclusion, that the threat was not credible.

The full wording of the email has not yet been released, but Sherman and several leaders in both cities have publicly discussed some of the details. The decision to close all LA Unified schools has become controversial in light of New York schools’ receiving a similar threat, with city officials deciding to keep schools open — while openly criticizing LA leaders.

Sherman, who represents parts of the San Fernando Valley and is also the former chair of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and a senior member of House Foreign Affairs Committee, pointed out that the emailer claimed to have 32 accomplices in Los Angeles, while in the slightly different email to New York, claimed to have 138 accomplices.

“To think that there would be a conspiracy in Los Angeles involving 33 individuals, including the email author, without the federal government having at least heard enough to raise the threat level is somewhat unlikely,” Sherman said. “To think that there would be a conspiracy in the New York area involved 139 active shooters ready to act on a single day, all without the federal government at least raising the threat level, is not credible at all.”

While the emailer claimed to be a student of the “Los Angeles Unified district,” which is terminology that someone familiar with the Los Angeles schools would use, the emailer also claimed to be a student of the “New York City School District,” which is not terminology someone familiar with NY schools would use, Sherman said.

Sherman also said there are three reasons to believe the emailer is not a devout Muslim as was claimed:

  • The Los Angeles email says it is “from” an email name that includes an obscene word for a body part. No devout Muslim, nor a Muslim extremist claiming to be devout, would use such an email name.
  • The email contains several typos but most significantly fails on one occasion to capitalize the word “Allah.” A devout Muslim, or an extremist Muslim claiming to be devout, would be careful to capitalize the word “Allah.”
  • The email does not read like any of the missives from Islamic extremists. It does not quote any portion of the Quran nor allude to any incident in the life of Muhammad. The author of the email does not demonstrate any understanding of Islam.

Sherman also said the emailer claimed to have nerve gas, which he said is not credible.

When discussing the email with reporters, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton joked that he thought the author was a fan of the Showtime television series “Homeland,” which was likely a reference to the threat of nerve gas. This season of the show, which concludes on Sunday, involves terrorists attempting to release nerve gas in Berlin while issuing advance warnings through the media.

“In reviewing it, I think the instigator of the threat may be a ‘Homeland’ fan … it [the threats made] mirrors a lot of the recent episodes of ‘Homeland,'” Bratton said, according to the New York Post.

Sherman’s statement also said the decision faced by LA officials and New York officials was not on an equal level. LA received the threat several hours before New York, making it easier for New York officials to conduced the email was not credible.

Sherman also said, “Just because some portions of each email appear to be false does not mean that school officials could conclude that all of the assertions in the email are false, nor could they assume there was not some plot to kill some students at some schools.”


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