Friday, October 08, 2004

Iraq Disk Mentions U.S. Schools

The New York Times
October 8, 2004

Iraq Disk Mentions U.S. Schools

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 - A computer disk found in Iraq with diagrams and photographs of some American schools has prompted the F.B.I. to contact several districts around the country, but officials said Thursday that they saw no immediate threat.

"We are unaware of any information that indicates a specific terrorist plot toward any school in the United States," said Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.

American military officials in Iraq discovered the computer disk several months ago. It had photos of schools in about a half-dozen states, including New Jersey, Florida and California, as well as diagrams and emergency information for the school districts that had apparently been downloaded from government Web sites, officials said.

In what officials described as a precautionary move, the F.B.I. several weeks ago began contacting school districts to alert them to the material found on the disk and determine where the information had originated.

"We don't know what any of it means, and we don't have any information on actual threats to U.S. schools," said a federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But we take everything seriously these days, and we wanted to ascertain where this information came from, so the schools could help us with that."

The existence of the computer disk was first reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune after a school district there was contacted by the F.B.I.

Peri Lynn Turnbull, the director of communications for the San Diego school system, said school districts across the country received a bulletin from the federal Department of Education asking that they be vigilant in their safety procedures.

"We're very comfortable with the practices we have in place," she said, adding that the fatal school siege in Beslan, Russia, over the summer "has certainly raised the level of awareness.''

Homeland Security officials said the alert issued by the Education Department was not related to the discovery of the disks in Iraq.