Terrorist Bus Drivers

I thought we were done with this scary-story-but-nothing-to-worry-about stuff:

The FBI has issued an “informational bulletin” to state and local officials saying to watch out for people tied to extremist groups trying to earn licenses to drive school buses.

The Associated Press reports that members of the unnamed extremist groups have succeeded in gaining the drivers licenses, but a Department of Homeland Security official told FOX News that “at this time there is no evidence that any of these individuals have got these jobs, or got hold of school buses.”

“There is no plot. There is no threat. And parents and children can feel perfectly safe,” FBI spokesman Richard Kolko told FOXNews.com.


EDITED TO ADD (3/20): Cory Doctorow has some more terrorist possibilities not to worry about.

Posted on March 19, 2007 at 1:51 PM40 Comments


Pat Cahalan March 19, 2007 2:33 PM

“There is no plot. There is no threat”

So, an informational bulletin was issued… why? CYA?

Some analysts were sitting around thinking up movie plots…?

Jim March 19, 2007 2:38 PM

Remember when we walked to school?
Our local developers turned the old schools into apartments and built a school that required buses. Now we need middle east oil to get kids to school. Terrorists driving the school buses wouldn’t be a shocker.

Roxanne March 19, 2007 2:55 PM

What about driving Greyhound buses? Or semi-trucks? Someone could do a lot more damage with a well-loaded semi than with a school bus.

Meanwhile, they’re requiring the folks at the pre-school I work for, who occasionally drive the kids on field trips, to get commercial endorsements. They have to go to school and learn to drive a bus so they can legally transport kids in their own passenger cars (there is no bus). We’re figuring this is so the state can charge an additional license fee, and thus maybe balance the budget, and raise the “Keeping kids safe” banner along the way.

We’re losing a lot of freedom from bureaucratic oversight in Michigan as they try to balance the state budget, under the theory of Keeping Kids Safe.

Frank Ch. Eigler March 19, 2007 3:04 PM

Would this still be “wacky” if a Beslan-type event occurred, even with just a few school buses? Imagine the howling from this very space about how “more investigation” should have prevented it.

Anonymous March 19, 2007 3:13 PM


But if the govt issued a bulletin, then says “There is no plot. There is no threat.” and an incident DOES occur, what would happen?

Hold the govt accountable for issuing a bulletin but no useful followup?

Hold it accountable for undermining its own bulletin issuing procedures?

Shoot everyone in govt for being a bunch of CYA losers?

Dale S March 19, 2007 3:14 PM

I can imagine what would happen if other law enforcement groups picked up this technique:

Please be on the watch for a mass murderer in your area. We have no evidence there is such an individual in your area, but keep a lookout. Have a nice day.
Press 2 for local kidnapper threats
Press 3 for local arsonist threats
Press 4 for local theater listings

Sammy The Surfer March 19, 2007 3:19 PM

So why doesn’t the FBI call up Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock for their help? This movie plot was long done and solved.

But seriously, it sounds like the spokesman needed to justify his job and get some airtime with the press. “Watch out for Muslims applying for drivers’ licenses! EVERYBODY PANIC. No, really, it’s okay, everyone is perfectly safe after all. NOBODY PANIC. But just in case we need you to panic, we got the word out early.”

What are these state officials going to do? Ask every non-White person who applies for a bus operator’s license if they’re tied to extremists and plan to blow up some children?

bob March 19, 2007 3:37 PM

Be afraid, be very afraid. Foreigners are doing low paid jobs. Next plots to be very afraid because there is no evidence of anything terroristic : these terrorists may start to work at your local macdonalds, and in the stores at a mall.

j March 19, 2007 3:41 PM

Re: “What about driving Greyhound buses? Or semi-trucks? Someone could do a lot more damage with a well-loaded semi than with a school bus.”

In the states I have lived in, and I suspect most others, school bus licenses are a separate category or endorsement of operator’s license. Having one would not qualify a driver to operate any tractor and semi, or even a commercial passenger bus. (And federal entanglements have made commercial licenses harder to get than they used to be.)

Stephan Samuel March 19, 2007 3:41 PM

We need to either:

a) stop pretending that we’ve seen what’s gonna happen in the next big terrorist attack in some movie,

b) create hudreds of new movies about all the possibilities of how a terrorist could attack Americans (or Europeans), or,

c) put code in Windows Vista that prevents non-DRM terrorist applications (e.g. — Visio for Terrorists) from running without first getting written consent of Hollywood and a HDMI connection.

Shame to look over one’s shoulder and realize the deep end’s somewhere back there. Thanks, Jim: yes, life was once that simple.

derf March 19, 2007 4:07 PM

I wonder this will spur the Boston police to render several innocent bus drivers inoperative using their previous tactics of “Everybody PANIC!!!”, blow it up, and “whom do we sue?”.

Kevin March 19, 2007 4:35 PM

So it’s important to stop people from becoming licensed to drive buses? Is it just me or do currently overworked DMVs have more to do than have to try and deny licenses to terrorists. Like, you know, licensing legitimate drivers. Any sort of checks at the DMV do not substitute for background checking school bus drivers. Or is that we can’t have terrorists driving our kids to school each day, but American pedophiles are okay?

bzelbob March 19, 2007 5:00 PM

Only an agency of the federal government could call this an “informational” bulletin!

Some foreigners (we can’t say which ones) who are members of extremist groups (we can’t say which groups) are attempting to get licenses to drive buses (which by the way is perfectly legal) for purposes (unknown) and we don’t know if they actually have the licenses or access to any buses. So please be very alert for anything that might actually happen.

FBI = Federal Bureau of Information (NOT)

Like a certain man has said: Everything is now terrorism.

Andrew March 19, 2007 5:02 PM

I train security people. You’d be amazed how many people in my classes are originally from outside the USA.

I don’t know about y’all, but it’s kind of surreal teaching the state-mandated counter-terrorism awareness course (which includes how to plan and execute a terrorist attack) to a bunch of Sikhs wearing turbans, guys from Pakistan named Omar, and a few token disgruntled lower class white guys like me.

Good thing we have extensive background checks. Does your security provider?

billswift March 19, 2007 5:46 PM

@ bzelbob
FBI = Federal Bureau of Information (NOT)

According to Rex Stout in his Nero Wolfe novel “The Doorbell Rang”, FBI stands for “Foiled By Intelligence”.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro March 19, 2007 7:36 PM

There was a news item a week or so ago where Scotland Yard was complaining that the British people were getting “complacent” about terrorist attacks, no longer taking the threat of them quite so seriously.

All I could think was “Gods bless the Brits!”. Not living in fear of terrorist threats is exactly the right attitude to take. The goal of the terrorists is to terrorize you; if they can’t do that, then they’re losing.

Rocky March 19, 2007 8:59 PM

I’m glad that Fox News didn’t let this story ‘die’. But why did no other news source report on this?

DaveX March 19, 2007 10:42 PM

One of the only things we seem to have going for us is that terrorists seem hung up on “bigger, badder” displays.

Seriously, if you wanted to kill a lot of people, rent a U-haul, and drive it to the parking lot of buffet restaurant. BOOM. Correct me if I’m wrong, but couldn’t something like this be carried out by one person with a free afternoon? I guess that’s not showy enough!

I suspect, though, that we need to ease up on our heavy-handed security. With so many simple ways to kill lots of people not being actively explored, the only reasonable explanation is that it is the continued reduction of our freedoms that interests them most.

V March 19, 2007 11:58 PM

The FBI did the right thing. They issued an “informational bulletin” (not a “warning”) to “state and local law enforcement officials”. Not to bus drivers, not to PTA big wigs, and not to Fox News. When the associated press picked up the story on their own, the FBI was quick to follow up, and explain in no uncertain terms that this is not a warning, the sky is not falling, and that people just tuning in should go on about their daily lives.

Meanwhile, law enforcement officials will pay as much attention to this “informational bulletin” as they do to the other thousand informational bulletins, memos, and mailing lists that make their way into their inbox. This bit of mass-mailing won’t was billions of dollars.

Why the AP picked this up, and why Fox News tried to milk it for all the fear it was worth is no mystery. The only thing we love to rally round more then the flag is “the children”.

The FBI didn’t do a perfect thing. Sure, maybe there wasn’t enough meat in this memo to make it worth the time it takes to read. It does sound like the FBI was trying to cover it’s ass just in case; or at least padding the progress report to look like they’ve stopped more dastardly deeds then they did. But they did something very important, and very right. They didn’t try to fan the flames of fear to get more funding. They didn’t sue Adult Swim so that they wouldn’t have to admit they made a mistake. And they didn’t just ignore the situation their bulletin had caused. Instead, they tried to set the record straight, and for the first time I’m aware of someone from DHS actually tried to calm people down, and said it was no big deal. The FBI definitely did the right thing here, and maybe we are done with all the scary-story-but-nothing-to-worry-about stuff. At least we can hope so.

Cranky Media Guy March 20, 2007 2:24 AM

The reason the government does this is because they know the TV news (which is the only kind of news most Americans see) will report it as “FBI says terrorists are driving school buses.” If called on it, the FBI can say, truthfully, that that isn’t what they said and cover their collective ass that way.

We’re being manipulated, folks, by our government. Nothing new about this; it’s been done my many other governments over the years and now it’s OUR turn. It’s bullshit and we have to resist it by being as accurately informed as we can and not giving in to irrational fears.

Greg March 20, 2007 3:22 AM

Most of these plots requrie that the terriorst gets killed. there are far less of those willing to die for the cause than we are lead to believe.

Its a fact that there is very little preventing another 11/9 or similar type of attact. But there just isn’t that many people bright enought around who also want to die at the same time.

averros March 20, 2007 5:44 AM

The more people are scared, the easier for the DHS, FBI and other security theater providers to hoodwink people.

And what is the best way to fuel some F.U.D. than to run around saying “no, there’s really no danger. nothing to fear, really. we’re the government, we know better”?

First, you lie. Then, when caught repeatedly, you can start telling truth. Nobody’s going to believe anyway. Mission accomplished.

Joe Thomas March 20, 2007 9:57 AM

Kidnapping/terrorizing a busload of children isn’t exactly a new threat. And a bus driver’s license is unnecessary. For more info, google “Chowchilla+California+School Bus+ Kidnapping+1976”. KISS.

jdw242b March 20, 2007 10:52 AM

this is not North Korea; we really don’t live in a constant state of imminent nuclear war, nor do our neighbors really want to invade and take over.
I think it’s about time for a lot of levity. The FBI/CIA clans are doing a very good job tying up the footwork for a Dictatorship platform, mostly by aiding in the stealthy removal of our basic freedoms, and by making it known that we (the US) are under a constant terror alert, even though it’s not likely that 99% of us would ever see any attack or be part of one. (don’t quote my guessing stats)

Aren’t we getting a whole lot out of our tree acting like we’re about to be attacked? Isn’t that a little agoraphobic?

We’re a grown up country, even though we’re only 231 years old. Maybe we can start acting that way, and begin taking away the power back that is rightfully ours in the government.


C Gomez March 20, 2007 11:18 AM

There may be nothing at all to this. We aren’t given enough to go on. The AP reported there was evidence… not that a plot was dreamed up in an office somewhere. So to call this throwing out movie-plots is not the correct conclusion.

I see no reason why the FBI shouldn’t do its job and share the information. Supposedly information sharing would have prevented 9/11 (unlikely but that’s the commission conclusion), so why not share it?

The AP and those who read the story jumped to conclusions not present in the article. The FBI and DHS never considered it a plot, and don’t know if these people are going to get jobs or if they are even plotting anything.

Big deal. The only people to blame in the story are those who read into it what isn’t there.

Leveetated March 20, 2007 12:01 PM

I know that the FBI is actually conducting research on two terrorist “threats”:

  • Driving a bomb-laden mini car (not a Mini) onto the freight elevator of a building
  • The possibility that terrorists may use the brakes of tractor-trailer/18 wheelers as atomizers for chemical warfare

For reals. I can’t make this shit up.

Richard Steven Hack March 20, 2007 4:32 PM

This is moronic.

Why would a terrorist get a job as a school bus driver? To kidnap the kids? To kill the kids? To find out whose kids are related to some important other target?

Why on earth couldn’t this be done WITHOUT getting the job as the school bus driver? It’s not like school buses are “hardened” targets! This guy is going to work there for a year until he gets “activated” to pull his attack?

Sure, any of this is POSSIBLE. But the reality is that in this country there are literally MILLIONS of possible targets. It is utterly impossible to defend against every possible attack.

The ONLY way to defeat a terrorist group is to find and individually capture or kill every single member of it. Good luck with that one, too, in the case of a broad movement like Al Qaeda. The idiots we have in Washington can’t even find Osama in five years.

Which leads me to my standard offer: Pay me one billion dollars in advance and I will deliver bin Laden alive or dead – your choice! But dead is easier – within ninety days.

Compare that cost to what it has cost the US so far to NOT find him. Such a deal I offer you!

No takers? I guess nobody really wants him that bad, do they?

The only other real solution is to remove the reason for their existence or their animosity toward the given target. Good luck with that as long as we have war profiteers and Christian fanatics running the government.

Anybody think maybe these guys are just getting these jobs because the jOBS ARE EASY TO GET AND THEY NEED THE MONEY TO PULL OFF THEIR REAL ATTACKS?

Let’s face it, most of these terrorists are pathetically bad at the task of being a terrorist. Once in a LONG while, they pull off something like 9/11 (with the possible assistance of certain parties), but generally most terrorists are pathetically incompetent. Even Carlos the Jackal had most of his operations fail miserably before finally pulling off the oil minister hostage operation – which only worked because there were only a couple security guards in the whole building – and one of them nearly shot Carlos.

This whole “alert” absolutely makes no sense. Therefore the bottom line has to be that it’s pure FUD to keep some FBI manager from losing his job and keep THE FEAR up in everybody else.


Franklin Pro March 21, 2007 7:12 AM

So you think more damage can be done with a semi rather than a bus. What is more precious to Americans than a bus full of six year olds?

DaveX March 23, 2007 6:38 AM

I’m just pleased that we’ve never had to pass what I think of as the “4-minute mile” in terrorism– that invisible sort of wall that holds folks back from really turning up the heat and targeting random, everyday places. While I doubt even Al Queda has enough bodies to pull this off on a significant scale, it is interesting to consider– how could you intelligently react to a formless, random attack on everyday institutions using our methods? It seems to me that the trouble the US is getting into stems from thinking that the Feds should continue the “pursuit” down to this level (and granting them the abilities to try to do so) when it would really be more a job for local enforcement. Thoughts?

the way it is April 2, 2007 3:56 PM

American clicking through latest news;





Sad, but true,
The way it is.

Kathy Scanlon September 13, 2007 4:13 PM

I hear that 17 school busses have gone missing in Texas & that there is a terrorist training tape circulating that teaches how to attack a school, using a school bus to gain access to the buiding.

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via https://michelf.ca/projects/php-markdown/extra/

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.