Official: Missile alert employee not cooperating in probe

  • FILE - This Jan. 13, 2018, file photo shows a smartphone screen capture showing a false incoming ballistic missile emergency alert sent from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency system. The Hawaii state employee who mistakenly sent the alert warning of a ballistic missile attack is refusing to cooperate with federal and state investigators, officials said Thursday, Jan. 25. (AP Photo/Jennifer Kelleher, File)
  • Cars drive past a highway sign that says “MISSILE ALERT ERROR THERE IS NO THREAT” on the H-1 Freeway in Honolulu on Jan. 13. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat via AP, File)

HONOLULU— The Hawaii state employee who mistakenly sent an alert warning of a ballistic missile attack has refused to cooperate with federal and state investigators, a U.S. official said Thursday.

Lisa Fowlkes, head of the Federal Communications Commission Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, said the agency was disappointed by the refusal.

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“We hope that person will reconsider,” she told members of a U.S. Senate commerce committee in Washington during a hearing on the alert that caused widespread panic and confusion.

However, Fowlkes said she was pleased with the cooperation of leaders of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz told the committee he was introducing legislation making it clear that the authority to issue missile alerts rests with the U.S. departments of Defense and Homeland Security, not with state and local governments.

“It is increasingly clear to me that if we get all 50 states and all the territories and 3,007 counties across the country participating in this program, the likelihood of another mistaken missile alert as a result of human or bureaucratic error is not zero,” Schatz said

Spokesman Richard Rapoza said the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency has encouraged all employees to cooperate with investigations of the erroneous message. He said the worker who sent it has also refused to cooperate with the state agency’s internal investigations.

“He has taken the position that he provided a written statement shortly after the incident, and doesn’t need to speak to investigators because he has nothing to add,” Rapoza said in an email.

The name of the worker has not been released. He continues to work at the agency but has been reassigned to a section where he doesn’t have access to the warning system.

He is among people at the agency that received death threats after the false alarm.

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The alert was sent to cellphones, TV and radio stations in Hawaii. The effect of the mistake was compounded when it took 38 minutes for the emergency management agency to send an alert retracting the warning.

After the incident, the agency began requiring two people to sign off on the transmission of alerts and tests. It also drafted a correction that it will be able to send immediately if a missile alert is wrongly sent in the future.

  1. KonaKreep January 25, 2018 9:44 pm

    And still he doesn’t get fired. As always, our state government is more about protecting themselves than serving the public.


  2. metalman808 January 26, 2018 4:05 am

    He probably thought it would be a funny joke. I guess he’s next on getting s pay raise.


    1. sonneofmanisrael January 26, 2018 4:21 am

      Now they will have two screwups to err. Two fingers on one button?


  3. Big ideas January 26, 2018 6:41 am

    Of course not…he wants to hide behind his Union.

    Another reason Unions are a losing ides these days.


    1. angkoldoy January 26, 2018 7:29 am

      Me thinks that even if there was no union involved, the employee’s lawyer just might give him the same advice.


  4. CongressWorksForUs January 26, 2018 7:34 am

    People still think this was an accident? Especially with the second false alarm out of Japan a few days later? No such thing as coincidences folks…


  5. NevahHappen January 26, 2018 7:22 pm

    The public employee union will protect him. He will end up getting promoted and likely a raise.

    Just look at the incompetent fool running the BI DWS. Would have been fired months ago, but not in the People’s Republic of Hawaii, where the State is all powerful.


  6. Michael January 29, 2018 7:05 am

    Schatz has not impressed me, ever. Giving all authority to warn our population of an incoming threat to an agency in far far away land? So we will stop false alerts by making it impossible to issue alerts at all on our own.


  7. Jonathan “Keoni” February 23, 2018 12:03 pm

    This I do know… maybe that employee made a mistake, but out of this mishap, we finally got some action in preparing Hawaii for such an attack.
    Prior to this, all we were told was to treat a missle attack the same as a tsunami… you gotta be kidding me!
    Maybe this guy is a the hero that got our Hawaii Government to get off their behinds and finally make real contingency plans for such an attack.
    Eh brah… you did good, and I’m not the only one who praises you! Rock on!


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