Senator from Hawaii: States should not send missile alerts
WASHINGTON, Jan 25 (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, said on Thursday that state and local governments should be prevented from sending missile alerts like the errant one that roiled his state this month.
At a hearing Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) disclosed that the employee that sent the errant alert will not speak to investigators.
Schatz said at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing he was introducing legislation that would clarify that only the federal government could send nuclear alerts.
The alert stirred panic in the Pacific island state. The Federal Communications Commission's bureau chief overseeing public safety, Lisa M. Fowlkes, told the committee that the employee that sent the errant alert is refusing to cooperate with its probe and has not been interviewed by FCC investigators.
Fowlkes said she was “quite pleased” by the cooperation of the Hawaii agency’s leadership but “disappointed” that the person who transmitted the false alert is not cooperating. “We hope that person will reconsider,” she said.
She said the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency told the FCC "it is working with its vendor to integrate additional technical safeguards into its alert origination software, and has changed its protocols to require two individuals to sign off on the transmission of tests and live alerts."
She added that "federal, state, and local officials throughout the country need to work together to identify any vulnerabilities to false alerts and do what’s necessary to fix them." She noted that the correction was not issued for 38 minutes and said faulty alerts must be quickly corrected.
The incident should not be repeated, senators said.
"This was scary," Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune said in an interview. He said he was shocked that a notification for a purported nuclear attack was coming through a state agency.
He said he believed the hearing could produce suggestions and recommendations "for a more streamlined approach about how people get notified" of that type of emergency. "I was shocked how incoherent the whole process seemed."
State authorities blamed human error for the false alarm issued in Hawaii on Jan. 13.
The FCC has said Hawaii apparently did not have adequate safeguards in place and that government officials must work to prevent future incidents.
The Senate Commerce is planning another hearing about the alert, and a U.S. House of Representatives panel is also planning a hearing. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)