Ian Patrick, FISM News
In an update to a story that FISM News has been covering since January, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) has potentially identified “a group” of suspects they believe are responsible for the string of bomb threats to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUS) earlier this year.
In January, nine HBCUS reported bomb threats to their campuses none of which proved to be credible. Then in early February, FISM News reported on multiple other HBCUS that received bomb threats over a few days.
At the time FISM News reported that there had been threats made to over a dozen of these institutions. Reporting by the Associated Press revealed there to be threats made to over “a third of America’s 101” HBCUS since January. Recently, the FBI has confirmed that they are looking at a group of suspects they believe are linked to these threats.
During a Wednesday hearing for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, an FBI official confirmed that their counterterrorism unit has placed these bomb threats as their “highest priority.”
Ryan Young, the executive assistant director of the FBI intelligence branch, told lawmakers that their investigations have not unveiled “any explosive devices” but they do have the threats narrowed down to “a group of individuals.” Young also said one of these suspects is “tied back to a number of phone calls” but they are continuing to investigate the matter.
The Biden White House also announced their own measures and initiatives to combat the threats against HCBUS. In a joint address on Wednesday the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Education, as well as Vice President Kamala Harris discussed how they intend to work on this situation.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the results of a review on the DOJ’s “effort to combat hate crimes and hate incidents.” He said that review has resulted in steps to improve outreach, reporting and training.
John Tien, the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said they are working across departments to provide “information, intelligence, resources and investments required to identify and mitigate potential threats.”
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona echoed these remarks and added that his department has heard the need “to install more security cameras, to improve emergency response plans, to train personnel on proper procedures for handling bomb threats and to provide students with mental health services.”
After a speech from Jackson State University President Thomas Hudson, Harris introduced two new methods the Biden administration is taking to help HBCUS. Institutions that have received threats will be eligible to receive grants ” to hire more mental health professionals, to enhance campus security, and to provide specialized training to security staff.”
Harris also said the Biden White House “is releasing a resource guide for colleges and universities with detailed information on detecting, preventing, and recovering from threats and acts of violence.”