Hawaii: Missile False Alarm Clearance Delayed Because Governor Did Not Know Twitter Password

Hawaii Gov. David Ige delivers his annual State of the State address in Honolulu on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. Ige voiced his opposition to Trump administration policies but didn't mention a missile alert mistakenly sent to residents and visitors statewide a week ago. (AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher)
AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

The fallout continues from the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s false alert this month warning the public of an incoming ballistic missile. On Monday, Gov. David Ige told reporters a reason for the delay in clarifying the alarm was that he didn’t know the password for his Twitter account.

Since the incident, which spread panic across the state with people scrambling to take shelter, an investigation by the agency and the Federal Communications Committee revealed that Hawaii did not have a protocol in place to reverse the false alarm.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported:

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency issued the false alarm at 8:07 a.m. and Ige was told the missile alert was a false alarm two minutes after the alert was sent to cell phones across the state. However, Ige’s office did not get out a cancellation message until 17 minutes after the alert.

Ige was asked about that delay when he met with reporters after his State of the State address today, and he said that [sic] “I was in the process of making calls to the leadership team both in Hawaii Emergency Management as well as others.”

Ige added, “I have to confess that I don’t know my Twitter account log-ons and the passwords, so certainly that’s one of the changes that I’ve made. I’ve been putting that on my phone so that we can access the social media directly.”

It is not unusual for staff to be given posting duties on social media accounts, the Star-Advertiser noted.

Twitter turned out to be the main source for getting the word out that the missile alert was false, including a tweet from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

“Hawaii — this a false alarm,” Gabbard tweeted. “There is no incoming missile to Hawaii. I have confirmed with officials there is no incoming missile.”

Not long after the incident occurred, officials blamed it on human error, including the governor.

Ige told CNN, “An employee pushed the wrong button.”

Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Committee (FCC), said the alert, was “totally unacceptable.”

Pai said that the investigation into the incident was underway and that the evidence gathered so far shows that Hawaii did not have “reasonable safeguards” in place to prevent or reverse a false alert.

“Moving forward, we will focus on what steps need to be taken to prevent a similar incident from happening again,” Pai said in the statement. “Federal, state and local officials across the country need to work together to identify any vulnerabilities to false alerts and do what’s necessary to fix them.”

Two days after the false alert, a spokesman for the agency said in a statement that the employee responsible for putting out a false alarm had been “temporarily reassigned.”

The agency also said that it would conduct no more missile alert tests until it could fix the system, including creating a protocol to reverse an alert if it is issued in error.

Reuters reported that agency spokesman Richard Rapoza confirmed that the employee “has been temporarily reassigned” to other duties.

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