Is it real or is it fake? What do we believe any more?
We hate to keep on this subject of the false missile alert for fear it will appear we’re picking on Gov. David Ige and his administration, but just when it seems we have the straight story, it changes.
If we have it right, we were initially told that the employee who sent out the false missile alert on Jan. 13 that led people across Hawaii to think their time on this Earth was about to end, did so accidentally. Officials didn’t just say this once. They repeated it.
Ige said at a press conference later in the morning that the false alarm was caused by human error during a shift change when an “employee pushed the wrong button.”
That was the story. Here is what the New York Times reported:
“Officials said the alert was the result of human error and not the work of hackers or a foreign government. The mistake occurred during a shift-change drill that takes place three times a day at the emergency command post, according to Richard Rapoza, a spokesman for the agency.
“Someone clicked the wrong thing on the computer,” he said.
NBC News said this:
“(Vern) Miyagi, a retired Army two-star general, then explained that an individual on his team sent the alert in error, even clicking through a redundancy on a computer screen intended to act as a safeguard from such a mistake.
And CBS reported:
“Vern Miyagi, the administrator for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA), said in a press conference around noon Hawaiian time that his team was responsible for the error. According to Miyagi, the error happened during a shift change and at 8:07 a.m., “the wrong button was pushed” during the internal drill.”
“It’s a human error we are going to fix,” Miyagi said.
So, it was clear, this was human error, we were told. Someone pushed the wrong button, we were told.
Tuesday, we learned, it seems it was not just someone pushing a wrong button. They pushed the right button on purpose. The employee thought, it seems, there was an attack on the way. And because there was no requirement to double-check with a colleague or get a supervisor’s approval before sending the warning statewide, off it went. One person had the means — due to the system he was operating — to frighten about a million people.
“There were no procedures in place to prevent a single person from mistakenly sending a missile alert” in Hawaii, said James Wiley, a cybersecurity and communications reliability staffer at the FCC.
Now we are told the opposite from those first statements that this was the result of a wrong button being pushed.
The Associated Press reported this:
“A Federal Communications Commission report revealed Tuesday that the worker who pushed out the alert thought an actual attack was imminent. It was the first indication the alert was purposely sent, adding another level of confusion to the misstep that created panic at a time of fear over the threat of North Korean missiles.
“The worker believed there was a real attack because of a mistake in how the drill was initiated during a shift change, according to the FCC, which regulates the nation’s airwaves and sets standards for such emergency alerts. The employee said he didn’t hear the word “exercise” repeated six times, though others clearly heard it.”
So, we must ask, why were we first told someone clicked the wrong thing? Why were we told the wrong button was pushed. Just human error. Where did that story come from? Who started it and why was it repeated?
Finally, we learn, days after the fact, Miyagi resigned. Officials revealed that the employee who sent the alert was not cooperating in the investigation and was fired Friday. His name has not been revealed. A second worker quit before disciplinary action was taken, and another was being suspended without pay, officials said.
Ige was asked why Hawaii didn’t reveal details about the employee earlier, and he said it would have been irresponsible to release statements before the investigation was complete.
It was irresponsible to not release that information earlier, just as it was irresponsible to not give the public the straight story of what happened, especially in light of how the false missile alert scared so many.
And we haven’t even touched on the question of why it took nearly 40 minutes to send out a correction that the missile alert was false. The stories behind that are about as ridiculous as the ones for why the alert was sent out in the first place.
The people of Hawaii deserve the truth. They deserve to know what happened, and why. Who knows what story will come out next. When they finally hear the truth, if they do, how would they know whether to believe it?
Ironically, the state’s monthly test of the Statewide Outdoor Warning Siren System is today at 11:45 a.m. Some might wonder if it really is a test. And if it ever is real, which we hope never happens, how would we know whether to believe it?