Amtrak removed passengers from a Seattle-to-Chicago train for nearly six hours after bomb threats, but no explosives were found. It turned out that an Alaska man had made the calls because he was upset about Amtrak’s forgetting his special food request. The case is one of hundreds since the 9/11 attacks involving bogus tips about terrorist attacks, says U.S. News & World Report. “They know that all they have to do is say ‘terrorism,’ ” says Marcy Forman of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The feds are striking back, invoking laws that toughen penalties for those who lie about terrorism threats or make threats against mass transportation–both, felony counts. State and local governments are suing perpetrators in civil courts to obtain restitution. The train passenger is serving a prison term of nearly four years and was assessed more than $28,000; Amtrak’s costs from the threat reached about $100,000. “The nuts are always going to be with us,” says FBI agent Thomas Trier. “But whether it’s a nut or it’s al Qaeda, what chance can you take when you get a threat like this?”