Man from Ireland charged in Pitt bomb threat case
David Hickton (center) with Doug Perdue and Mark Nordenberg, Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh.
From April 9, 2012: A line snaked out the door at the ground floor entrance to the Cathedral of Learning along Bigelow Blvd. Monday morning as increased security procedures took effect in the wake of multiple bomb threats on the Pitt campus.
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A federal grand jury today returned two indictments charging a resident of Dublin, Ireland, with emailing bomb threats targeting the University of Pittsburgh, three federal courthouses and a federal officer.
One indictment charges Adam Stuart Busby, 64, of Dublin, with 17 counts of wire fraud, 16 counts of maliciously conveying false information and two counts of international extortion.
A separate four-count indictment charges Mr. Busby with, on June 20 and 21, maliciously conveying false information through the Internet claiming bombs had been placed at federal courthouses in Pittsburgh, Erie and Johnstown.
Mr. Busby was also charged with threatening U.S. Attorney David Hickton as he performed duties in his official capacity.
At a South Side press conference announcing the charges, Mr. Hickton steadfastly refused to reveal whether investigators knew of a motive in the bomb threats and, if so, what it was.
"We don't get into the mind of a criminal, of a defendant," he said at the FBI's Pittsburgh field office.
Mr. Hickton said that from March 30, 2012, to April 21, 2012, Mr. Busby sent more than 40 emails targeting the univerity of Pittsburgh campus.
Mr. Busby is in custody in Ireland.
Neither Mr. Hickton nor others would describe Mr. Busby's background beyond that.
According to the Irish Times newspaper, in July 2010, Mr. Busby, then 61 years old, was convicted of emailing two false bomb threats in 2006 to Heathrow Airport in London. Those threats, which cited specific international flights, claimed to be from the Scottish National Liberation Army, according to the Times.
Scottish by birth, Mr. Busby first went to Ireland in 1980 after facing charges in his native country of criminal damage to property of the English ministry of defense, according to the Times.
In 1997, after threatening phone calls to the Press Association in Scotland and the Scottish Daily Record, he was convicted in Ireland's Special Criminal Court and sentenced to four years total in prison,, according to the Times.
He has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair, according to the Times.
A separate one-count indictment named two Ohio men as others who made threats.
Between April 25 and May 23, Alexander Waterland, of Loveland, and Brett Hudson, of Hillsboro, targeted Pitt with interstate threats claiming to be affiliated with the hacking group Anonymous, according to Mr. Hickton's statement.
The threats, posted on YouTube under the name "AnonOperative13," were an effort to extort university chancellor Mark Nordenberg into placing an apology on the university's website.
The threats claimed that if chancellor did not comply, confidential information stored on Pitt computers would be released.
The series of 46 bomb threats, directed at a cumulative total of 143 Pitt buildings, ended April 21. But the investigation by the region's Joint Terrorism Task Force continued unabated, officials have said.
The agencies involved included the FBI, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Secret Service, Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, federal air marshals, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, along with local agencies, including Pittsburgh police and Pitt police.
The bomb threats, most of which were emailed to news reporters, provoked frustration, fear and anxiety as the targeted structures, including dormitories, were evacuated at all hours of the day and night, totally disrupting the normal rhythms of college life.
"The most important message that I can deliver today is a message of heartfelt thanks," said Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, standing alongside law enforcement officials during the news conference at FBI headquarters on the South Side. "Everyone at the University of Pittsburgh is deeply grateful for the many forms of help that were extended to us while our campus was under siege and for all the hard work that has gotten us to this point."
Asked what impact the episode may have on fall student enrollment, Mr. Nordenberg said among those who actually endured the threats "there seemed to be a sense of greater connection to Pitt, so that when we look at measures like freshman to sophomore retention, we actually think those numbers will be as high as they ever have been this fall."
Where Pitt may have been damaged, he said, is in the recruitment of new students.
The threats occurred as many prospective students and parents were making final visits to campus to decide between their top university choices.
"I can't quantify it, and I'm not sure it will be significant, but it would surprise me if there is not some kind of impact on the entering freshman class this fall," Mr. Nordenberg said.
An estimate to date of $300,000 that it cost Pitt to respond to the threats includes only quantifiable expenses such as hiring extra security guards, police overtime and procurement of bomb detection equipment. Mr. Nordenberg said the figure is expected to grow.
He said Pitt will have to decide if it is practical to seek restitution.
University of Pittsburgh police Chief Timothy Delaney, whose officers and police dogs spent countless hours clearing buildings in response to the threats, said he is relieved by the break in the case.
"It stretched us to the max, but every time we got tired, another law enforcement agency could come in and support us," he said. "I am happy. This was a lot of work."
Responding to the threats was unchartered territory for Pitt officers, who are now being looked upon by other universities as a national example.
The chief said response to the repeated threats because a streamlined science and he learned "I can depend on the guys I have here. I always knew I could but now I have proof."
With each threat he said he never lost hope.
"The bottom line was the kids were always our main interest," he said. "... They're my children."
First Published August 15, 2012 12:11 am