Attention, terrorists and cranks.
Thinking of telephoning a bomb threat to some part of the federal government?If so, take our advice and think again.
By the time you help complete the required paperwork, you could easily have forgotten the original reasons for your anger - and developed a whole new list of complaints, this time about Washington's penchant for pencil-pushing.
Besides, the red tape seems to increase the risk of getting caught. And the penalty for making a bomb threat, even if it's only a prank, is a long jail sentence.
How's that again about red tape for threatening callers? That's exactly right. Never underestimate the devotion of the federal bureaucracy to long forms that must be filled out.
In this case, it's a form distributed by the International Association of Bomb Technicians and Investigators. After inquiring about the sex, race and age of the caller, the government employee receiving a telephoned bomb threat is supposed to ask:
When is the bomb going to explode? Where is it right now? What does it look like? What kind of bomb is it? What will cause it to explode? Did you place the bomb? Why? What is your address? What is your name?
Believe it or not, Knight-Ridder News Service reports, threatening callers have been known to blurt out their names and addresses. The impulse to answer questions is strong - but evidently not quite as strong as the impulse to ask them. After the caller hangs up, the government worker is supposed to complete the following check list:
Which of the following describes the caller's voice: Calm? Angry? Loud? Slurred? Nasal? Raspy? Cracked? Disguised? Accented? If the voice seemed familiar, who did it sound like? Write the suspect's name on the appropriate line.
How did the caller speak? Was the caller well-spoken? Foul? Incoherent? Was the message taped or simply read? Were there background noises on the caller's end of the line? Did you hear street noises? Music? Other voices? Static?
By the time the hapless bureaucrat finishes the form, so much time is likely to have elapsed that either the bomb has exploded or it's clear that the threat was a hoax. But never mind. Just make sure that form is filled and filed. First things first.