Disks in Iraq hold details about U.S. schools
Military finds computer disks but FBI dismisses terror plot or link
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military in Iraq discovered two computer disks containing photographs, evacuation plans and academic information from eight school districts in six states, U.S. government officials told CNN.
Government officials said the FBI has not found any link to terrorism, and said there is no information indicating a plot against any school in the United States.
In several cases, specific districts were mentioned in the materials but individual schools were not, officials said.
The material included exit strategies, school codes of conduct, and information on creating a learning environment, officials said.
A Homeland Security official said the disks also included a Department of Education guide on how to plan for a crisis in schools. There is no indication anyone was on the ground casing the schools, a senior government official said.
The Homeland Security official said the material was associated with a specific individual in Iraq, and it could not be established that this man had any ties to terrorism. He did have a connection to civic groups doing planning for schools in Iraq, the official said.
Still, the FBI is examining the materials carefully. While officials say there has been no specific threat related to the recovered material, they say they are taking the matter seriously out of an abundance of caution.
Authorities said the recovered information, publicly available through the Internet and other sources, is unrelated to a bulletin that the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued Wednesday advising schools and law enforcement about school safety in the wake of the Beslan, Russia, school massacre.
"There is no analysis by the intelligence community that the Iraqi information or Beslan information or any other information indicates there is any plot to attack a school in the United States," Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.
The military reportedly retrieved the disks in Iraq within the last couple of months and turned them over to the FBI.
The school districts mentioned in the material were notified in the last few weeks so they would be aware and could take any action they deemed necessary. In some cases, they were asked not to make the information public because it is classified.
The districts are located in Ft. Myers, Florida; Salem, Oregon; Jones County, Georgia; Rumson and Franklin Township School Districts in New Jersey; Birch Run District in Michigan as well as California, including San Diego.
School officials are emphasizing there is no specific threat made against any school.
"State and local law enforcement personnel have informed us of the need to increase our school security during this election season," said Jones County School Superintendent, William Mathews, Jr., in a letter sent last month to parents of students.
"It is important to know that no threat of any type has been directed or is suspected against any Jones County school," he stated.
John Scavelli, superintendent of schools in Franklin Township, told CNN the Franklin Police Chief met with him on September 20 and explained that a CD-Rom found in Iraq identified his school district, but no threats were made.
"It's very frustrating because we weren't told by the authorities which school it was and the information hasn't really flowed down locally to the police or to us," Scavelli said.
Personnel from Fort Dix, New Jersey, and the state Office of Counter-Terrorism visited the school district to assess security measures and recommended enhancements, Scavelli said.
"We were told to be aware of who's in the buildings at all times, don't be afraid to question people, make sure doors and windows are locked -- which are all things that we do anyway," Scavelli said.
A spokesman for Lee County schools said the material did not name a specific school in Florida but was a page out of the student code of conduct.
The FBI sent an advisory to terrorism task forces across the nation to inform them about the material, a Homeland Security official said. No public notification or other action associated with a heightened state of alert was taken, this official said, because it did not seem necessary to "elevate it to that level based on the assessment of the intelligence community."
A senior official said analysts are going over the information and are examining all possible scenarios. As the official put it, in the past schools have been mentioned as possible terror targets in intercepted conversations between alleged operatives and in interrogations of detainees but nothing recently.
CNN's Kelli Arena, Kevin Bohn and Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.