October 7th, 2013
11:10 AM ET
by Jake Tapper
After Bad Press and Confusion, Justice Department Restores Federal Amber Alert Website
After being taken down, officially because of the government shutdown, the federal website dealing with alerts about abducted children – AmberAlert.gov – was restored Monday morning.
"The Amber Alert system was never interrupted, but to eliminate any confusion, the informational site maintained by the Justice Department has been restored,” Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon told CNN.
The website for the Office of Justice Programs, which hosts Amber Alert information, has been "shut down" due to funding issues, a senior Justice Department official told CNN.
The official told CNN that the website is informational only, detailing the department's role in providing training to states on how to have an Amber Alert system, and that the alerts themselves were not affected. Amber Alerts are issued jurisdictionally, by county or state, the official said, adding that the Amber Alert system, which consists largely of press notifications, highways signs, and tweets, is functional and not affected by the shutdown.
The AmberAlert.gov website links to that of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“The Office of Justice Programs had the funds to run through Friday,” October 4, after which it “furloughed all of employees. So since they couldn’t staff and monitor those websites, they were put behind a firewall so as to keep from hacking or security issues,” said Fallon.
If there isn’t a Justice Department employee working to monitor the sites, Fallon said, “it’s a cyber-security risk for sites to be posted but not maintained or supervised.”
“We had to bring in a furloughed employee to re-open the site,” Fallon said, adding that it’s “unclear if we will have the funds to monitor” the site.
The decision was made, a senior Justice Department official said, because there was a “public safety worry because of incorrect reporting that the program itself was down,” as opposed to just the federal website.
Amber stands for “America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.” The program was named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman who in 1996 was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas. Her case remains unsolved.