Feds charge three men with making threats against University of Pittsburgh
A self-proclaimed Scottish separatist marked his early release from an Irish prison this spring by emailing bomb threats targeting the University of Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania federal courthouses, officials charged on Wednesday.
In two indictments, a Pittsburgh federal grand jury charged Adam Stuart Busby, 64, of Dublin with sending the threats that disrupted weeks of classes on the Oakland campus and prompted response from the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force.
“I am very relieved,” said Mark Nordenberg, chancellor at Pitt, which welcomes back students next week. “This is an important day for Pitt. This is an important day for Pittsburgh.”
U.S. Attorney David Hickton said Busby, who is in custody in Ireland on unrelated charges, had no connection to the university, but declined to say what led investigators to start looking at him in mid-April. Hickton also declined to say why Busby, who has mainly threatened or attacked top British officials, oil companies, military facilities and water supplies to British cities, turned his attention to Pitt.
“We don't get into the mind of the criminal,” he said.
Busby emailed the threats between March 30 and April 21, Hickton said during a news conference. Officials charged him with 17 counts of wire fraud, 19 counts of maliciously conveying bomb threats, two counts of international extortion and one count of threatening to assault or murder Hickton.
The 52 bomb threats Pitt received in March and April, including some written on walls that officials did not connect to Busby, forced 136 evacuations of students and faculty, Nordenberg said.
In a third indictment, a federal grand jury charged Alexander Waterland, 24, of Loveland, Ohio, and Brett Hudson, 26, of Hillsboro, Ohio, with conspiring to post a YouTube video and emails that threatened to release two gigabytes of student and faculty personal information unless Nordenberg apologized for “failing” to protect students during the bomb threats.
Busby has a long history of terrorist activity in the British isles.
An Irish judge in July 2010 sentenced him to four years in prison for using a Dublin public library computer in 2006 to email bomb threats targeting two flights from London Heathrow Airport to New York. The judge suspended the final two years of the sentence, given Busby's age and the fact that he uses a wheelchair because of chronic multiple sclerosis, The Guardian newspaper reported.
A spokesman for the Irish Prison Service said officials likely released Busby from prison in January, but he could not immediately check the records.
David Leslie, author of “Inside a Terrorist Group – The Story of the SNLA,” wrote in the book that Busby as a teenager joined an informal nationalist group that became part of the Scottish Liberation Army. He joined the British army at 17 as part of the group's campaign to gain access to training and equipment and recruit members from the ranks.
He founded the Scottish National Liberation Army in 1980, Leslie wrote. Leslie could not be reached for comment.
British and Irish news reports say Busby fled to Dublin in 1983 after a series of minor terrorist attacks in Scotland against military sites, oil companies and public figures, and an Irish court refused to extradite him back to Scotland.
The Irish Detective Unit in Dublin referred questions to its press officer, who could not be reached.
SNLA terror campaigns included mail bombs and hoaxes involving alleged anthrax and fake bombs. Their targets have included former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Prince of Wales and Prince William.
Irish officials declared the SNLA illegal in 2005.
Scotland's Daily Mail in July reported that authorities in that country want to extradite Busby to face charges related to threats to poison former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and contaminate water supplies of major British cities.
Hickton would not say when his office would seek extradition of Busby.
According to the indictments, Busby claimed he made the threats in retaliation for Nordenberg's offering a $10,000 reward, later increased to $50,000, for the arrest and conviction of whoever was posting threats in campus bathrooms. Prosecutors have not charged anyone for making the threats scrawled on bathroom walls.
Busby started a second round of threats on June 20, Hickton said, targeting federal courthouses after the FBI arrested Waterland for the YouTube video, the indictments state.
Mark Safarik, a retired FBI agent who spent 12 years in the Behavioral Analysis Unit, said there is usually a personal connection between an individual making threats and the entity he targets.
“I haven't had the experience of seeing someone spur a threat because of media coverage of some event that's completely unrelated to them,” he said. “But apparently that's what this guy does.”
Waterland and Hudson worked for the same Mason, Ohio, company. Waterland posted similar threats against private companies, and Hudson suggested they threaten Pitt, the indictment states.
Waterland has denied posting the video. Hudson is not in custody. Reached by phone on Wednesday, he said he has never been a Pitt student. He otherwise declined to comment.
Brian Goltz, 22, who will be a senior this year, said he was disturbed when Nordenberg withdrew the $50,000 reward, but the indictment restores his peace of mind.
“I don't want to say they negotiated with a terrorist, but that's what it seemed like,” Goltz said.
Nordenberg said he withdrew the reward after Busby, under the guise of being a member of a group called The Threateners, demonstrated he was the source of the threats by halting them for 24 hours and promising to stop them entirely if the reward were withdrawn.
He declined to explain why he changed from an earlier stance of not negotiating with anyone making the threats.
“I feel better about the FBI,” said Anthony DiNardo, 19, who transferred from Pitt's Greensburg campus to start his sophomore year this fall in Oakland. “If the FBI couldn't catch this guy, it worried me about other things, safety in general.”
Staff writers Bill Vidonic and Jason Cato contributed to this report. Brian Bowling and Margaret Harding are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Bowling can be reached at 412-325-4301 or email@example.com. Harding can be reached at 412-380-8519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.