Amber Alerts notify the public when a child has gone missing or is abducted. The alerts are put out by the Department of Justice and give information about missing minors. The public can then contact authorities if they recognize one of the children.
The alert system appeared to be shut off over the weekend, due to the partial government shutdown.
As of Sunday night, here is what showed up at www.AmberAlert.gov:
Many right-wing news outlets slammed the apparent shut down of Amber Alerts, especially since other, seemingly less important programs have not been affected by the government’s “lapse in federal funding.”
On Sunday, Elizabeth Sheld of Breitbart News wrote, “If you type www.amberalert.gov in your browser, you will find that the website redirects to an error message stating that the government shutdown has stopped the program… [But] if you try and visit letsmove.gov, Michelle Obama’s healthy child/exercise initiative, no such redirect takes place.”
People were also abuzz on Twitter, railing the Obama administration for pulling the website down:
After a slew of bad press, the Amber Alert website was restored sometime on Monday morning.
Justice Department officials are now trying to explain away any “confusion” over the apparent Amber Alert shut down. Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said, “The Amber Alert system was never interrupted, but to eliminate any confusion, the informational site maintained by the Justice Department has been restored.”
CNN reported, “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.”
Since the website is only informational, it is not hard for one to surmise that it was pulled from the web for political reasons. Is it possible that the website, the operations cost of which are likely negligible, was unnecessarily pulled from the web to incite public fear over the government shutdown?
White House spokesperson Jay Carney denies that the decision was political. On Monday he told reporters, “That is of course not the case. I would refer you to DOJ about how the website is administered, but, I can tell you that the website that DOJ maintains is informational. It is not a law enforcement tool used to issue Amber Alerts, and at no point during the shutdown has the Amber Alert system been interrupted.”
Do you think the website was legitimately pulled down for “funding issues,” or do you think there was some other motivation? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.