Teen Tweets Bomb Threat to American Airlines – Ends Up In Jail

Finebloom, Haenel & Higgins

A 14-year-old Dutch girl has been arrested after making what she thought was just a joke on Twitter.  The girl, just known as “Sarah” Tweeted to American Airlines “hello my name’s Ibrahim and I’m from Afghanistan, I’m part of Al Qaida and on June 1st I’m gonna do something really big bye.”  American Airlines quickly responded to her the following: “Sarah, we take these threats very seriously.  Your IP address and details will be forwarded to security and the FBI.”  The girl begged the airline not to do this, claiming that she was a “white girl” and was just joking.  The Twitter exchange went viral quickly and hit the media, with most arguing that it was just a stupid joke.

On April 14, 2014, Rotterdam (The Netherlands) police announced that they had the girl in custody and were questioning both her and her mother, but had not decided at that point if they were going to press any charges against her. 

Following this tweet exchange, there has been an increase in other terrorist threats being made as jokes to American Airlines.  Tweets such as “The bomb goes off in 3 hours”, I’m gonna bomb your 737 jet” and “hello my name is Ibrahim and I think you guys are THE BOMB!!!!!!” have all been sent to American Airlines since the first tweet was sent out on April 12th.

The First Amendment does not protect making a threat of terrorism or other violent act as free speech and someone who makes such a threat can face criminal consequences for it.  The severity of the consequences depends on the situation surrounding the way the threats were made and the intent behind them.  Threats of terrorism are taken especially seriously in the US since 9/11, meaning that there are somewhat harsher penalties.

In Florida, this teenager’s threat would be considered to be a written threat to kill or do bodily injury.  This is considered a second degree felony, meaning that there could be a sentence of up to 15 years and a $10,000 fine along with all of the other things that come with a felony conviction such as losing the right to vote or own firearms.  Federal law also forbids making terrorist threats and doing so could carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

While it does not look like this girl has been charged with any crime at this point, that does not mean that it won’t happen.  However, her potential outcome would be somewhat different than what it would be in the US or Florida, mainly because she is a minor and a Dutch citizen and the tweet came from The Netherlands, meaning that the way she could be punished would be completely different than how it works in the United States.  However, the copy cat threats, in Florida and around the US, could end up bringing felony charges if law enforcement decides to go the route of prosecuting those people as the would be subject to local laws.