The U.S. Department of Agriculture has closed six offices in five states after receiving anonymous threats Monday night. The Associated Press reports:
Herrick said the department is working with the FBI and federal and local law enforcement to determine whether the threats are credible.
In an email to employees, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said USDA is closing the offices “due to the serious nature of these threats.” He did not characterize the threats or say how they were received, but asked employees to be aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious activity.
The closed offices are located in Colorado, West Virginia, Connecticut, Maryland and North Carolina.
USDA seems like an odd target for threats. What would anyone hope to accomplish by attacking them and why would they issue a warning first?
The only USDA story that seems to have generated any real outrage in the past few weeks is the one about “lesbian farmer” outreach. If you missed that whole thing, it got going earlier this month with a couple of stories online. Then Rush Limbaugh talked about it on his show and it really took off, mostly because of the left-wing backlash.
Rush’s mention led to a joke on the Conan O’Brien’s show. The NY Daily News published an outraged piece about it. Jonathan Chait at New York magazine wrote about it. Grist wrote a piece about it. The Advocate had a story about a T-shirt intended to show solidarity with lesbian farmers. And of course Twitter had a field day with the story.
The point is that this story has really been everywhere in the last couple weeks, never a lead story but bouncing around in the under-news enough that lots of people have seen it from one outlet or another. So it’s possible you could have someone who is genuinely upset with the USDA or, alternatively, someone upset with the right looking creating a hate hoax.
And of course it’s also entirely possible this has nothing to do with any of that. Until the USDA reveals what the threatening messages said that led them to close offices in five states, it’s impossible to know.