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False Alarm Sent Out by Hawaii Emergency System Indicating Imminent Ballistic Missile Impact; Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard Sends Messages to Hawaii Residents Verifying Alarm was False; Hawaiian Governor Indicates Human Error Initiated False Alarm. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired January 13, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] ELISE LABBOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: -- misunderstanding. I think from the U.S. government, even President Trump to the North Koreans themselves, everyone knows the stakes here. What the stakes would be for a ballistic missile that is launched at the U.S., what the consequences would be in terms of a retaliation that would certainly mean hundreds of thousands of casualties in South Korea, possibly in Japan, U.S. troops over there. I think everybody knows the stakes. But a miscalculation, all bets are off, and I think that is probably why Pac Command came out as quickly as it did.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: OK. Hold on and we'll reset.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
SAVIDGE: And by resetting I mean we want to bring everyone up-to-date on what we are talking about and what has transpired. Breaking news, moments ago, an erroneous false alert went out by a text message and social media which warned the people of Hawaii to take cover because of an imminent missile strike. Again, it was sent out in error. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard tweeted this out last hour, "Hawaii, this is a false alarm. There is no incoming missile to Hawaii. I have confirmed with the officials there no incoming missile."
Thirty-right minutes later, an official correction was sent alerting everyone it was a false alarm. We've got a team of reporters and analysts that are following this. There are many different facets to this mistake. We know it was a mistake. Apparently there was a training exercise under way and somehow that message that was never meant to be transmitted to the public went out. But this is exactly the kind of horrifying scenario, a mistake that could lead to something with far more serious consequences.
Let me bring in retired rear admiral John Kirby. Sir, thanks for joining us. First of all, Pacific Command appears to be the first to say, hey, wait a minute here, this isn't real. What do we know and why would they do it?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET), CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you're right, Pacific Command did come out very quickly to back down this false alarm. And that makes sense because Pacific Command has the assets, has the detection and sensor assets throughout the region to know definitively if a ballistic missile has been fired and if one is in the air and where it is going, what the trajectory is. The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency doesn't have those detections
and sensor capabilities. So while it wouldn't -- in a real situation wouldn't be unlike them to put out such an alarm, that's their job, they would be getting information from the Pacific Command before they did that in a real scenario. So it's not surprising to me at all that Pacific Command jumped right on this given that they had the capabilities to understand what was really going on, or more critically, what wasn't going on and to go ahead and correct the record quickly.
SAVIDGE: Admiral, real quick, if this was an exercise as we know, do you think that the Pacific Command knew of it ahead of time?
KIRBY: I talked to a representative at the Pacific Command a bit ago and he did tell me that the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency has been for a period of months working through some of these drills. And that is reflective, as Elise mentioned, that's reflective of the tensions of the region, of course. And that's their job and they should do that.
What they don't know, was this a malicious mistake by a worker there? Probably not likely. Was it a cyber-attack? They are going to be looking at that. Or was this just an error, was it part of a drill and they just forgot to take out the sentence that this is not a drill, in other words, to specifically note that this is part of an exercise, it is a test, it is a drill, in which case that would just be some sort of a negligent act by somebody at the management agency.
But again, they are going to look at this right now. They have got management officials on the way now to kind of sift their way through that. And if of course they would want any help from the military as they investigate how this happened, I'm sure the military would cooperate if needed.
SAVIDGE: OK. So there are the military implications with all of this. There's also the psychological implications, especially for the people of Hawaii who received it. Joining on the phone is CNN crime and justice producer David Shortell. He's in Hawaii. David, were you aware of all of this? Did you see it happen? David, can you hear me? It's Martin Savidge in Atlanta. I was wondering if you were aware of this alert as it went out. We'll check back with David.
Juliette, you were hearing from the admiral there that it appears that Pacific Command was aware of this drill. But still you can imagine that once they knew this text went out, they had an understanding of what the implications were, both for people's fears and for military posture.
[14:05:02] JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: That's exactly right. And these drills are happening all the time. This was, as I was saying earlier, a reverse 911 drill, something to push out communication to the public through text, social media. It's the contents of what was written and how that got past anyone which is still a big question mark.
I will tell you Hawaii, I'm very sympathetic to the challenges of disaster management, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is amazing and very strong, it deals with a lot of different threats. So this is a mistake that people did not catch in time. And more importantly, it is a mistake that they did not fess up to in time. It should not take almost 40 minutes for there to be essentially a retraction. And it shouldn't take close to an hour as I look at my clock for someone to come out and explain because we're hearing for those who live in Hawaii or are visiting, for all of us, because of the heightened alert systems, what we need from the American public is confidence in a system of alert.
Too many false alarms means that people don't pay attention. And whether it is missiles or more common threats in Hawaii, say a tsunami or something, you want to have confidence in the system. So mistakes happen. I recognize that. But it's just taking a little bit too long, and so much so that that is why the military stepped into say we know there are no missiles coming, and not just to say to the people in Hawaii or to U.S. citizens, but obviously our allies, to the South Koreans who may have been looking at this and you wouldn't want them reacting in any way without -- that could just be a spiraling of mistakes.
SAVIDGE: No question. There is a whole lot of ways that this thing could have gone sideways.
Joining us on the telephone, and again I think we have the producer David Shortell. David, are you there?
DAVID SHORTELL, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Hey, Martin, I'm here, yes.
SAVIDGE: So David, what was going on and what were you aware of?
SHORTELL: Well, Martin, it was around 8:07 when we got the emergency alert on our phones. I'm here on a Marine Corps base Hawaii about 10 miles north of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. And we were here to go boating. There is a little facility where you can rent boats if you have a military personnel in your family. I'm here with my brother who is a Navy lieutenant. And 8:07, we all got this alert all capital letters, ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii, seek immediate shelter. This is not a threat.
There was a bit of running and shouting after that, and the people here on the base, a lot of civilians and not all military personnel where I am, I'm obviously not in the military. But we then gathered our family, people were nervous, and the civilian staff here at the boat launch took us into a garage. There are about 30 people here with young children, some dogs, and a lot of military personnel as well. And people were nervous, Martin.
SAVIDGE: Well, David, I mean what would you do? Did you even think of going somewhere? What were your first thoughts?
SHORTELL: First immediate thought was get the family together. I was filling up an inflatable tube. Some people were loading our boat with food. Thank goodness we weren't already out on the boat in the water already when we got this alert. There are air raid sirens here on the base. They did not go off. But we all got this pretty alarming alert on our smartphone.
SAVIDGE: Did you see others around you that seemed to be reacting to the same kind of message?
SHORTELL: Yes, for sure. It was a bit of shock at first. People didn't really know what to do. It was nice, in the alert it says this is not a drill, so people thought OK, let's get together and let's hunker down. You know, we are on a military base, so there was a bit of calm around us, but, as I said, a lot of civilian personnel here. So the staff was very professional. They were civilian staff. They gathered us in a garage. They shut the doors and we were in there for pretty harrowing 15 minutes before we first saw the tweets from Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and then a minute later from the emergency management agency here in Hawaii. It wasn't until about nearly 40 minutes later that the official alert went out, but by then people had realized this was just a false alarm.
SAVIDGE: Elise Labott, I want to get to you in just a second because I know you have some new information. But David, I'm still staying with you because I cannot imagine, especially being with my family, to receive this information, as many families did in Hawaii. So describe for us, apparently there were some steps you took or those on the military base on which you were at, because you were all sort of gathered together. Explain that more, please.
SHORTELL: Yes, it was pretty -- it kind of happened. There were no official protocols that we were following. People were running. We all kind of gathered near the shelter. So we found this garage. The civilian staff was very friendly. They brought us in. They were calm. And we all got inside this big garage that holding the boats that we were going to rent.
[14:10:00] And we got in there and we just kind of stood there, Martin. They shut the garage gates. And there were young children in there that were sitting there plugging their ears, shaking their heads. People were freaking out a little bit. But it was over soon after. Thank goodness.
SAVIDGE: Was there is a panic, were people talking or just silent? And you said that it was social media that tipped you off it was an error?
SHORTELL: Well, I am in the news business. I'm a producer out of our D.C. bureau, so I was able to follow the alerts on my phone. I saw the tweet from the congresswoman, and then about a minute later from the emergency management agency. I think if I probably wasn't there getting these alerts on my phones that people there would have many maybe more unaware because maybe they didn't get the official alert until around 40 minutes later. But people do have social media so they could be looking on Twitter and calling relatives who are in Hawaii where I believe a message had panned across the screen at least when it first happened.
But yes, people were very nervous. It was just kind of a shock moment. People were making jokes. I can tell you one military guy in fact that we were saying what do we do now, what is next, and this military man said the next thing we do is go to war. We thought this was the first step in a war with perhaps North Korea.
SAVIDGE: So once it was, of course, done in error, and we should remind those who were just tuning in that there was a false message sent across text and social media in Hawaii alerting them to what was said to be an incoming ballistic missile threat and that it was specifically not a drill, it was an error, it was a mistake. So David, when people learned -- when those around you heard it is not real, what was the reaction then?
SHORTELL: Pure relief, a lot of sighs. But still it was not yet clear that we were out of the woods. We had only heard from tweets. And this is not a good way to figure out that you're not about to get perhaps blown up by a bomb that is flying towards you. So there was relief, but it wasn't entire until maybe about 20 minutes later when the tweets started flooding in from the governor, the mayor. We were pretty assured by that point that we were in fact safe. And now I can tell you I'm on a boat in the middle of the bay enjoying the sun. People are getting back to normal over here.
SAVIDGE: Well, we are relieved for all the people of Hawaii that this was in fact a false alarm, but nonetheless, questions still linger, how in the world did this happen. Elise, I said I was going to get back to you. So have you learned more? What have we got?
LABOTT: Well, we just heard from Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz also going on Twitter saying again there is no missile threat, it was a false alarm based on human error. There is nothing more important to Hawaii than professionalizing and fool-proofing this process. Again false alarm, what happened today is totally inexcusable. The whole state was terrified. There needs to be tough and quick accountability and a fix process.
And as Juliette was saying, one of the main concerns here is that that language, even if you're going to send out a test, you know, when we're watching our TV and we see those emergency -- this is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System, it says this is a test. If this was a real emergency, you would be directed on what do.
And so a test here, or human error. People are very concerned about how that happened. But not only were Hawaiians relieved to hear that this is not an emergency, the psychological damage lingers, and also the potential for miscalculation at this extreme time of high tensions still remain. I think nerves here in United States and certainly in Hawaii but around the world and in Asia right now bound to be very raw for the next several days.
SAVIDGE: Without a doubt. There is no question that even if you are not Hawaii, if you are in other nations and other parts of the world and you receive this information, you're thinking holy cow, this could be the start of something that will affect everyone.
Joining us on the phone is CNN correspondent Sara Sidner. And Sara, you just spoke to the emergency management of Hawaii, the people who sent this mistaken alert out. What did they say?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Vern Miyagi, he's the administrator for the emergency management administration there in Hawaii, he said look, I'm going in right now to find out what is going on. But I want to make very, very clear that this was a mistake. This was not supposed to be sent out, this message, that there was an incoming missile. And this was not a test. It was absolutely a mistake. Now they are trying to figure out exactly how that mistake was made. But they were trying to get that information out to the public as soon as possible so that it did not create panic.
I do want to mention that we were there last year not too long ago inside that very building which is located actually in Diamondhead in a bunker, that is where the emergency management operations that are there 24 hours a day monitoring everything from whether there are hurricanes coming, whether there is an earthquake, whether there is any kind of a missile or some sort of attack, they are constantly 24 hours monitoring to find out, you know, what they need to do for the population there.
[14:15:23] So inside this bunker which is inside of a crater basically, inside of a hillside, they are looking at all the potentialities that could happen to folks in Hawaii. And we watched, and they showed us exactly what the procedure would be if there was an incoming ballistic missile or any kind of nuclear attack on Hawaii from North Korea.
And what they told us was alarming, and a lot of people in Hawaii didn't realize how quickly this could all go down. They said that they would have about 20 minutes from the time of launch from North Korea to the time of impact in Hawaii if there was a missile that would be launched from North Korea, and that people on the ground would actually have about 15 minutes to try to find some kind of shelter, to shelter for example in place.
And so, you know, it is very alarming, I think for a lot of people to know that that timing is just so tight. However, there has been a lot of criticism from Matt LoPresti who is one of the representatives there in Hawaii who says, look, we don't have even our bunkers sorted. They have been in disrepair for on 30 years. We haven't really looked at these since the end of the cold war.
So that is why Hawaii because of some of what is going on globally and with North Korea and with the United States, the back and forth with the president and Kim Jong-un, we are going to be proactive in all this and start looking at what do so that we can secure the population and be able to give them a warning.
This was going to be part of that warning system. And they just last year for the very first time tested a warning system, they tested it so that everyone knew what that alert sounded like, which would go off in several places around on the islands in Hawaii. They just tested that, and we were there as they were working the details out of that. So this has been a very tense time. I think people try not to think about it while they are there, but there is a lot of frustration, as you might imagine with this going out. Mr. Miyagi saying, look, we are going to get to the bottom of this. Trust me. And he is calling me now, so I'd jump off the phone and try to get you some more information. SAVIDGE: Please do, Sara. Thank you very much.
You can understand just as Sara explained, due to the heightened tension with North Korea why the text that went out as a mistake to warn of an incoming ballistic missile would be taken so seriously and why as they actually have been making preparations for some time for just that possibility. Again, it was a mistake. Last hour I spoke with Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. And listen to some of what she had to say.
REP. TULSI GABBARD, (D) HAWAII: Well, the people of Hawaii just got a taste of the stark reality of what we face here with a potentially nuclear strike on Hawaii. Every single cellphone in Hawaii just got this text message saying that a ballistic missile is incoming, take shelter, this is not a drill. So you can only emergency what kicked in where people start questioning, over a million people in my state of Hawaii is being faced with the reality that they have 15 minutes to find a place to take shelter. Where is a shelter, where do they find shelter to protect them and their families from a nuclear attack? It's crazy.
SAVIDGE: How did it happen?
GABBARD: We're still waiting on the details. The officials that I've spoken to said that it was an inadvertent message thank you was sent out, essentially a mistake. But the reality that this points to, and we'll get to the bottom of that, but the reality and what I hope people across this country and the leaders of this country hear is that this is a real threat facing Hawaii. So people got this message on their phones, and they got 15 minutes -- we've got 15 minutes before me and my family could be dead.
SAVIDGE: How quickly were you able to notify the people of Hawaii that this wasn't true?
GABBARD: As soon as I got the message I called Hawaii civil defense officials, found out what was going on, confirmed it was a mistake, and immediately started sending out tweets, putting things on social media, making phone calls to Hawaii media to try to get the message out to people that this was a false alarm, that there was no incoming missile headed to Hawaii.
SAVIDGE: How much time was in between when people got the text versus when you were able to get out word it is not true?
[14:20:00] GABBARD: I don't know. It was minutes. It was a matter of minutes. I haven't looked back at exactly the right time. I've been on my phone nonstop and texting and tweeting and trying to get the word out to people. But the reality is that, you know, every American needs to understand that if you had gone through what the people of Hawaii just went through, what my family and so many families in Hawaii just went through, you'd be angry just like I am. I've been talking about this threat from North Korea for years.
SAVIDGE: Horrified second. Once you realized it's not going to happen, now the anger is going to set in.
GABBARD: Absolutely, because it points to the failure of our leaders that we are sitting here in a state where this text message is a very real thing. Today's one was a mistake, but the reality is that this threat is very real. The people of my home state live with this. They live with the reality of this message popping up on their phones. Donald Trump is taking too long. He's not taking this threat seriously. There is no time to waste. The people of Hawaii and this country should not have to go through something like this before leaders in this country start to take this threat seriously.
SAVIDGE: Before we get too deep into the politics, let's keep with the present moment. And the present moment is, and I should alert viewers in case they're just tuning in, there was an alert that was sent out by a text and social media, and it was warning the people of Hawaii to take cover, that there was a ballistic missile that had been detected and on the way. And it said this is not a drill. It turns out that was all an error, a mistake. And joining me on the phone is Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Tulsi, were they rehearsing something when this happened?
GABBARD: We're still getting to the above the details. The bottom line of what I called and found out was that there was no incoming missile threat, and I immediately took action to get the word out to people in Hawaii who knew that if this was a real message, as the message stated it was, they had 15 minutes to take shelter.
SAVIDGE: And what do people do? What does Hawaii have in place to try to protect its people?
GABBARD: That is exactly the point. There are no nuclear shelters for people to go running to within 15 minutes. Where do they go, what do they do? This is a reality that people in Hawaii are facing that there is a nuclear threat coming from North Korea that could come at any time. This is the reality that our country faces and why our leaders, why Donald Trump needs to take action, negotiate with North Korea, get rid of this nuclear threat so that this is not something that people of Hawaii in my home state or this country have to live with.
SAVIDGE: Again, it was a false alarm that was sent out on social media and text message warning Hawaiians of an incoming ballistic missile. Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii also tweeting just moments ago, today's alert was a false alarm. At a time of heightened tensions we need to make sure all information released to the community is accurate. We need to get to the bottom of make sure it never happens again.
I want to turn now and bring in our national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. And also we have CNN law enforcement contributor Steve Moore. Steve, to you. Do you know of any time recently in our past where this has happened?
STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: No, I don't. And I've set up these kind of systems for active shooters, things like this, that go out to thousands of people at a time. You have to have safeguards, obviously, in place. I think what we might find out that the actual word in this that may have even caused this is the word "drill," because if you have two messages, one this is a drill and one this is not a drill, human error can creep in. And I think we may find it is just that simple, something like that.
SAVIDGE: Let me go through the logistics of you how this would happen. These messages rest in a computer. Everything does these days. And somebody, what, has their finger on a key stroke and sends it off? I mean, don't you put black tape over it and say hey, don't hit that button? How do your prevent this?
MOORE: What you do in a situation like this is you have only certain people who have the authority to send the message. And even your test messages are not going to go out to the general public. They're going to out to a sampling of people who are part of the process, who are all through the region so that you can test every corner of the area that you're trying to reach.
And the tests and drills are set up at specific times. People are on board. Only certain people can authorize even a drill, and only certain people at the console can, for overgeneralizing, can push that button on. And somewhere along the line somebody scrolled down to the -- there are several messages you can send. There's probably eight or nine different messages to send. Somebody scrolled to the wrong message and pressed send.
[14:25:08] SAVIDGE: And do you think that there is an investigation under way, and one of the things to look at was this a hack. Do you see an indication of a hack?
MOORE: I doubt that this is a hack. This sounds too many like human error. I feel bad for the person who committed the error, but I feel much worse for the people of Hawaii. And I feel kind of bad when I see this, people trying to politicize this. This was simply an error. And now we're trying to blame Washington on this when people are trying to deflect from the fact that their system allowed this error.
SAVIDGE: All right, hold on, everyone because joining me now, State Representative Matt LoPresti, he is from Hawaii. He joins on the phone. What do you know and what can you tell us? I imagine people there were terrified and now pretty angry.
MATT LOPRESTI, HAWAII STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Yes, sir. Aloha, and good morning.
I'll tell you my personal story this morning. Wake up to several phone calls and alerts on my phone. And we get the warning that there is an incoming missile. I live in an area where if they hit what they were aiming at, we're in the hot zone for radioactive fallout, so we took shelter immediately in a room of our home.
I was sitting in the bathtub with my children saying our prayers and fielding phone calls and messages from friends, family, and colleagues, telling them all to take shelter immediately. And was wondering why we couldn't hear the emergency sirens. I didn't understand that. And that was my first clue that maybe something was wrong, whether a hack or an error. But we took it as seriously as a heart attack.
And like I said, we were in our tub in the bathroom with my children saying our prayers. So I'm extremely angry right now. Somebody should lose their job if this was an error.
The good takeaway is that everybody here and on the mainland should take this as an opportunity to think about what are you going to do with your family in 10 to 15 minutes before that impact? Do your children know where your emergency food supplies are? That's what I was telling my children in the bathtub, do you remember where daddy put all the emergency supplies, and do you know how to get to it if something happens to me? So what I'm really just beside myself about is, why does it take 38 minutes for us to get a false alarm notice, which it took that long? And it only takes 15 minute for impact. That is completely unacceptable.
SAVIDGE: How long were you waiting with your family and fearing the worst?
LOPRESTI: Well, for 15 minutes. Once we reached about 12, 13 minutes, I figured something might not be right. And I looked outside, there was an old guy walking his dog. He didn't have his cellphone or something. And I started getting messages from colleagues, friends and family in the military who knew that it was a false alarm. And I began to put that out on social media as soon as I knew.
SAVIDGE: Right, and we heard that from Congresswoman Gabbard too as well. She sort of took it upon herself, as you did, to be an electronic Paul Revere when there was a lack of information apparently coming from government sources. How old are your children?
LOPRESTI: Eight and four.
SAVIDGE: Have you ever expected that you would be having to explain in a bathtub on a Saturday morning the potential of nuclear strike to your young children?
LOPRESTI: Sadly, sir, yes. And that's what I've been putting my focus to in the legislature is trying to get attention, awareness and funds for the people of Hawaii in case this kind of thing happens. You know, this is why I and my family has backup plans and has emergency food and water, and we are getting our emergency radio out. It is not just for hurricanes anymore. It is for a possible nuclear strike.
And we don't have the funds that we need to prepare, protect, and preserve our civilian population if this really happens. You know, you had Laura Snyder (ph) on a little bit beforehand, and I showed here around, there are a few places with the fallout shelter sign left. They are faded and they're not really functional shelters anymore. People don't know where they can go to survive the -- not just the impact, but if you're in the impact zone, you won't survive. It is about surviving the fallout.
[14:30:10] With the technology that they supposedly have that they are able to hit what they're aiming at and it comes in through reentry, you're looking at an 8 mile diameter blast. But the fallout, this is my whole area here on Oahu, it would be devastating. And there are no fallout shelters.
SAVIDGE: What will the follow up be from the people of Hawaii now afterwards? Who are they going -- I don't want to lay blame because of course you have to have a system in place to warn people.
LOPRESTI: Yes, sir.
SAVIDGE: But it is a dose of reality that no one really expected today I don't think.
LOPRESTI: No, of course not. They are going to want answers, and I want answers. And I've been trying to get through like I said Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. I have not yet been able to get through yet. And I want to know, like the gentleman who was speaking before I was on, how the heck does this happen because it should be a hard and internal system that is not hackable that requires an actual click of a mouse or push of a button to put this alert out.
And also, by the way, it should be just as easy to send out the false alarm thing, and it wasn't done for 38 minutes by my clock. People will want to know where the shelters are, and we have to tell them there aren't in because we stopped that program during the cold war. And frankly, we need federal government assistance to help re-identify buildings that can survive, where people can survive a fallout.
And I heard on another station some tourists were all shuttled down to a parking garage which is a great location to take people. But it took them, what did this say, there was 15 minutes and they were all walk down the street. That 15 minutes, that is when you get struck, and it has to be faster than that. If you're going to take shelter you don't want to be in the middle of the street when this hits. You want to already be in shelter. So it's a great opportunity for a drill.
SAVIDGE: In the worst kind of way.
LOPRESTI: In the worst kind of way.
SAVIDGE: Sir, thank you very much for joining us.
If you are just tuning in, there was an error message that was sent out to the people of Hawaii both on text and social media warning them of an incoming ballistic missile, and people acted upon that message because it said this is not a drill. You were just listening to one account. This was repeated over and over across the island for 38 agonizing minutes. People were not given an official response to say this was done in error.
Sara Sidner has just been speaking to the governor of Hawaii. Sara, what did you get? SIDNER: So the question to him was how did this happen, and that is
what everybody wants to know. He always did mention that not only was a text sent out, but there were those -- and we're all familiar with that when the television and the radio beeps out that sound that this is an emergency alert, that also happened.
And so he is saying, look, I am down at the emergency management area where this all happened. There was a shift change, the governor said, and during that shift change, it was a routine shift change, someone accidently -- and this is how he put it -- pressed the wrong button, and that sent out the alert not only to cellphones but also the emergency alert to television stations as well as the radio stations.
They immediately tried to get on the phone with the radio and television stations to tell them that this was a false alarm, but it took a while for them to deal with the text as well. I think there was also reaction because of course he himself did not know whether this was real or not. So he took it upon himself to go down to the emergency management with Vern Miyagi who is the administrator and try to sort out what exactly was going on.
Now, they do realize this has caused confusion, this has caused fear. They are trying on to get to the bottom of how this happened and trying to figure out how to make sure that it never happens again. But they have been proactive in the fact that they have been testing, they are the first state in the country to test their sirens, which, by the way they have not used since the end of the cold war. So we're talking, you know, 20, 30 years ago. And at this point, they're saying look, yes, they have egg on their face, this should not have happened, but they are trying to figure out what to do in case and to be prepared in case there is such an attack.
[10:35:00] And you know that globally what is happening with our president, the president of the United States, and Kim Jong-un of North Korea, that tension has ratcheted up. But they indeed started looking at this several months before things got as intense as they have, for example when the fire and fury comment was made by President Trump. I happened to be inside of that bunker, and the reaction inside the bunker was oh, my goodness. So, you know, the danger is of course and what everyone has been talking about when tensions get high, sometimes mistakes are made. But this they said was, look, someone pressed literally pressed the wrong button.
SAVIDGE: So just to be clear, then the governor seems to be explaining that in was not some kind of hack, this was not an instance like that.
SAVIDGE: This was actually a human error of some kind.
SIDNER: Exactly. He said it was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the changeover of a shift and an employee pushed the wrong button. That is exactly how he put it.
SAVIDGE: Wow. Did the governor say people may have been injured, emergency responders had to kick into gear? Did he say anything about that, because you know, that's what you fear?
SIDNER: No, no. At this point -- and of course they are still getting information coming in. But they have no reports of people being injured or anything like that. But you did also hear from Matt LoPresti who is like a lot of people just don't know what do. That is the very reason why Hawaii decided to try and start educating people. And they have been doing this, by the way, for the past several months, trying to educate people on what to do and where to go if they are outside of that impact zone. The impact zone, you're not going to survive. But outside of that impact zone, they believe that about 95 plus percent of people in Hawaii if they were attacked in a nuclear attack would survive. And what they are trying to get in people's heads is if there is fallout, for example, there is a way to survive it.
A lot of people died in the Hiroshima from fallout, not from the initial impact. So there is a lot going on in Hawaii trying to deal with this issue. But this false alarm certainly doesn't help. One the one hand it scared people. On the other hand, it does grab people's attention and make them realize that perhaps they do need to look at their emergency plans.
SAVIDGE: Fallout of fear now is the big concern. All right, Sara Sidner, keep digging for us. We'll take a break and be back with more of our coverage in a moment.
SAVIDGE: Hello, I'm Martin Savidge. Breaking news now. If you're just joining us, last hour an erroneous alert went out by text message and social media. We're also hearing it went out over the emergency broadcast system in the state of Hawaii warning people to take cover because of an imminent missile strike, and the message said this is not a drill. Again, that was sent out in error.
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard tweeted this out last hour, "Hawaii, this is a false alarm. There is no incoming missile to Hawaii. I have confirmed with officials there is no incoming missile. And 38 minutes later, a correction was sent alerting everyone it was a false alarm.
We have a team of reporters and analysts that are following this. We should note that for a long period, the people of Hawaii agonized, many of them actually took action to try on protect their families in various ways to get into some kind of shelter. Let me start by bringing in CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. And Juliette, we learned a couple things from Sara Sidner and her conversation with the governor. One, they don't think it's a hack. It appears to be human error. And also that the emergency broadcast system was in fact triggered by this.
KAYYEM: Yes, I hadn't heard that yet. And we're certainly not seeing it anywhere else, that that would be consistent with what was likely happening. Not surprising it is happening on a Saturday morning because when you do these drills, they generally don't want it to be when something else is happening, what we call the reverse 911 communications drill. They are most likely were testing the capacity of the emergency
management system, could it actually push out information and how does it work. That is normal and is actually good.
But two things, Martin, I do want to say. The first is, with all due respect to others who have been on the air, I just want to make it clear, I feel like it is my responsibility, the threat level has not changed. This is nerve-racking and scary, but we should be careful about the bigger issue of North Korea, which is fundamentally a mistake.
And then turning to the second thing. This was a mistake. Mistakes happen. But what is not acceptable at this stage an hour later is that there has been no person who has come out, explained what happened, and give confidence to people in Hawaii that they can have confidence in the emergency alert system. My bigger fear, we can complain about mistakes all the time, someone may need to get fired, but what I'm more worried about is confidence in the alert system that deals with more than nuclear war, right? We have other threats in Hawaii, tsunamis and others, so you want people to have confidence in that system.
So still waiting, Hawaii. It would be good to see someone come out and explain, you know, so that people can begin to understand what happened without rumors or politicizing it at this stage.
SAVIDGE: Right, because of course it would be irresponsible if the governor or the government of Hawaii were not taking steps to warn or try to protect its people. Unfortunately the wrong message got sent today.
CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott is here with us now. And Elise, from your perspective watching all of this unfold, what are you hearing?
[14:45:05] LABOTT: Well, a lot of concern right now in Washington, Martin. The FBI, DHS, FEMA were all following this very closely. As we said, there was a concern that there could have been a hack. Obviously the governor trying to allay those fears and saying it was human error, but if you look at the amount of time that it took for the state of Hawaii to be able to correct this, 37 minutes is a very long time. And that gives a lot of -- to adversaries watching around the world that could be testing the U.S. response to a crisis such as this, that gives them, you know, a window into how the U.S. responds in this kind of thing.
So not only were the people of the state of Hawaii, you know, very concerned, and it took them 38 minutes to, you know, be able to stand down, other nations are watching this. And that is why not only was the actual message that was sent out very concerning, but the fact that Hawaii was not able to correct it in such a long time, that is also a concern because the state of Hawaii gets their information from U.S. military agencies such as Pacific Command, NORAD, U.S. Strategic Command, who these are the ones, as we've been saying, are the ones that have the detection and the assets to see an incoming missile. You saw Pacific Command come out within minutes and say there is no ballistic missile threat. You have to wonder why the state of Hawaii was not able to get that information out that quickly.
SAVIDGE: Right, that definitely is a concern, the chain of command and chain of communication.
I want go to go quickly now to CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez. He is actually in Florida following the president down there. Boris, what are you hearing from White House officials?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Literally just moments ago, we got a response from the White House to our questions about where the president was precisely, what he was doing when this false alarm alert was sent out. The White House responding to our request for comments, writing, quote, "The president has been briefed on the state of Hawaii's emergency management exercise. This was purely a state exercise."
They are not responding to many of our questions here, specifically how the president responded to news that this false alarm was sent out. If he reached out to anyone at the Pentagon or his National Security Council or if there was any kind of security plan put into place. CNN was able to confirm that at the time the president was at Trump National Golf Course. He has since returned to Mar-a-Lago.
But there are no answers yet from the White House as to what the president's initial response was, who he was with at the time at the golf course. We know the president travels typically with a military aide that has security plans in place in case there were some sort of emergency while the president was traveling. Also the president is never far from the nuclear football, and all sorts of, again, contingencies to be able to respond to a situation like this. No comment from the White House on that though we've asked multiple times. They referred our questions to the Department of Defense. We've also reached out to the National Security Council, but they have yet to respond, Martin.
SAVIDGE: Boris, was there any visual indication of the change of security posture around the president, around the golf course, around the area?
SANCHEZ: None at all whatsoever, Martin. Our cameras did spot the president earlier today at the golf course, but it was unclear, again, who he was with or if he was actually even golfing at the time. Still not a lot of clarity from the White House here on what exactly the president's response was to this, what he was doing, whether or not any plans were laid out or if there was any kind of mobilization of security at the time. But we are going to continue pressing to get answers, Martin.
SAVIDGE: And we appreciate that greatly. The statement now saying that the president has been briefed on the situation in Hawaii. A false alarm this was triggered out there. Boris, thank you very much. We'll check back later.
Let's go back to CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem. We should explain to people that of course one of the reasons Hawaii is on edge is because of the reality of the world in which we are living, and that is the concern about North Korea. This alert system is probably, what, more advanced in the state of Hawaii because of the fact that they truly are a potential target as opposed to the rest of the nation they is still wondering if North Korea can reach?
KAYYEM: Right. So it would be based both on its threat -- or its vulnerability in the Pacific, and then also tsunami threats which when I was in government were always a concern because of earthquake or seismic activity in the ocean.
I should say Hawaii is obviously responsible for Hawaii. There is a FEMA presence in Hawaii, a federal presence as well as the military presence. And what's important to note is because of the delay between the time that they sent the alert out, which, once again, is totally right to do.
[14:50:00] The language was wrong, it should have had "test" in it and draft or whatever else. But it is right to test the systems all the time especially because of the threat that Hawaii feels right now. But that alert that went out was not formally retracted for over 40 minutes.
In between, because of that silence, that is when you saw the military, NORAD, others, Pacific Command come in and say no, no, no, it is a mistake, just to make sure no one behaves in any way based on false information.
So I'm just going to come back to the same point. It is all about confidence in the systems that alert the public. That is what our security and safety are about. You know, this is why people die in hurricanes because they don't listen to evacuation orders because the one before was wrong. You have to have people have confidence in the system. And I just -- it's inexplicable to me at this stage that we have not seen someone from Hawaii emergency management come out and just, even if it is just what here's happened and here is someone who can questions from the media, people want to know that they're on it.
SAVIDGE: Juliette, let me just interrupt and ask you this. If we heard the governor tell Sara Sidner wrong button pushed during shift change. Does that make sense to you?
KAYYEM: So here's the thing. Each system is going to be different. It does not make sense to me, but I'm also on CNN right now so I don't want to sort of have -- I follow Twitter, so I don't want people to have a lot of conspiracy theories coming out. A mistake was clearly made. Normally you have sort of the equivalent of dual system -- I am not going to try to pronounce it -- in which you would have a redundancy in the system. In other words, you press the button and it says are you sure you want to send this alert out. And you press it again. Every system of communication in the military and in homeland security would have that. Maybe someone wasn't paying attention or not knew. That is the first thing.
The second is, just the second thing that went out, it has got to come back through the same communication channels because the people who received it are the ones who are going to be following it. SAVIDGE: All right, Juliette, let me stop you there just for a minute
because I do want to get to Steve Moore. He is a man who knows these systems. Steve, does the explanation the governor gave, wrong button, shift change, make sense?
MOORE: No. And by the way, Juliette knows these systems very well too. I don't mean to take away from that. But Murphy's Law, what can go wrong will go wrong. You cannot allow a system to be set up that will allow this kind of mistake. If a button can be pushed at shift change, it seems like every shift change a certain button was pushed, if the wrong button could be pushed and send this information out, it's an unacceptable system.
And Juliette is right, we cannot impact negatively the confidence in the system. When you do these kind of things, you just damage the entire system. So what has to happen now is Hawaii has to come out and explain to the people what happened. Then why it won't happen again so that they can restore the confidence in this. You can't allow Murphy to run your system.
SAVIDGE: No, 38 minutes though, Juliette, is a staggering amount of time before someone says hey, it is not real.
KAYYEM: That is. And that is why you saw the military step in just to make sure that no one was acting on wrong information. And normally these systems are also self-corrective, or you can follow up on them really quickly. Those of us who live in areas that get hurricanes or blizzards, you're constantly getting these updates. I don't know if panic ensued in the offices, you know, they realized they made the mistake, they watched CNN, and they are waiting. But it is unacceptable at this stage.
And so those of us in public safety or policing understand mistakes happen during crises or when you're testing systems, that is actually why you test them, but acknowledging the mistake and coming out is just really important at this stage.
I think -- and I just want to say one last time, this was scary to a lot of people, but let's just be careful about what didn't -- or just be clear about what didn't happen. Nothing has changed on the threat. So we just have to be -- just be clear about that because we just have to have our heads back on and sort of recognize thankfully that this was a mistake, but doesn't change any of the geopolitical calculations that people will use in an instance like this.
SAVIDGE: All right, point well taken. Thank you both very much for joining me.
[14:55:00] And to reiterate, a false alarm sent to the people in Hawaii of an incoming ballistic missile. And 38 minutes went by before the public was officially notified it was not true. Fear did spread on the island. We have not heard of injuries or any kind of fallout from it, but you can bet that families were terrified for a substantial amount of time.
We will still continue to work and find out exactly what went wrong and why. I am Martin Savidge of CNN. Thank you very much for joining me. Ana Cabrera picks up our breaking news coverage right after this quick break.