The Obama administration decided the government was too poor to alert the nation to child abductions, but flush enough to encourage children to eat more salad and swing a hula-hoop.
Until about noon EDT on Monday, amberalert.gov, the website that alerts Americans to cases of abducted children, was out of commission. Meanwhile, letsmove.gov—First Lady Michelle Obama’s website for encouraging kids to make better food choices—was alive and kicking.
While it was unavailable, the Amber Alert site displayed the message: “Due to the lapse in federal funding, this Office of Justice Programs (OJP) website is unavailable.” Other government agencies, including the National Park Service, displayed similar messages on their websites following the government shutdown on Oct. 1. But shortly after the media noticed the Amber Alert outage, the site came back online.
A Department of Justice spokesman told the Huffington Post that administration officials decided to put federal websites behind a firewall, making them inaccessible to the public, “so that they couldn’t be hacked while the IT people were on furlough.”
Evidently they weren’t worried about hackers attacking the Let’s Move website. Hacking fears also didn’t stop the new Obamacare exchanges from coming online Oct. 1, despite widespread and expected technical glitches. The disparity between the website shutdowns highlights a complaint that has dogged the Obama administration for the last week: Critics say the White House is trying to make the shutdown unnecessarily noticeable by barricading normally open monuments and blocking access to data and information.
Responding on Twitter to questions about the Amber Alert’s downtime, Department of Justice (DOJ) spokesman Brian Fallon said “At no point has Amber Alert system been interrupted during shutdown. To prevent confusion, informational DOJ site has been restored.”
The national alert system named for Amber Hagerman, kidnapped and murdered in Texas in 1996, is also an acronym for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.” It received funding during the Bush administration in 2003 as part of a broad child-protection bill, according to CNN.
By 2008, the DOJ started creating text-message alerts that participating phone companies could send to their customers. It began with an “opt-in” program, but starting this year, most new phones come automatically activated to receive the text alerts accompanied by a high-pitched buzzing noise, according to the Washington Examiner.
Amber Alerts also transmit through email, radio, and television.