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Posted by on Feb 18, 2010 in Breaking News | 33 comments

Pilot Angry at IRS Crashes Plane Into Austin Office Building

Deja vu: a plane (this time a small one) crashes into an office building (this time in Austin). And although officials don’t say it was terrorism, it is now emerging that the pilot was furious at the IRS so he drove his plane into an office building that had IRS offices:

An Austin, Texas, resident with an apparent grudge against the Internal Revenue Service set his house on fire Thursday and then crashed a small plane into a building housing an IRS office with nearly 200 employees, officials said.

Federal authorities identified the pilot of the Piper Cherokee PA-28 as Joseph Andrew Stack, 53.

Two people were injured and one person was missing, local officials said. There were no reported deaths.

A message on a Web site registered to Stack appears to be a suicide note.

“If you’re reading this, you’re no doubt asking yourself, ‘Why did this have to happen?’ ” the message says. “The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time.”

In the lengthy, rambling message, the writer rails against the government and, particularly, the IRS.

The building into which the airplane crashed is a federal IRS center with 199 employees.

The text of his note IS HERE (PDF).

You can follow a lot of the weblog comment by going HERE. Here’s a CNN report on the note:


Austin Police have confirmed this was not terrorism:

And how have most of the details about this case come out?

The answer: on the Internet, NPR notes:

The immediate law enforcement response to the apparent kamikaze-style plane crash into an Austin, Texas office building occupied by the Internal Revenue Service shows the difficulty police have in controlling investigations in the Internet age.

At a media briefing earlier today, an Austin law enforcement official declined to give reporters any information on the plane’s pilot.

But the name of Joseph Andrew Stack, an Austin software engineer, was already spreading virally across the Internet. And it was clear from reporters’ questions that they had many of those details. On the web, Stack was identified as the owner of the Piper Cherokee that crashed into the building and the owner of a house that was set afire earlier Thursday.

Not long after that, an apparent suicide note from Stack started going viral on the web.

It was easy enough to learn that the embeddedarts.com website was registered to someone named Joseph Stack. The website has now been taken down by a web hosting company at the request of the FBI.

But the horse was already well out of the barn.

….Law enforcement has always had to contend with the media pursuing information and making it public before police wanted it released.

But the way the information Joseph Andrew Stack is a reminder that the Internet has only accelerated that dissemination process and added crowdsourcing to the mix, making it virtually impossible for law enforcement to control the flow of information in their investigations.

Meanwhile, there is this bit of disturbing news: some Facebook groups are in essence declaring Stack a hero, Mediaite reports:

Given the state of Internet trolling, it was probably inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any less disturbing: since the news this morning that Joseph Andrew Stack was the pilot of the small plane that crashed into the Echelon Building in Austin, Texas, which housed almost 200 IRS employees, a number of Facebook groups have sprouted up in praise of Stack. Among them: “Joseph Andrew Stack, we salute thee,” “The Philosophy of Joe Stack,” and “The Joe “Take My Pound Of Flesh” Stack Anti-IRS Fan Page.”

These three groups cover a spectrum of approval for Joe Stack’s actions.

“The Philosophy of Joe Stack” comes out against the attack, but sympathizes: “This page is NOT to glorify his actions, but simply to say that after reading his note, we can agree with and sympathise with Joe Stacks’ thoughts.”

“Joseph Andrew Stack, we salute thee” is against violence against other people, but says that the attacks were about “prov[ing] a point: “We hope that everyone is okay and accounted for. It is our belief that his intention was not to hurt anyone, but to prove a point.”

Finally, “The Joe “Take My Pound Of Flesh” Stack Anti-IRS Fan Page” is silent on the ethical ramifications of the attack, and merely posits that his acts will be distorted: “Welcome to the Joe Stack fan site. Dedicated to a man, frustrated as so many of us are with our corrupt, inept government, sacrificed his life to make a statement. Will history see him as a patriot or terrorist? Depends on who is doing the writing.”

The answer: if he was not a terrorist, he was mentally unbalanced and anything but a hero. And that will be the answer of all responsible political types of both parties and (we are sure) of normally flame-throwing talk show hosts as well.

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