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's efforts in Austin on Thursday are similar to what police did in Huntsville, Ala. after the University of Alabama shootings last Friday. They declined to identify the alleged shooter, biology professor Amy Bishop.
And that was even though her name and even a photo of her being placed in a police car were being widely circulated on the Internet.
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.
Police are constrained of course by the need to conduct their criminal investigations in ways that won't compromise their probes and that will stand up in court, which explains their cautiousness .
Still, when the information is all over the Internet, it makes the attempt of law enforcement agencies to dole out information seem almost quaint.