Blogger Visited by Secret Service
A Word to the Wise
In the bizarre category, a Blogger has posted her nightmarish ordeal with the Men in Black, an event spurred by a post she made criticizing George Bush just prior to the Presidential Election.
The offending post has since been removed (apparently to spare others similar harassment, or perhaps to conceal the evidence). But you can see her full accounting of events (below) as a word to the wise.
The Secret Service called on Annie at 9:45 PM and quickly deduced that she wasn’t a threat to National Security, but rather just a girl living at home with her mum. Nevertheless they made certain that she got a file at the FBI including her photo, email, and medical records.
The agents told her they had received a report from another LiveJournal Blogger who had been reading Annie’s site, and were only following up.
The tale is a lesson to us all. And that is what happens on the internet can and will come back to bite you on the buttocks. We’ve all seen it time and time again on the internet and sordid emails - but now you’d better watch what you blog when it comes to political commentary. The second lesson is that no matter how cool and geeky the community - there will always be someone ready to rain on your parade. And the third lesson is… Moms - don’t let your boys grow up to be cowboys or leave your daughters unattended at the computer, ’cause Big Brother is a-watchin’!
Annie commented that she didn’t feel her civil rights were infringed, and that the “SEKKRIT SERVICE” agents were simply doing their jobs. Others however have suggested that there are plenty more jobs they could be doing, like perhaps finding Osama Bin Laden et al.
You can read the full text of Annie’s ordeal below or at at her blog. Be warned though - some may find it offensive.
In her own words:
“a word to the wise
For all my LJ-loving friends, this is a word of warning, a word to the wise, and a word of utter exhaustion after the wringer I’ve been put through in the last twenty-four hours.
A couple of weeks ago, following the last presidential debate, I said some rather inflammatory things about George W. Bush in a public post in my LJ, done in a satirical style. We laughed, we ranted, we all said some things. I thought it was a fairly harmless (and rather obvious) attempt at humor in the face of annoyance, and while a couple of people were offended, as is typical behavior from me, I saw something shiny and forgot about it, thinking that the whole thing was over and done and nothing else would come of what I said.
I was wrong.
At 9:45 last night, the Secret Service showed up on my mother’s front door to talk to me about what I said about the President, as what I said could apparently be misconstrued as a threat to his life. After about ten minutes of talking to me and my family, they quickly came to the conclusion that I was not a threat to national security (mostly because we are the least threatening people in the entire world) and told me that they would not recommend that any further action be taken with my case. However, I do now have a file with the FBI that includes my photograph, my e-mail address, and the location of my LJ. This will follow me around for the rest of my life, regardless of the fact that the Secret Service knows that I am not a threat.
Obviously, I cannot link to the original LJ post that I made, because I have removed it from my LJ to protect myself and those who commented in that thread from receiving any further visits from the FBI. I apologized for the miscommunication, though I did *not* apologize for voicing my opinion of George W. Bush. I will never apologize for speaking my mind. I will, however, apologize when I say something wrong way and for unintentionally offending/threatening someone, because I am an extremely nonviolent person.
After having consulted an attorney to make sure that speaking about what happened to me will not incur another visit from the Secret Service, I am making this public post to tell you all several things:
1. Once and for all, I want to state for the record, again: I am a nonviolent person. As I told the Sekkrit Service last night, I don’t know how to operate a gun. I’ve never had any military training. I don’t even know how to throw a punch. I failed gym. I duck and cover when threatened with violence. I’ve said before that I could never join the military because I would totally start crying and wuss out and be the worst soldier ever, not because I want to sabotage the government, but because I’m just not cut out for it. Totally respect anyone and everyone who does, but me, personally? You don’t WANT me in your army. In fact, you want me on the OTHER GUY’S team, because I will undoubtedly fuck things up. I’m a klutz.
2. Actually, #1 is so important that I’m repeating it again: Despite my occasional liberal ranting, I am a NONVIOLENT INDIVIDUAL. I would NEVER encourage others to harm another person, let alone the President of the United States, and I would never actually wish any serious bodily harm to come to him. I may wish other things (like I wish he would get thrown out of office in disgrace, or I wish that he would learn how to pronounce the word “nuclear”, or I wish that he’d totally go apeshit on television and ruin himself by saying things like “RAAAAH I JUST SNORTED A BUNCH OF COKE AND I HATE OUR COUNTRY AND I BOUGHT MY PRESIDENCY RAAAAH!!!!11″), but I would NEVER wish bodily harm on another human being. It’s just not my way.
3. What happened to me CAN happen to you. This is really the main reason why I am posting this publicly. I WANT you to make an example out of me. I want you to tell your friends to be CAREFUL about what they say on the Internet, because someone IS reading it and it CAN come back and bite you on the ass. And as nice as the Sekkrit Service dudes were (and honestly, they WERE very nice – we even gave them coffee and shit, and they laughed with us and were generally very cool about the entire situation), you don’t want them coming to your house. It’s just not very fun. Because …
4. What you say on the Internet can affect your real life. Due to what I said online, I now have an FBI file. And due to certain policies that a certain administration has instituted, I could now be placed on the government’s “no-fly” list, could be subject to random searches of private property without my knowledge or permission, and could be subject to wiretapping surveillance. I doubt that any of these things will happen (except with the “no-fly” list – according to my attorney, that’s a strong possibility and is something we are looking into), and I could just be being paranoid, but after the Secret Service showed up on my doorstep, I think I’m entitled to a little paranoia. Because shit, I never thought THAT would happen, either. So be aware.
5. What happened to me happened because someone on LJ reported me to the FBI. This is not idle speculation on my part. The Secret Service agent told me as much last night – the reason why they were there was because the FBI received a report about my post. It was not found through Google or through keyword searches. It was found through someone on LJ. This is just … mind-boggling and ridiculously wanky. I have my suspicions about who may have turned me in, but I’m not going to voice them because, well, what’s been done is done. That being said, for anyone else out there who wants to get snarky and report others to the FBI, I’m telling you this right now: because of what happened to me, I am now going to have an FBI file following me around for the rest of my life. This may cause future problems for me in several different aspects of my life, and that kind of damage is permanent. So, yes, I am upset by the knowledge that someone on LJ would do that to me, but it teaches a valuable (if sad) lesson: you cannot trust LiveJournal, and you cannot trust fandom.
6. Because of what happened to me, I will now have to make changes to the way I use my LJ. I have always been very open on LiveJournal. I have never locked posts unless they directly dealt with my RL, and I have never deleted comments that others have made in my LJ. However, in order to protect myself (and YOU) legally, I am going to have to start carefully monitoring comments made in my LJ. I do not think the FBI will continue to monitor this journal, but I refuse to take chances with my life. So consider this a word of warning: If you make a comment in my journal that could in any way be misconstrued as a threat against any high-ranking official, I will have to delete it. It’s nothing personal. It’s just self-protection.
7. In spite of what happened to me, I will not lock any political posts I make, nor will I stop making political posts. This is important. I will not allow any form of government to make me afraid of voicing my own opinion. The way that I voice my opinion will certainly be impacted by what happened, but I will not stop talking altogether. And neither should you. I don’t want to discourage my friends from speaking their minds. I simply want to tell y’all that you have to be ridiculously careful about how you do it, because otherwise, you can get into trouble.
I did make a locked and filtered post last night after all this first happened, because, well, I needed to talk about it. And I want to thank everyone who commented in that thread and gave me support and WTF and information, because it was EXTREMELY helpful and comforting in a time of great stress and OMGWTFBBQ THE SEKKRIT SERVICE CAME TO MY HOUSE OMG
Now, at this juncture, I am not planning on making any kind of formal complaint with the A.C.L.U., as some on my friendslist have suggested. I did not feel that my civil rights were violated by the visit, and I did not feel intimidated by the Secret Service agents. I have, however, contacted an attorney simply because I want to ensure that my rights are protected in the future, and because the Secret Service were less than clear about what exactly can be construed as a threat and what would be done with my FBI file and any medical records they requested. I am not making any efforts to contact the media, and I doubt that I will in the future.
I want people to be aware that what they say on their LJ can cause problems for them in RL, because I love all of you and I don’t wish what happened to me on you. You are more than welcome to discuss this post in your journal, and you are more than welcome to link to it from your journal. If you want to post this in a community, go for it. Hell, if you want to put me on fandom_wank, it’s probably not a bad idea. The wankers would have a FIELD DAY with this. I know I would. Please, feel free to make an example out of me. So share this with your friends. Tell them what can happen. It’s beneficial to all of us to know that this can happen, and hopefully, it’ll prevent something like this from happening again.”