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June 12, 2013

Secret Service Raids Home of Twitter User for... Critical Tweets About Obama?


I do not know the reason for the Secret Service interrogation. I know the Twitterer himself, Tom Francois, says this of it:

On April 11, 2013, he heard relentless pounding on his door shouts of "Police!" The officers introduced themselves as members of The Secret Service and asked if they could "take a look around."

Since Tom had nothing to hide (and he didn't want any return visits) - he complied fully with their request. He even signed a consent to search his premises AND an "Authorization To Review Medical and Mental Health Records!"

They asked Tom if he ever left his state or traveled to Washington, D.C.

One Agent asked Tom if he has any intentions of "whacking" the President." To which Tom replied- "Of course not. I wish him no harm. I disagree with his policies and actions and I make no bones about it. It's my First Amendment Right and I intend to exercise it."


The Secret Service had a thick FBI file- filled with screenshots of hundreds of posts. Said Tom, "I flat out told them 'I have NEVER threatened Obama's life! Yes, I despise him as you can plainly see, but I have that right!' They actually ADMITTED and agreed with me that I hadn't threatened Obama."

They had run a background check and discovered that Tom legally owned two guns- and they asked to see them. Tom showed them his firearms. They asked, "Are they loaded?" Tom replied in the affirmative. "What good are guns if they aren't loaded?"

So why harass Tom? "The Secret Service officers claimed that "they were concerned that since I have a large Twitter following, and the things I said could be acted upon by some nut case out there! What the hell? They turned my life upside down for THAT?"

I would suggest a strong dose of the 24 hour rule. This is such an enormous and frightening allegation it's especially critical to know the truth of it -- whether there is some understandable, permissible reason for the Secret Service interest, or whether there was not.

I'm attempting to get someone in a position of authority to take a look at this, and report to us whether we should be very worried right now, or whether this is something less.

I'm tempted to think "There is no way the Secret Service would do this" but until recently I thought there was no way the IRS would target the Tea Party, either.

Again, 24 hour rule.

A Couple of Cognitive Biases... One reason I've been a little skeptical of this NSA disclosure is the Summer of Sharks phenomenon -- that when a certain type of story is in the news (like the shark attacks in the summer before the 9/11 disaster), each new incidence of that type of story gets seized upon with greater interest and greater alarm that would otherwise attach to it.

That doesn't mean the NSA story is nothing. It means I'm just aware that this happens, and I'm on patrol against it. Maybe too much. I don't know. I still don't understand precisely what the NSA is doing (or even what the NSA claims it's doing, which is likely entirely different from what it's actually doing).

This new story is a Major Shark Attack but we don't really know the circumstances of the attack. We don't know much at all, really. We have one side of a story only.

Another cognitive bias, leaning the opposite way, is this: I sure hope this story is not true. Because if it is true, we have well and truly entered a truly dark and dangerous period of post-American history.

So as for now, I'm hoping. I'm hoping very strongly that this story is not true, and that the Secret Service is not raiding people on the theory that pungent political commentary may encourage a lunatic to do something violent, and thus pungent political commentary is now effectively a crime against the state.

I sure hope that's not the case.

Incidentally... The "" here is not the Washington Examiner. The latter is a real online newspaper. The former, the "," is... I'm not sure what it is, really. I have seen some egregiously dumb leftwing stories on there, and some dumb rightwing ones too.

I get the feeling it's a halfway thing between a "forum" (anyone can post) and a "newspaper" (genuine editorial oversight). I don't think anyone can post Whatever, but I don't think there's the sort of background checking that you'd generally expect in a "published story," either.

Honestly I don't know either way, but I wouldn't assume that it has a newspaper's editorial screening going on behind a story.

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posted by Ace at 02:58 PM

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