David Codrea, through his indispensable War on Guns blog, has been covering the investigation and trial of Ryan Horsley, an Idaho gun dealer persecuted by the BATFU for minor clerical errors in his gun sales records.
At the conclusion of Horsley's trial, a Federal "Judicial Security Inspector" approached Horsley with a message for Codrea.
Codrea picks up the story from there:
I understand you took Ryan Horsley aside at the conclusion of trial testimony and instructed him to advise me of the Court Security Improvement Act of 2007, specifically, "Inspector Meyer asked me to contact you in regards to posting any information with the intent to threaten, intimidate, or incite the commission of a crime of violence against that covered official... "
In other words, this:
`Sec. 119. Protection of individuals performing certain official duties
`(a) In General- Whoever knowingly makes restricted personal information about a covered official, or a member of the immediate family of that covered official, publicly available--
`(1) with the intent to threaten, intimidate, or incite the commission of a crime of violence against that covered official, or a member of the immediate family of that covered official; or
`(2) with the intent and knowledge that the restricted personal information will be used to threaten, intimidate, or facilitate the commission of a crime of violence against that covered official, or a member of the immediate family of that covered official,
shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.
`(b) Definitions- In this section--
`(1) the term `restricted personal information' means, with respect to an individual, the Social Security number, the home address, home phone number, mobile phone number, personal email, or home fax number of, and identifiable to, that individual;
`(2) the term `covered official' means--
`(A) an individual designated in section 1114; or
`(B) a grand or petit juror, witness, or other officer in or of, any court of the United States, or an officer who may be serving at any examination or other proceeding before any United States magistrate judge or other committing magistrate;
`(3) the term `crime of violence' has the meaning given the term in section 16; and
`(4) the term `immediate family' has the meaning given the term in section 115(c)(2).'.
Your message has been received loud and clear--along with your warning that you will not hesitate to come down and arrest anyone you suspect of violating this law. Before I give you my reply, I want to make it clear that my response is mine alone. Any retaliation is mine to face, and taking it out on the man who passed your message along at your direction will not be something you can now do outside of a brightly focused light.
That said, OK, I recognize bait when I see it. I'll bite. Here is my considered response. Now that you've snagged me, hang on tight.
First off, if you have anything to say to me, say it directly. Don't go presuming sovereign citizens are your personal messenger boys.
Second, how dare you?
Don't presume to have authority to impose any prior restraint on what I write. Don't presume to warn me about what you will or will not allow me to say.
For you to imply any of my work might be illegal is a vile slander and you know it--if it wasn't, I'd already be in custody (assuming I was allowed to survive the arrest). Hell, you even admitted as much, but qualified that while I hadn't broken any laws, people who comment on this blog might.
That ain't your call, either, Bub. Don't presume to tell my guests what they can say--I run this site, you don't. I don't moderate and pre-approve comments, so if you have a problem with that, take it up with Blogger, which provides this as a standard option.
I've made it clear on numerous occasions that I allow "comments except for those that are...something that could be legally perceived as a threat against a specific person other than myself..."
Those get removed. And I've even warned people against it.
I've also speculated that comments that may be perceived as threatening are invariably posted anonymously, and that trolls doing it could very well be agents provocateur attempting to bring discredit or worse to my site. Heck, they might even work for the DoJ--it's not like you guys don't hang out here at all hours.
But you apparently need to establish a plausible cover story. Let's see--the same mighty BATFU that sends armed invaders smashing into people's homes and businesses is just scared out of their jackboots over what's being said about them on... blogs, so they need to enlist a protector, that would be you, against "Homegrown terrorists".
That would be people like me?
I dunno, Dave. It seems more likely they don't have confidence Judge Lodge will arrive at the verdict they've invested--what--how many hundreds of thousands of dollars in(?)--so they're coming up with Plan B in case they don't get the vindictive satisfaction they crave?
And we know they don't like light being shined on their activities--hell, we knew that when they presumed to authorize whether or not reporters could be present when they conducted public business, and maintained that bloggers were not "Authorized Journalists."
For the record:
I've never threatened anyone nor encouraged anyone else to threaten any one. I don't threaten people.
I've never given out any specific identifiable information about any of the agents, inspectors or witnesses involved in this case.
Now we get to the word "intimidate" and boy, that's kind of like beauty, you know--in the eye of the beholder? I mean, that's kind of like the anti-gun loons who say they have a right to feel safe, like I have any control over how they react emotionally.
So with no watchdog press, and with this edict you're warning me about in practice, "intimidation" might be construed as taking of photographs of government agents in action who end up being witnesses. If this is now verboten, well, there's only one set of lights left to turn off: RKBA (look it up) bloggers.
Now I have on occasion meant to ridicule, like now, and even dare and defy, like..uh...now again.
So if you think you have grounds to arrest me for violating this new law you just had to issue an official warning on, if you think you can prove I'm out there doing anything illegal, immoral or fattening, well, y'all know where my taxes get sent to, so I don't think you'll have any problem finding me.
I think it more likely you're just engaging in one of those color of authority abuses to try to chill free speech. I think BATFU's tired of having their vindictive actions exposed and they wanted you to throw some fear out there to make it stop. Well, hell, why would you expect people who don't respect the Second Amendment to give a damn about the First?
Funny how unintended some consequences are, isn't it? Instead, here I am calling attention to things even louder. Say, do you think Judge Lodge will appreciate hearing about your ham-handedness in this? I'm going to write him and find out.
So here's the thing, Dave. If you want to take this further, just say the word. I won't talk with you on the phone unless I can record the conversation, or in person unless I have an attorney present, but you're free to email me back (dcodrea AT hotmail DOT com) as long as you know I'm going to post it at WarOnGuns. Aside from that, if you want to go even further and arrest me (and why would a US Marshal send me a warning that he was prepared to do just that if that wasn't the ultimate card in your hand?), I do hope you can conduct things peaceably, as I would have no intention of missing my day in court.
At the risk of sounding paranoid (right, BATFU fears people like me and my site visitors?), I want to establish a record that I will not physically resist. If anything transpires that says I did, it will be a lie.
Easy. I've got kids in my house.
So with all that out of the way, I guess there's nothing left to do but present you with this. I bit, so now it's your turn:
This warning on the part of a federal marshal is chilling, and it was intended to be. By making specific mention of not just this blog, but of you who comment on it, and by warning us against something we've never engaged in, it's pretty clear what the intent was here.
Unlike many bloggers, I write under my own name. I do so because better men than me pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor, and bequeathed to me a sacred inheritance. If I am to consider myself even minimally worthy of their great sacrifices, I can do no less than strive to do the same--albeit with full humility in acknowledging my comparative shortcomings.
But I knew when I got involved in 2A activism many years ago that doing it sincerely would involve potential legal repercussions--from defying the state of California on registering my property, to chiding the City of San Francisco on their elitist hypocrisy and lawlessness. I do this not because I'm self-destructive, but because these are the agents of the state who rely on fear to impose their will, and I'm more resentful of that than I am afraid.
Governments are instituted among men to secure the blessings of Liberty. People should not be afraid of their government. I want to help dispel that fear. And I can't do that if I'm hiding in the shadows. I can't encourage others to do that--which is what we need if we're ever to secure meaningful reforms.
So I long ago made the decision that my Internet activities would be an open book. What I have written cannot be erased--at least by me. The good marshal here is free to look at everything I've ever said on this site and elsewhere, and he'll not find a shred of evidence supporting his decision to warn me--and you, the WarOnGuns correspondents--against committing a federal crime.
It's the same with emails. Many of you have written me and know I always make a good faith attempt to write back. And yes, at times I've wondered if some of my unknown correspondents might be trying to get me to write something imprudent. I've not only never taken that bait, but I don't even use encryption--something I've been urged to do, but my instincts say I will be better able to defend myself if I can demonstrate I've never tried to hide anything.
Regulars here will note that this post is a lot longer than I usually write. I did it because this time--with the specific mention of willingness to make arrests on the part of a federal LEO, I know making a post like this will not only anger him, but will get me as close to the line as I can get--knowing full well that this may still inspire him to increase the pressure, instead of just going the hell away and leaving me the hell alone.
Without meaning to sound paranoid, if the fedgov did decide I'd crossed their line with this and sent someone out to enforce their new edict against me, what do you think the chances are they'd send out someone to the home of a known "gun extremist" to politely ring my doorbell and hand me papers?
I figure my best protection at this point is to either let them cow me into silence, in which case this post would never have been written--or else shine as much light and bang as many pots as I can in case they decide to follow through. That's what I'm doing.
The ball is now in their court.
The floor is now open for comments. Careful now, both in what you say here and in what you say if you choose to email Inspector Meyer. As with so much else, and as he has made abundantly clear, intimidation and threats are the sole province of "The Only Ones," and they will brook no competition.
And if anybody wants to make a copy of this post, just as insurance in case there are repercussions, go right ahead.
The hour is very, very late.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Update 3/17/08: JPFO nails it, as this excerpt reveals:
Judging from both their activities and their expressed attitudes over the years, BATFE's highest objective is to violate -- and to ultimately obliterate, under color of law -- the highest law of the land, the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights. This especially included the Second Amendment and now, apparently, they're going after the First Amendment, as well. This is an egregious affront to every enduring principle of American liberty.
It seems especially hypocritical when the anonymity -- and with it, the impunity -- that BATFE demands of its victims is contrasted with government's insistence that ordinary citizens be increasingly fingerprinted, retinal-photographed, DNA-recorded, stripped of their personal and financial privacy entirely, and affixed with electronic leashes of various kinds including the so-called "Real ID" system. Government has installed surveillance cameras everywhere -- some can even see through people's clothing -- and devices for peering through the walls of their homes in blatant contempt for the 4th and 5th Amendments.
And yet its agents strive to retain their anonymity and avoid responsibility for their acts. This reminds us of yet another morally questionable practice of many federal, state, and local police agencies: since when did American cops start wearing masks? Isn't it the bad guys who wear masks, Mr. Meyer? Aren't they properly anxious to conceal their identities to avoid responsibility for their criminal acts?
Could government's masks be revealing something about government?
There is no room, Mr. Meyer, for secret police in an open society. No gun-toting government employee should ever be allowed to appear in public in civilian clothing, but should be required instead to wear a distinctive uniform on the job, complete with his or her name and badge number in six-inch reflective letters on the back and in three-inch letters on the chest. It should be a felony for any "law enforcement officer" to conceal his or her face, even with protective headgear.
Understand that, as outlandish as that idea may seem right now, the more threatening agents of the government make themselves appear, the more frequent and brutal the operations they carry out, the more people whose rights they crush beneath their jackboots, the more reasonable the idea will seem to our increasingly frightened fellow citizens.
We strongly suggest, Mr. Meyer, that you obey the law, instead -- the real law, that is -- and either start enforcing the Bill of Rights exactly like the highest law of the land that it happens to be, or that you quit now and find some employment more appropriate to your talents...
Read the whole thing.
And remember the Boy Scout motto.