Friday, November 19, 2004

Grass Not Mowed? Call the FBI

This article is damn scary. Check out some excerpts, but read the whole thing:

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov 15, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Five government anti-terrorism agents arrived at the door of Nancy Swift's modest home in this northern Virginia suburb last August, where Swift lives and rents out some rooms. They threatened her with a subpoena. They dispatched agents to her office to ask about her. They took away her garbage in the trunks of their cars, and they questioned one of her housemates.

It all happened, apparently, because a neighbor called authorities about one of Swift's tenants in the house, a young Middle Eastern man who had other Middle Eastern friends visit one holiday weekend. The neighbor also turns Swift in to the county government when her grass gets too long.
Swift and another former housemate from that time, Judy Horan, said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Robert Poole threatened Swift with a subpoena, which he never produced.

"He said, 'I am so glad you are being agreeable ... because you know, I have a grand jury subpoena for you,'" Horan recounted. He said, "'I have it right here. But I don't think I'm going to have to use it because you are both being very agreeable.'"

Swift said Poole told her that if she did not cooperate, she "would have to spend the day with the grand jury."

"Without asking for permission, they took all of the garbage from outside," Horan said. "It just felt very strange to me because I had been going through personal papers and things. I don't shred anything. I had never felt anything like that as an American citizen."

"It felt awful," Horan said. "I felt very intimidated and that I had no right to privacy at all. And I felt guilty because of the way they treated us. I felt like I was being interrogated. It was just the attitude."
Swift said she has no idea if her house has been searched or her phones have been tapped. The USA Patriot Act makes it easier for agents to do both without notifying citizens. Swift said that Poole, the ATF agent, did ask her to use a regular telephone line as opposed to a cell phone when she called his office.
She also asked her neighbor if he had made the report to the authorities. The retired colonel, who has reported her to county authorities when her grass is too long, told Swift he reported her tenant to authorities because other young Middle Eastern men had visited him in the basement apartment one holiday weekend, according to Swift.
Soon, Swift arrived home for lunch. She had just missed the three agents who had arrived at her work, according to Swift's boss. That was when Poole said he had a subpoena and the two housemates had better cooperate.

"They said I could not take any notes," Horan said. "They said they wanted to interview us separately. They said, 'You are not a lawyer, are you?' And I said, 'No, I am a school teacher.'"
Swift's former boss said Swift is no terrorist. But the supervisor worries that the high-profile office visit from federal investigators has caused people to talk behind Swift's back. "I do have concerns that this might affect her and affect others through associating with her -- that it will affect her future, whether or not she is aware of it. Her actions may always be judged in that light," the supervisor said.

The supervisor grew up in the Balkans, under Communism, and the events felt eerily familiar. "This whole experience frightfully reminded me of that," she said. "It reminded me how easily, in a certain climate, people use their imagination and then start digging through people's lives."

Swift said the experience left her jarred. And afraid. She said she has nightmares about it. ""I don't feel like the Constitution protects people any more," Swift said. "And I don't have anything to hide."

Now, seriously - try to imagine what happened to this lady. Have you ever been questioned by the FBI? Have you ever been threatened with a subpoena? Have you ever had 5 FBI agents come bangnig on your door, looking all sorts of pissed off, asking you a lot of tough questions, threatening you with 'a day in front of the grand jury' if you don't comply?

Well, you've heard of a 'grand jury' before, but you're not sure what the heck it means. From watching the OJ case and others on Court TV, you're pretty sure that the grand jury is something you want nothing to do with it. So, you're scared shitless, and you say 'whatever boss, whatever you want, just don't take me downtown'. That's scare tactics, and it's bullshit, but it's the reality of our Republican-contolled government right now. We all need to know our rights, and we need to get ready to enforce them. The police state is coming, and it will march on if we don't proactively fight it.

If you think you know what it's like to be questioned by the FBI, I'd ask you to think again. I've never been questioned by the federales, but I have been questioned forcefully by a regular police officer. It's not that fun, and it can be very intimidating - especially if you have any idea how much power cops have. And that's when you are completely innocent of any wrongdoing! You wonder why false confessions happen? It's called police intimidation - check it out sometime.

And they sent agents to her work - to her office. Can you imagine that shit? I mean, we're in post-9/11 territory, and all of a sudden there are several FBI agents showing up at your work - to ask questions - about you. Bet that will make you a bunch of new friends, and will go over real well when your employer thinks about promoting you, or when they need to lay some people off. And her former boss (why is that former?) says this is what it was like under Communist rule, where he grew up, in the Balkans! This guy is like 'been there, done that. same shit, different country'. Or, maybe not so different?

America the Police State. Know your rights. The ACLU has a position paper called 'Freedom is Why We're Here' (PDF). Start there, then get yourself a card.

I'm actually going to try to find Nancy Swift and find out if she's a card-carrying member of the ACLU! How you like them apples?!

UPDATE: Actually tried to Google Swift, but found nothing, so dropping it. I hope someone else contacted her.

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