Blog, Now Federally Questioned
20.27.00 - Mark
About 4 o'clock an FBI agent knocked on my front door. Of course, and fortunately for me, I wasn't home. My Mom was and must have promptly freaked out when she saw the badge wallet. Shortly afterwards I got a call from the same FBI agent wanting to know if I would be willing to answer some questions, after figuring out why he wanted to meet me I agreed to show up in about half an hour, the first instinct was public spaces, but he asked if we could just do it at the police station. I guess I knew that if this was serious trouble they wouldn't be calling me so agreed to go to the station and about 30 minutes later, did.
The agent, whose name I forget, was easy to spot - not many people stand outside the police station in a good suit here. So after showing me his ID we stepped inside and he told me more about why he was here, it's the blog - which I already knew from the phone call, and more specifically this post.
Someone at Surry, came across this blog, I'm guessing it was a first time visit by someone completely unfamiliar with me - I have some vague guesses as to who, but am keeping them to myself. I'm not political in class, but I think most of my teachers understand the way I think, and that I'm pretty vocal about things I think are stupid and pointless - like HTML meta tags and apparently school policy. But back to whoever my mystery reader is, they were jolted by the post, an intended reaction, and I think that they may have reached for the phone a little fast. I think it bubbled up at Surry, and like any good round of telephone, the message got garbled. As I understand it, the concern at Surry was "someone is going to bomb the school," where it should have been "there's a potential problem with our security". So Person X calls administration, administration, probably having not read the post, calls the FBI. Who then come to me (which isn't the hardest thing to do -, my name, phone, email, address are all online, and easily accessible).
I might rant about how this is a waste of national resources, like I did just the other day, and trust me I still think it is, but I'm sympathetic to the agents. They're just doing the job. I think that if it was his call, he would have stayed at his brach office, but because it was brought in, it had to be investigated, so a 10 minute talk with me provides whomever with some reassurance that if some thing happens at Surry they can at least say they investigated this part of it, and can be however certain they're allowed to be that I'm not a terrorist. If anything, I now have a higher regard for three letter agencies, at least the FBI. I'm sure there's plenty of fault in the bureaucracy of all of it, but I'm not calling them on it, at least not today.
If I have a problem with anyone, it's Surry and whoever thought that my post was a a call for an attack. From what I've seen so far - and like I said, I haven't talked to anyone at the college yet - they just blew it. I'm expressing my free speech, and the FBI is doing their job that doesn't leave much on the chain. I'm nearly positive the school called in the FBI, and I know that they were fully cooperating with the FBI (the agent had my course schedule), and I know that the agent is getting back in touch with the school tomorrow. But why didn't they look at the "problem" a little closer.
I understand why the school would have trouble dealing with the situation, at least if I was a real threat, approach me and I might do something, ignore me and I might do something, call the FBI and let someone else bother with it. However everyone I've talked to who has read the post, agreed that I recognized a problem, thought about the variations of the problem, looked at the existing solution, and seeing flaws, proposed a new solution that solves the problem as best it can. Nice simple critical thinking skills
Which as it happens to be, is the same process the school is trying to instill in students and staff. I wish the school would have done a little more thinking about the problem they saw with me, and I'm going to approach them about it, just like I would have liked them to approach me. Problems are solved though open communications, not by jumping though half a dozen hoops and at a more than insignificant cost.
I'll admit, not that I've ever denied, that I have posted a lot of harsh things since starting this blog. Most of them tongue in cheek, and maybe, occasionally, some not. Some of which, I might regret, but being familiar with the web, have no intention of digging up and trying - pointlessly - to bury. The web just doesn't work like that. I don't want anyone who has commented to bother taking off their content either. What will happen, and was probably going to anyways, is that I will be a lot more careful in my phrasing. I'm not going to make posts that start with the idea of shooting politicians anything but messages, and I'm going to be more mindful of saying things that could do really bad things to my reputation. I'm not going to stop making biting posts, or comment on how I would go about doing something, thats my way of thinking, my style, and thats not something I can change.
In the post in question I wrote "Now that I've outlined so much of this I'd really hate for it to come back and bite me in the ass", and now it seems it has. On the other hand, how many times have I said I'm waiting for the FBI to come knocking?