Skip

Just Wave The Flag, And Nobody Gets Hurt.
November 25, 2001 9:21 PM   Subscribe

Just Wave The Flag, And Nobody Gets Hurt. On Friday, Oct. 26, two Secret Service agents, along with Durham police investigator Rex Godley, came to [A.J.] Brown's apartment. Special Agent Paul Lalley, who did most of the talking, spoke first. "Ma'am, we've gotten a report that you have anti-American material, or something like that, in your apartment," he said, according to Brown. Then the female agent asked if they could come inside. The "anti-American material"? A poster critical of George Bush.
posted by tpoh.org (45 comments total)

 
Then the female agent asked if they could come inside.

Answer: No. No grounds for a warrant. Problem solved. They can cool their heels outside until they get bored or your lawyer arrives.

Unless you're the one that invited them in the first place, you should never give your consent for police to enter your home or search your car. Once they are legally inside, anything they see can be admitted against you as evidence of a crime.

Oh, yeah... don't put anything where it can be seen from the doorway when opened.
posted by mikewas at 9:31 PM on November 25, 2001


America the Paranoid. We must defend the right of people to be critical of the government even if we don't agree with their views. I'm glad this made the paper and is circulating the internet.
posted by MaddCutty at 9:49 PM on November 25, 2001


What I find most worrisome about this case is that some dumbass neighbor of hers felt it was his patriotic duty to rat out his anti-American neighbor, and reported this poster as a threat on the President. Assuming you believe the SS-guys' story. I fear we are well on the way to destroying ourselves.
posted by donkeymon at 10:01 PM on November 25, 2001


I think mike's point needs to be said again.

If they don't have a warrant they shouldn't be at your house. It doesn't make you look guilty if you turn them away. If such a situation happens, turn them away and call a lawyer immediately. If my advice is off the mark, maybe a MeFi member more acquainted with the bar can help me out.

She did do that, for a while. Personally, I would've made it known that I was calling a lawyer and watch them slowly back down. Then again I keep all my pro-Taliban posters safely away so I have nothing to worry about.
posted by geoff. at 10:04 PM on November 25, 2001


Seems pretty silly for the Secret Service to have been out there, but... hey, it sounds like all the characters in this story are just a teensy bit paranoid. Of course Ms. Brown got a story that she'll be telling her friends for decades, inshallah. The moral: eternal vigilance is the price of freedom! :-)
posted by coelecanth at 10:05 PM on November 25, 2001


Similar incident at a Houston Art Museum.
posted by nikzhowz at 10:08 PM on November 25, 2001


She should have slammed the door in their faces, and then called the nearest TV station to send a news crew out. "When Overzealous SS Agents Attack, tonight on FOX"
posted by RylandDotNet at 10:09 PM on November 25, 2001


"A poster of Bush, even if he's in a noose, is protected speech during wartime or peacetime," notes Alex Charns, a Durham attorney who specializes in civil rights. Such speech is all the more protected, he points out, when it's displayed within a person's home.

The speech may be protected, but that doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be investigated. Which is exactly what was done in this case, as it should have been.

"If a trained police officer doesn't know the difference between political speech and a threat to the president, then we're all in trouble," Charns says. "If the Secret Service has nothing better to do than check on political posters, that's a bad sign."

The police officer did the right thing, which is to report something that looked like the possibility of an intended threat to the U.S. President (I say "possibility" because the poster is weird -- that is, shabbily designed -- and its meaning is not apparent at a glance). And while this Charns guy's comments are worded to bait an argumentative response, so too was A.J. Brown's poster displayed (to the public, when her door was open) to bait inquiry and discussion. Sounds like another case of being careful what one wishes for, as opposed to whining about what one (quite incorrectly) perceives to be an infringement upon individual rights. (Indeed, when the message of the poster and the spirit behind it was explained, Ms. Brown's right to display it was upheld by the authorities in their decision to walk away.)
posted by verdezza at 10:12 PM on November 25, 2001


I don't know, but I've heard a few bad Bush jokes here around MeFi... what's the number to the Secret Service?
posted by danger at 10:23 PM on November 25, 2001


There are a lot of people leaving their flags up in the rain these days. Is that an anti-American statement, publicly made, that deserves to be investigated? I hope that when those officers walked away, they would have been the first to say that the time they spent there was completely wasted, an embarassing false alarm, not at all part of any valid, appropriate investigation.
posted by scarabic at 10:26 PM on November 25, 2001


Isn't it a possibility to be arrested by saying something along the lines of "I want to kill the president."?

I remember a skit on the old MTV show 'The State' where a teacher was explaining this, and a student spoke out by saying "So....all I have to say is 'I'm going to kill the president tomorrow' and I'll be arrested?". And sure enough, FBI raids the classroom and hauls him away.

I'm asking about something I saw on MTV. Geez. But, any fact to this?
posted by Mark at 10:28 PM on November 25, 2001


I hope that when those officers walked away, they would have been the first to say that the time they spent there was completely wasted, an embarassing false alarm, not at all part of any valid, appropriate investigation.

You pose a an interesting question scarabic. From the people I know who've gone on to be cops, I'd say there's a huge probability that she and her family have been red marked--like the words of Jesus in their Bibles.

Just the facts ma'am.
posted by crasspastor at 10:35 PM on November 25, 2001


From the article:

[on her wall was] a Pink Floyd poster ("It has that phrase, 'Mother should I trust the government,' so I had to get it")

Dear me. One small part of me feels a little nostalgic for the simplicity of youth. One large part feels glad it will never return.
posted by argybarg at 10:40 PM on November 25, 2001


"Though she's still a teenager, Brown is already more informed about political repression than most Americans"
Really, how do they know that? The whole story is just a flaming troll~trolling flame.
posted by Mack Twain at 10:43 PM on November 25, 2001


Yes, Mark, you're right -- you can't say that and expect not to be taken seriously, and investigated for it.
posted by verdezza at 10:47 PM on November 25, 2001


There's a brief diatribe about "Threatening the President" on, of all places, About.com, complete with a couple recent examples.

(... but then, how much faith can you put in an About.com guide who looks like he's sporting a hair net?)
posted by verdezza at 11:04 PM on November 25, 2001


verdezza: while this... guy's comments are worded to bait an argumentative response, so too was A.J. Brown's poster displayed (to the public, when her door was open) to bait inquiry and discussion. [Emphasis my own]

So, her poster was fair game for investigation because it was displayed "to the public, when her door was open"? Wow. An American citizen, from New York City no less, made that comment. Yep- #2,145 on my list of reasons why I'm now rooting for the terrorists to win. Reason 2,144 was of course that museum exhibit link by nikzhowz.
posted by hincandenza at 11:27 PM on November 25, 2001


There are a lot of people leaving their flags up in the rain these days. Is that an anti-American statement, publicly made, that deserves to be investigated?

Thing is, are you looking for "anti-American" behaviour or "suspicious" (read: not normal) behaviour? Leaving something out in the rain, even something you claim to care about, is incredibly normal behaviour. "Very Average" is the phrase an ex-cow-orker would use.

I find a lot of common behaviour to be socially destructive -- but that opinion in itself borders on "suspicious".


posted by krisjohn at 11:42 PM on November 25, 2001


If my advice is off the mark, maybe a MeFi member more acquainted with the bar can help me out.

Well, hell, I'm about as well-acquainted with the bar as anyone here, I'd imagine, but I don't know jack about lawyers. Sorry.
posted by webmutant at 12:28 AM on November 26, 2001


krisjohn said: " Leaving something out in the rain, even something you claim to care about, is incredibly normal behaviour. "

I think they were referring to flag code which is a documented set of rules of how the US flag is to be cared for flown and even disposed of. its adapted from rules in the armed forces and became part of Federal law just after the first flag day..

disobeying said code isn't just being lazy, to a real patriot its treasonous
posted by vincentmeanie at 12:39 AM on November 26, 2001


Speaking as a non-Ameriican, I would have thought that a poster openly criticising the government is a very pro-American thing. After all, America is the "Land of the Free" is it not? There are many counrties in the world where such basic freedoms do not exist.

If the facts as described were basically accurate, I think there was an element of intimidation here. It doesn't matter if it was investigated and they went away again. The intimidation is the important point, and that really is an attack on freedom.
posted by salmacis at 12:55 AM on November 26, 2001


"Though she's still a teenager, Brown is already more informed about political repression than most Americans"
Really, how do they know that? The whole story is just a flaming troll~trolling flame.


Yes yes yes. Thank you, Mack. Jon Elliston, go to the blackboard and write "I will not make stupid generalizations and asinine assumptions about people" 100 times. If there's any chalk left, shove it up your left nostril.
posted by Bixby23 at 2:23 AM on November 26, 2001


Y'all are getting "Pro-American" and "suspicious" mixed up. The FBI is charged with defending the Constitution, and they claim to show "respect for the dignity of all those we protect; compassion; fairness; and uncompromising personal and institutional integrity." However, they are also often put at odds with different Americans. A conservative-minded, ultra-patriotic individual hears a more liberal and apathetic individual say "I wish someone would just kill Bush already" out in public, very loudly. They're gonna report it, because they want to protect their president from loonies.

The FBI is duty-bound to investigate. "'We're not here to take you away or put you in jail.' They were like, 'We need to follow up on every report we get.' " That's their job. That's what they do. In both of the above links, one about a museum in Houston the other about the Durham student, I saw no indication that one's rights were violated. They were under suspicion by some anonymous American who reported them, and the FBI investigated. In both cases they didn't find anything tangibly threatening.

Had someone reported any suspicious behavior of those bastards who hijacked those planes, the FBI would have investigated, and maybe they would have been able to prevent it. Eternal vigilance works in this way. If you see something suspicious, you report it. There'll probably be nothing to it. It'll probably be a false alarm. However, if you sincerely think there's a concern you should report it.

I'm not saying I wanna police state. Far from it. In fact, I wish I could find a copy of that poster. It looks cool, and I am ashamed to be from the state of Texas which has recently enacted the death penalty so often. It's stomach-churning. I'd put a poster like that up in my house and display it proudly. If the FBI came by I'd even let them in and let them see it. I don't percieve the poster to be inciting to riot. It's free speech, but I can see how some would find it suspicious.

Likewise, the Secret Service is doing their job: protecting the president. I don't think anything needs to be changed. Let them do their job. Help where you can, but also feel free to speak out against what you perceive to be travesties of justice. Understand that you might be placed under suspicion yourself, but if your intent is not to kill but to educate and enlighten, I don't think you'll have anything to worry about.

Just know your rights. And have nothing to hide.
posted by ZachsMind at 2:44 AM on November 26, 2001


I don't know....it just seems to me that Al-Queda isn't going to enter work into an art show or hang anti-Bush posters, thereby opening themselves to scrutiny and blowing their cover.

I think we want to assume the terrorists are dumb.
posted by jennak at 4:15 AM on November 26, 2001


I think A.J. Brown did all the right things: ask for a warrant, call her mother for advice, and then show the Secret Service the "anti-American material."
posted by Carol Anne at 4:32 AM on November 26, 2001


ex-cow-orker

that just doesn't sound right.


the worst thing about all this is that someone actually called to tip off the SS. hanging a poster isn't suspicious behavior. also, it sounds like they may have lied about what they saw ("We already know what it is; it's a target of Bush."). the tipster was probably just being a dick. i've had neighbors like that who've complained to the police just to harass me.

i think we all agree that the Secret Service did everything the right way and that no one has said that Ms. Brown's rights were violated.
posted by tolkhan at 5:49 AM on November 26, 2001


Were A.J. Brown's rights violated? No. But I'd much rather the Secret Service and FBI concentrated on genuine threats and leave poster-owners alone.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:55 AM on November 26, 2001


They were under suspicion by some anonymous American who reported them, and the FBI investigated. In both cases they didn't find anything tangibly threatening.


For a reason, they could never have gotten a warrant in the first place. They wanted to check her out, see what she's like, hassle her, and decide to what to do next. A few stories like this go a long way to shut up dissenters. Everyone seems to know that Macarthy looked like an idiot yet, his investigation was no less a threat.

As much as I'd like to agree with the "cops/feds protecting america" line, it would require a lobotomy on my part. Obviously, the person who tipped the feds did not see her as a terrorists but an annoying, loud, lefty girl and were looking for any easy to to piss her off and if the feds get a FUD victory all the more reason to hassle her.

Had someone reported any suspicious behavior of those bastards who hijacked those planes, the FBI would have investigated, and maybe they would have been able to prevent it.

Yeah, we're all for vigilence but this is a loud college student highly critical of the government. Not exactly the terrorist profile. The feds obviously talked to the police and got information on her, probably knowing full in advance that this is just going to be a college kid with a photoshopped pictures of Bush sniffing a line or something. Sadly, this isn't about "protecting the president" its really just about an opportunist neighbor or insultated police officer knowing full well the feds cannot say no to a possible "terrorist threat" or whatever she was supposed to be. Grumpy Old Tenants.

I'm not even sure what they could have done to her even if she had a lot of artistic pieces about the dismemberment of many heads of state. Anti-American (whatever that really means, anti people, anti government, etc) speech is protected even during wartime. Considering war hasn't even been declared let alone martial law it is very much worth criticizing the intent of the tipster and arguably the FBI.

I wonder if they treated her properly because they do so regularly, because they knew this was a routine BS investigation they can't say no to, or if because she was a loud-mouth student who could get lots of attention if they did anything wrong. The world may never know.
posted by skallas at 6:20 AM on November 26, 2001


Just know your rights.

<clash>"All three of them."</clash>
posted by tpoh.org at 6:53 AM on November 26, 2001



She should have slammed the door in their faces, and then called the nearest TV station to send a news crew out.


Exactly my thought.
posted by rushmc at 8:33 AM on November 26, 2001


What we need is a congressional committee on un-american activities
posted by matteo at 9:29 AM on November 26, 2001


What we need is to focus on ongoing systematic injustices and not one silly incident.
posted by argybarg at 10:32 AM on November 26, 2001


Patterns are build of incidents.
posted by rushmc at 11:18 AM on November 26, 2001


Then the incidents should be shown to conform to a larger pattern.
posted by argybarg at 11:26 AM on November 26, 2001


Poor A.J. She had to talk to the SS for a whole 40 minutes? And on a Friday night? She probably missed happy hour...

Sniff.

Fucking Repressive Government.
posted by David Dark at 12:42 PM on November 26, 2001


Then the incidents should be shown to conform to a larger pattern.

So early incidents should be ignored until some hypothetical critical mass has been achieved and it is deemed okay to note and discuss them?

It seems to me that the pattern is beginning to emerge in a growing number of incidents, many of which are being posted and documented here on Metafilter.
posted by rushmc at 6:29 PM on November 26, 2001


"When Overzealous SS Agents Attack, tonight on FOX"

Of course, if she had called Fox News the story would be "Anti American Anarchist Liberal Plots Overthrow of Government and Assasination of President! Fair and balanced, of course."
posted by owillis at 9:20 PM on November 26, 2001


When Do We Take the Flags Down? asks the LA Times Paul Lieberman. How long will it be before the Secret Service interrogates him about asking such an "anti-American" question? [Thanks to Spike for the link.]
posted by Carol Anne at 4:41 AM on November 27, 2001


"Then the incidents should be shown to conform to a larger pattern." horseshit. the women was investigated and the government found nothing, now this person seeks attention, perhaps compensation. Happens everyday. this incident is weak and trivial compared to some allegations.
posted by clavdivs at 8:16 AM on November 27, 2001


this incident is weak and trivial compared to some allegations.

When they came for my neighbor, I said nothing....
posted by rushmc at 9:30 AM on November 27, 2001


clavdivs: That was my point. The Secret Service is less likely to become a locus of systematic, widescale oppression than other government agencies, some of which might already merit that description.

rushmc: Be careful where you point that stuff. You can't use it all up on just anything, you know.
posted by argybarg at 9:49 AM on November 27, 2001


Unless you're the one that invited them in the first place, you should never give your consent for police to enter your home or search your car. Once they are legally inside, anything they see can be admitted against you as evidence of a crime.

Excellent legal advice Mike. I was wondering if you have any thoughts about the idea of people turning in their neighbors (ala 1984) for "anti-American material?"

My thoughts...
I can somewhat understand if a neighbor called because they saw something out of the ordinary and potentially dangerous; but to call to turn in your neighbor for essentially not having the same views of you is so very very wrong. Worse is that the police even showed up.
posted by terrapin at 9:53 AM on November 27, 2001


If they don't have a warrant they shouldn't be at your house. It doesn't make you look guilty if you turn them away. If such a situation happens, turn them away and call a lawyer immediately. If my advice is off the mark, maybe a MeFi member more acquainted with the bar can help me out.

Again, excellent legal advice. And mikewas is an attorney, geoff.

However, none of this addresses the fact that people are calling the police on their neighbors for having differing views and not because of real (or even remotely perceived) threats.
posted by terrapin at 9:57 AM on November 27, 2001


A conservative-minded, ultra-patriotic individual hears a more liberal and apathetic individual say "I wish someone would just kill Bush already" out in public, very loudly. They're gonna report it, because they want to protect their president from loonies.

Unless Bill Clinton is president at the time, and then the conservative-minded ultra-patriot looks the other way ;)
posted by terrapin at 10:11 AM on November 27, 2001


In Wisc. it is now legeal to pull over any car with a Zepplin sticker and search for drugs. "You just know a car like that has at least a roach in the ashtray" Said Boone Country Sheriff Otis Williams. Now people can get busted for Rock bands from the 70's and 80's. Who is truly next?
posted by otto at 11:27 PM on November 27, 2001


« Older U.S.' first Afghanistan conflict casualty may be C...   |   Surrounded on all sides Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post