Homeland Security visit a hoax. Students do the funniest things.
December 24, 2005 4:34 PM   Subscribe

America seems a little less evil today. The outrage and indignation expressed in a previous MeFi story was unjustified. The Department of Homeland Security did not visit a student after he made an interlibrary request for Mao Tse-Tung's Little Red Book. The student made it all up.
posted by Meridian (53 comments total)

 
nice
posted by mischief at 4:35 PM on December 24, 2005


Yay America!
posted by thirteenkiller at 4:42 PM on December 24, 2005


Federal agents' visit was a hoax ...

How could it be a hoax if it didn't happen?
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:43 PM on December 24, 2005


Bullshit.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:45 PM on December 24, 2005


I suspected it was a hoax all along; too bad really, as it takes away from the real invasions of privacy we're battling. (cue right-wingers turning this into a plot by the liberal media...)
posted by youarenothere at 4:46 PM on December 24, 2005


metafilter: fair and balanced
posted by gagglezoomer at 4:48 PM on December 24, 2005


Of course it was the librarians and liberal media who uncovered it. We are primed for these stories because of the other real assaults that do happen.

Kid should perhaps get a failing grade for that class, and the professor and journalist(moreso) should receive some sort of rebuke for filing such a weakly supported story
posted by edgeways at 4:50 PM on December 24, 2005


Yep, and I apologize for posting it.

too bad really, as it takes away from the real invasions of privacy we're battling

Exactly.
posted by digaman at 4:52 PM on December 24, 2005


Our own Mod#2 was somewhat involved in the sussing out: as cut and pasted from the Boing boing site:

Jessamyn West says,

I maintain the website librarian.net. I'm also an elected memeber of the Council of the American Library Association. We've been going back and forth on this issue for most of the day. Here is what we know.

1. I emailed with the reporter. He claims the story about the UCSC library is copied form his, that his is the original and cites the two professors as sources. He says that he has been trying to get the student to come forward to tell his story. Link

2. the book does not come from UMass Dartmouth, that is why it needed to be ILL'ed. The library belongs to a consortium and the copy of the book [that the agents brought to the student's house... I know, sounds fishy to me too] was from a library in nearby Providence, not part of Dartmouth's virtual catalog. Link

In any case, I think the jury is still out, Lots of parts of the newspaper story don't add up BUT the reporter is contactable and so is at least one of the two professors who has been cited in the article [my emails to the second professor have not yet been returned] which is not the case withe the bizarre reprinting of the story with a West Coast school implanted in it. Council has been sort of paying attention to this issue, so more may turn up on the listserv as the day goes on.

posted by edgeways at 4:55 PM on December 24, 2005


Oops, I should have reread the original MeFi thread. Gator and Optimus Chyme had already updated it with a link to the story on BoingBoing.
posted by Meridian at 4:56 PM on December 24, 2005


America seems a little less evil today.

How do you come to that conclusion???
posted by mountainmambo at 4:59 PM on December 24, 2005


You don't owe us an apology, just as I don't owe the folks who I told an apology. It was a good, and completely believable, story.

Which is what makes me blanch about the following:
Dr. Williams said the whole affair has had one bright point: The question of whether it is safe for students to do research has been answered.
"I can now tell my students that it is safe to do research without being monitored," he said. "With that hanging in the air like before, I couldn't say that to them."
How does he justify this? It hasn't been answered at all. That generalization is a logical fallacy, and Dr. Williams should have known that before opening his mouth.
posted by Revvy at 5:00 PM on December 24, 2005


Your statement in the FPP is poorly worded, Meridian -- the reactions were not unjustified. They were logical reactions, it's just that the event that triggered them did not happen. Thus, they were the result of lie, mistaken, whatever. The best word is not coming to me, but unjustified is not the word to use. That's an important distinction, to me.

The idea that a communist book would get a Homeland Security visit always seemed odd to me. Communists are so last millennia, man. It's all about the terrorists, now. Which is not to say I knew the previous story was a hoax -- I did not. I didn't really spend any time thinking about that story.

What's sad is how credible the story is in 2005 America. I've read stories in a similar vein which were not hoaxes.

And digaman has nothing to apologize for: this is not the kind of story that was obviously fake. The huckster is the one who should apologize, not those that get taken by his game.
posted by teece at 5:01 PM on December 24, 2005


You're right, of course.
posted by digaman at 5:02 PM on December 24, 2005


mountainmambo -How do you come to that conclusion???

After reading the story, you don't think the U.S. is a little less Orwellian than we fear? Maybe you are correct, but its Christmas so I feel viewing things in a positive light today.
posted by Meridian at 5:03 PM on December 24, 2005


I think this one seems a little more authentic : FBI Talks to Muslim High School Student about “PLO” Initials on His Notebook
The FBI confirmed that its personnel visited the school and interviewed the student, saying they did so “as a result of information received from a complainant,” according to a statement released by the FBI’s office in Sacramento. “The complainant alleged the student had written ‘PLO’ on a binder and had pictures of suicide bombers on his cell phone. Information concerning possible terrorist or threat activity, however benign, is reviewed by the FBI.”
posted by kaemaril at 5:04 PM on December 24, 2005


Well, as I said somewhere in the original thread, my neighbors were visited by the FBI and asked about my parents' anti-war activity during the Vietnam era, which cost my mom a friendship that meant a lot to her. So yes, I know this kind of thing happens from first-hand experience.
posted by digaman at 5:07 PM on December 24, 2005


Hey, it's not so bad. I wonder how many people got the chance to read a little Mao. I took the chance to review part of the book online to see what the fuss was all about. I had forgotten what it was like to be a running dog.
posted by notmtwain at 5:07 PM on December 24, 2005


Sorry meridian, xmas makes me especially pessimistic.

While this story was a hoax, monitoring of citizens still goes on.

Now those morons Hannity and O'Reilly will have a week's worth of material... and thats what bugs me the most about this hoax.
posted by mountainmambo at 5:07 PM on December 24, 2005


teece - ...the reactions were not unjustified. They were logical reactions,

I disagree. The reactions were emotional, not logical. People got angry and posted their kneejerk reactions without thinking it through a bit. Like roadrage.
posted by Meridian at 5:08 PM on December 24, 2005


I disagree. The reactions were emotional, not logical. People got angry and posted their kneejerk reactions without thinking it through a bit.

Sorry, but what the heck were we supposed to "think through"? The story arrived on a day full of breaking news about President Bush signing off on the NSA monitoring phone calls and email by Americans. The thinking through that that news requires is: How do we get this anti-American despot out of the White House?

I might have waited for additional confirmation of the Mao story before posting it, and for that I'm sorry. But at that point, I was inclined to believe it was true because of all the other confirmed news of late.
posted by digaman at 5:12 PM on December 24, 2005


I was inclined to believe it was true because of all the other confirmed news of late.

digaman , my apologies and I agree with you on that point. Where there's smoke there's fire as they say. I just think that existing known and unknown violations of liberty and freedom are orders of magnitude worse than a couple of DHS agents visiting a student.
posted by Meridian at 5:19 PM on December 24, 2005


Sure, NOW it's a hoax. Obviously, the government has coerced him into changing his story.

I won't be fooled so easily.
posted by jewzilla at 5:19 PM on December 24, 2005


That's what I suspected. Damn, I wish I had posted something about that before, in order to show how prescient I was.

You're just going to have to take my word.
posted by delmoi at 5:33 PM on December 24, 2005


I really do love this kind of attentive scrutiny of news , that's more the commendable as it helps cancelling hype spin and sensation

I'm naive, maybe ,when I wonder if this level and quality of scrutiny is applied to any news piece. Now THAT would be nice.
posted by elpapacito at 6:04 PM on December 24, 2005


I just think that existing known and unknown violations of liberty and freedom are orders of magnitude worse than a couple of DHS agents visiting a student

I so agree, but it was wondering about what giant infrastructure would detect an interlibrary loan of Mao's book and forward it to HomeSec that put a bee in my bonnet.
posted by digaman at 6:10 PM on December 24, 2005


Hey United States! Today you're a little less evil! Babysteps. Babysteps.
posted by srboisvert at 6:10 PM on December 24, 2005


digaman: it was wondering about what giant infrastructure would detect an interlibrary loan of Mao's book and forward it to HomeSec

Technically very easy. How do you think credit card verification is done ? Takes a few seconds and the infrastructure isn't nearly as "massive" as one would think. Certainly expensive, but far from rocket science.
posted by elpapacito at 6:14 PM on December 24, 2005


The right wing nutjobs are already jumping on it and calling it "another liberal hoax."

Or, you can chalk that up to more Michelle Malkin drivel, since the article mentions absolutely nothing about his political agenda. She just assumes that he's going to be a liberal. What a moron.
posted by drstein at 6:21 PM on December 24, 2005


drstein: watch out you just jumped on the same boat as Michelle ; you call her moron she call you liberal and that flattens the level of discussion to name calling (aka See the damn librul calling me moron, how dare they unpolite fucks call me a lady, the motherfuckers)
posted by elpapacito at 6:30 PM on December 24, 2005


President Bush signing off on the NSA monitoring phone calls and email by Americans

sorry if this is bringing other threads here, but I dispute the implication that Congress has not also "signed off" on the NSA surveillance of foreign communications of US citizens. I translated what is considered "surveillance" subject to FISA overview here.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:12 PM on December 24, 2005


Conservative anti-privacy folks were upset at the original story, too, including Newsmax. Using this episode to pooh-pooh concerns about government intrusion is far, far stupider than falling for the story in the first place.
posted by mediareport at 7:38 PM on December 24, 2005


heywood: from one of your posts

NSA can grab if :
3) they intercept a radio call with no expectation of privacy (eg a cellular phone) or one party is not in the US.

What do you mean by expectation of privacy ? As far as I know cellular phone do regularly employ encryption of datastream (cellphone
technicians welcome to correct me) and that's why the analogy with a radio transmitter wouldn't work ..IF ... reasonable expectation of privacy = you can't expect to speak on a radio emitting device and obtain privacy. Actually, one can expect that and I'll venture into the hypothesis that NSA would need to crack the code, so bye bye "no expectation of privacy" therefore it would

fall under "suirvellance"
posted by elpapacito at 7:44 PM on December 24, 2005


Well now I can get my Anarchist Cookbook out of interlibrary loan, where it has been waiting for a few weeks.

Homemade explosives, here I come!

* * *

Also: Kidding. The Anarchist Cookbook is a piece of crap.
posted by maxsparber at 7:49 PM on December 24, 2005


*reports maxsparber to inter-library loan authorities*
posted by mediareport at 7:51 PM on December 24, 2005


Is anybody really worried about communists these days?
posted by ph00dz at 8:38 PM on December 24, 2005


Ok, perhaps I should have said "I think she's a moron." That's my opinion, and I'm not writing a syndicated column and using it as the title of an article. :-)

I don't think there's any way I could jump into the same boat as her.
posted by drstein at 9:06 PM on December 24, 2005


ph00dz writes "Is anybody really worried about communists these days?"


THe FBI, who recently investigated the charity organzation Catholic Workers for "communist ideology".
posted by orthogonality at 9:12 PM on December 24, 2005


Yeah, the government wasn't investigating one student taking out a "suspect" book. Makes up for an illegal war, torture, and other warrantless searches.

Ya know, I'd rather have a few false alarms than all the benign neglect some of the real stories are getting.
posted by birdhaus at 9:16 PM on December 24, 2005


That generalization is a logical fallacy, and Dr. Williams should have known that before opening his mouth.

I'm no history professor, but I think it's pretty clear from this incident that they're all stupid.
posted by chrismear at 9:27 PM on December 24, 2005


The outrage and indignation expressed in a previous MeFi story was unjustified.

The outrage and indignation was not "unjustified". It was merely misplaced.

The right wing nutjobs are already jumping on it and calling it "another liberal hoax."

Michelle Malkin is selling a book titled Unhinged Liberals. To her, it's just free marketing. It's amusing to count how often she uses the word "unhinged" in her syndicated column. Anyway, this pales next to her following post, in which she calls for a DOJ investigation of the "dangerous security leaks" on the NSA stories. She quotes someone who calls getting a warrant "suicidal", of course. Given the 72-hour emergency retroactive warrant provisions in FISA, that person may, perhaps, be unhinged.

Notably, the sputtering right -- the more they sputter, the more desperate they seem, remember that -- is trying to make Maureen Dowd & co. look "dumb" for believing the Mao story, while at the same time using it to minimize Bush's errors of judgement based on "faulty intelligence". But if Dowd is dumb, what does that make Bush? (Another sign -- their talking points are contradicting each other.)
posted by dhartung at 9:45 PM on December 24, 2005


People thought this had actually happened? Get a grip.

If two agents visited every college student that checked out communist literature, they'd never have time to do anything else.
posted by kavasa at 10:24 PM on December 24, 2005


They still check on people who check out copies of the Necronomicon, right?
posted by fenriq at 12:18 AM on December 25, 2005


Forgive me for cynicism, but I think the odds are at least 51% that the story was planted by the right wing to discredit the left.
posted by KRS at 7:35 AM on December 25, 2005


Yep, I smell Karl Rove all over this . . . .
posted by birdhaus at 8:32 AM on December 25, 2005


Teddy is hardly the right wing... then again, Rove could be using that weather/mind control/body snatching machine.
posted by TetrisKid at 8:57 AM on December 25, 2005


Hell, the wingnuts don't care about communism anymore (I think they are trying it out what with the wiretapping and all), but try checking out you some Darwin....then the men in black will show up!
posted by UseyurBrain at 1:42 PM on December 25, 2005


FBI Talks to Muslim High School Student about “PLO” Initials on His Notebook

Boy will the FBI agent's face be red when he discovers that the kid turns out to be an Electric Light Orchestra fan.
posted by jonp72 at 7:23 PM on December 25, 2005


Phew. For a minute there I thought the U.S. government does was secretly eavesdropping on citizens. I'm sure glad it all turned out to be a hoax.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:49 AM on December 26, 2005


It's a few days later, and America seems a little more evil today.
posted by maxsparber at 10:01 AM on December 26, 2005


It's a few days later, and America seems a little more evil today.

Maybe you're just growing up. Say goodbye to Bambi.
posted by HTuttle at 4:25 PM on December 26, 2005


Is anybody really worried about communists these days?
posted by ph00dz at 5:38 AM CET on December 25 [!]


Yes. Rich people are worried about communists. In fact it's just about the only thing they are worried about, since it's the only thing that can threaten their wealth, power, general enslavement of humanity, etc.

Saddam Hussein was not attacked because he supported al-Qaeda: he didn't, in fact. He was attacked because he was a left-leaning dictator, whose government (corrupt and unpleasant though it was) had the nerve to implement leftwing policies such as free education (even for women), universal healthcare, and nationalized energy companies.

To attack and destroy countries with such governments is absolutely consistent with US foreign policy for the last 50 years.

See also Vietnam, Aristide, Allende, Castro, Chavez, Morales, Bashar ... etc, etc.

The "war on terror" is simply a new disguise for the real war - the ongoing class war against ordinary workers and their supporters at home and abroad.
posted by cleardawn at 4:08 PM on December 28, 2005


Not everyone thinks the student should get off scot-free. Sadly, Mr. Barrow's concerns probably won't be taken too seriously because he got a little hysterical and used the word "anti-Americans."
posted by Gator at 9:46 AM on December 29, 2005


« Older Off in the Christmas Cosmos....  |  "Happy Christmas your arse, I ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments