Oregon professor discovers secret FBI plot
March 7, 2010 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Dr. John Hall, a tenured Portland State University professor of economics, is now on administrative leave pending an investigation into his incrimination of Zachary Bucharest, a 30 year old veteran of the Israeli army, as a potentially armed and dangerous FBI informant and agent provocateur in front of his Economics 445/545 class. posted by Blasdelb (90 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
What a bizarre story. I'm not sure who's crazier, but the student sounds a lot more dangerous.
posted by delmoi at 9:07 AM on March 7, 2010


What a bizarre story. I'm not sure who's crazier, but the student sounds a lot more dangerous.

What? Did you read the links? The student is a veteran, but then again so are a lot of students, and he's certainly not an FBI informant or an agitator.

After reading the links, I kind of wondered what the point of posting this to MetaFilter is. The professor is obviously mentally ill.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:10 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bucharest says he looked up to Hall, who made the study of economics fascinating. Like lots of Hall's students, he spent many hours in office sessions. It was during those sessions, Hall would later write, that Bucharest boasted of being a sniper who "killed more than a few people" and "showed me scars on his chest from bullet wounds, relics of his combat experience."

The young man talked freely about his exploits. He told classmates about police seizing weapons from his apartment on Northwest Flanders Street -- two Glock pistols and a 12-gauge pump shotgun -- when a buddy accidentally shot a hole through the ceiling. And he told friends about destroying a textbook with detonating cord -- and videotaping the episode -- after getting angry with a different professor.

Then came Bucharest's AR-15 presentation last fall in which he demonstrated the upper and lower receivers of the semiautomatic weapon.


Sounds more like an Agent Mentally Unbalanced to me.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:13 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's funny, KokuRyu, I came to the exact opposite conclusion after reading all the links. I think that the student is obviously mentally ill, and the professor is guilty of making a poor decision in light of an utterly bizarre situation. I think the student is very dangerous and unbalanced.
posted by msali at 9:14 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


...but the student sounds a lot more dangerous.
"The young man talked freely about his exploits. He told classmates about police seizing weapons from his apartment on Northwest Flanders Street -- two Glock pistols and a 12-gauge pump shotgun -- when a buddy accidentally shot a hole through the ceiling. And he told friends about destroying a textbook with detonating cord -- and videotaping the episode -- after getting angry with a different professor."
And possibly a bit unstable, as well.
posted by ericb at 9:14 AM on March 7, 2010


What? Did you read the links?

Did you?

As a visual aid, Zachary Bucharest hauled out a duffel bag and withdrew the disassembled parts of a Colt AR-15, a semiautomatic version of the military M-16. For the next 15 or 20 minutes, he kept professor John Hall's class engrossed as he lectured about the weapon's inferiority to the foreign-made AK-47.

They both sound crazy. Strange story.
posted by cosmic osmo at 9:15 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. That's a pretty interesting case. I see in the Carol Mack letter they're posing it as taking issue more how Hall presented his case than that he had done so. If the info he has is solid enough, I figure it's better that he let the other students know in public rather than the school just (possibly) kicking Bucharest out, the FBI (possibly) having all sorts of info on them, and without their knowledge of what was happening.
posted by Doug Stewart at 9:16 AM on March 7, 2010


I read the links, and without impugning Mr Bucharest's character, it didn't show that "he's certainly not an FBI informant or an agitator" nor that the "professor is obviously mentally ill" although I'd grant that reading would be the most likely explanation.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:16 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The professor is obviously mentally ill.

He seems paranoid and exercised poor judgment.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:18 AM on March 7, 2010


What? Did you read the links? The student is a veteran, but then again so are a lot of students, and he's certainly not an FBI informant or an agitator.

KokuRyu, from the oregonlive link:
One afternoon last November, a Portland State University economics student gave a class presentation on what he described as the U.S. military's flawed reliance on one of its key combat rifles.

As a visual aid, Zachary Bucharest hauled out a duffel bag and withdrew the disassembled parts of a Colt AR-15, a semiautomatic version of the military M-16. For the next 15 or 20 minutes, he kept professor John Hall's class engrossed as he lectured about the weapon's inferiority to the foreign-made AK-47.

PSU policy forbids firearms on campus by anyone except police. But no one in the economics class -- not even Hall, a tenured professor -- reported the incident to campus security or administrators.

...

Bucharest, a 30-year-old combat veteran with a permit to carry a concealed handgun, was so preoccupied by his past that he spoke often about guns, warfare, explosives, martial arts and the science of bullets penetrating flesh.
...
Bucharest says he looked up to Hall, who made the study of economics fascinating. Like lots of Hall's students, he spent many hours in office sessions. It was during those sessions, Hall would later write, that Bucharest boasted of being a sniper who "killed more than a few people" and "showed me scars on his chest from bullet wounds, relics of his combat experience."
...
He told classmates about police seizing weapons from his apartment on Northwest Flanders Street -- two Glock pistols and a 12-gauge pump shotgun -- when a buddy accidentally shot a hole through the ceiling. And he told friends about destroying a textbook with detonating cord -- and videotaping the episode -- after getting angry with a different professor.
...
Fellow students say Bucharest's bravado ramped up after the AR-15 presentation, and he began to encourage classmates to buy guns and ammo.
...
Economics student Daniel Dreier, 26, found himself drawn into what he would later characterize as Bucharest's "paramilitary culture." He suggested to Bucharest that they buy Hall an AK-47 as a gift, and students soon talked of pooling up to $400. But Dreier says he soured on the idea when Bucharest was hesitant to buy the weapon from a gun shop.
...
On Dec. 4, during the economic department's annual holiday party, Bucharest talked with a classmate about how to make a firebomb using the explosive compound RDX.

The classmate, who declined to be named for this story because he fears retribution from PSU administrators, says he felt Bucharest was trying to get him to incriminate himself about radical activities.
...
Dana Scheider, had driven downtown to pick him up and joined them for a round or two. She was behind the wheel, waiting for the alcohol to wear off before driving.

Scheider recalled that Bucharest rested a pistol on his lap and threatened to put a bullet in the car if she drove. She thought it was Bucharest's eccentric way of keeping her from driving impaired. Bucharest denies pulling out a pistol or making any such comment.
I didn't say he was an informant, but that behavior certainly sounds a little crazy and a little dangerous.
posted by delmoi at 9:18 AM on March 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


I was wrong.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:21 AM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


I read the links, and without impugning Mr Bucharest's character, it didn't show that "he's certainly not an FBI informant or an agitator" nor that the "professor is obviously mentally ill" although I'd grant that reading would be the most likely explanation.

Yeah, there must be more to this story. I can't help feeling like the we're missing pieces of the puzzle.
posted by nola at 9:23 AM on March 7, 2010


I didn't say he was an informant, but that behavior certainly sounds a little crazy and a little dangerous.

Crazy maybe where you're from.
posted by nola at 9:26 AM on March 7, 2010


Kokyryu: The professor is obviously mentally ill.

Dr. Hall has a dedicated following of students and friends who continue to see his actions as heroic if anything, including a professor at my college. However, If Professor Hall truly believed Mr. Bucharest to be a threat to himself or his students the appropriate action to take would have been to report his concerns to campus police so that they could handle them appropriately and professionally. Instead he spent the last fifteen minutes of a class berating and provoking this presumed threat in front of a lecture hall of 40 people, in theory, endangering all of them. Also, while the FBI does have a troubling history of infiltrating college campuses, Professor Hall did not go to to his provost or any other administrator with his concerns, gather any evidence for his claims, or confront the student individually. Instead he violated his student's administrative and legal right to privacy as well as due process by incriminating him in front of the class and by posting a picture of his student along his name and student ID number on his door.

The student seemed mostly harmless and eccentric, if a little narcissistic, to me. But then again I have detonated old textbooks before.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:26 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


You know, on top of all the weird gun fetishism and blowing up textbooks, just look at the photo of the dude in the "incrimination" link. Presented with no other information than that picture, I would not feel judgmental in saying that it's a photo of someone who wears a lot of Affliction t-shirts and likes to start fights with random guys for fun. Plus he's got the crazy-eyes.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:27 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would not feel judgmental in saying that it's a photo of someone who wears a lot of Affliction t-shirts and likes to start fights with random guys for fun.

Weirdly, I was about to write exactly this, Affliction t-shirt and all. But I think that most people into that sort of shit tend to lie compulsively; off the top of my head I don't know anybody that acts like that and has seen combat, let alone been some sort of high-achieving specialist. I wouldn't be surprised if the student was just from the internet and making a lot of shit up.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:30 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Reading the comments here, without first reading the links and reaching one's own conclusion on who is crazy, provides an interesting look into how different people interpret the same story or event differently.
posted by caddis at 9:34 AM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, definitely something missing. How do you go from "This kid has a gun and violence fetish and won't stop pestering me" to "The FBI is infiltrating my class"?

With a long successful reputation as a well liked professor it seems unlikely he would suddenly start manifesting signs of bipolar or schizophrenia so maybe there's really is something to the story. Or maybe he got a brain tumor.

The student sounds like a nut and should have been expelled when he brought a gun on campus, if not when he bragged about the people he killed.

(Go ahead and flame me all you want, gun advocates. The liberal communist peaceniks still own all the public learning institutions and always will.)
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:35 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


After reading the links, I kind of wondered what the point of posting this to MetaFilter is. I think it's interesting that these two characters, both seemingly very eccentric, exist together and interact in real life. It's even weirder to consider the fact that both seem to have a lot of people who admire them. All this makes me think there may be some rather explanatory pieces missing from all this.
I realize, on preview that you've probably changed your mind about the above quote. I'm still including it just to give context for my thoughts.
posted by The Potate at 9:39 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Slarty Bartfast: "Yeah, definitely something missing. How do you go from "This kid has a gun and violence fetish and won't stop pestering me" to "The FBI is infiltrating my class"?"

With a long successful reputation as a well liked professor it seems unlikely he would suddenly start manifesting signs of bipolar or schizophrenia so maybe there's really is something to the story. Or maybe he got a brain tumor.


To paraphrase the Vice-provost: The actual validity of Professor Hall's claims are irrelevant to the illegal, unprofessional, and frankly delusional way in which he handled them.

"The student sounds like a nut and should have been expelled when he brought a gun on campus, if not when he bragged about the people he killed."

He brought pieces of a disabled gun into class with a clear validly academic purpose in mind, which while wrong, I don't think merit anything like expulsion
posted by Blasdelb at 9:44 AM on March 7, 2010


A Muslim student, doing all the same things as Bucharest, would be treated quite differently.
posted by grounded at 9:45 AM on March 7, 2010 [20 favorites]


If Professor Hall truly believed Mr. Bucharest to be a threat to himself or his students the appropriate action to take would have been to report his concerns to campus police

Perhaps I'm overly cynical, but wouldn't that be like reporting his concerns to the Keystone Kops?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:47 AM on March 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Perhaps I'm overly cynical, but wouldn't that be like reporting his concerns to the Keystone Kops?

Depends on the size of the school - at smaller schools they're basically mall cops, at larger schools they're legit police with jurisdiction over the school.
posted by DecemberBoy at 9:54 AM on March 7, 2010


According to comment #38 on this link, Zachary Bucharest also has a website in which he expresses support for Serbian extremists.
posted by CutaneousRabbit at 9:55 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish:
Perhaps I'm overly cynical, but wouldn't that be like reporting his concerns to the Keystone Kops?

The Portland State Campus Public Safety Office
may not have much fire power, but I'm sure they have enough training to not do their best to provoke someone they suspect to be dangerous for fifteen minutes in front of a full lecture hall.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:55 AM on March 7, 2010


I think that the student is obviously mentally ill, and the professor is guilty of making a poor decision in light of an utterly bizarre situation.

The kid seems a little weird, and a little dangerous, but not necessarily crazy. I know guys like him. The professor is definitely suffering from delusional disorder or something similar, and needs immediate psychiatric help. These are not sane statements:
More recently, he has shifted quite obviously to a new and more threatening role: as an agent provocateur what now appears intended to systematically draw fine and innocent students into a criminal classification.

...

I could stomch his pressuring fairly well and also accept it as part of the price of living in an emergent police state -- sadly.

...

...evidence that your office could then rely upon to reduce their professional opportunities and thereby also reduce their income earning-potential over the course of their careers?
He literally believes that the FBI actively tried to fabricate criminal evidence on all US citizens, and he's gotten used to this, himself, and just accepts that he has to deal with it since we live in a police state. However, he wants them to stop going after his students, because he knows that their intent is to attach fictitious criminal records to them, to reduce their earning potential, to make them more dependent on the welfare system, so that they can be more closely tracked.

The man is insane.
posted by Xezlec at 10:01 AM on March 7, 2010


Only in America would this professor be considered crazy and the student in question deemed normal.
posted by Brian B. at 10:04 AM on March 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Only in America, indeed. This student seems to present a clear picture of someone who might be dangerous in the future, if not now. The professor might have jumped to a pretty wild conclusion BUT is the student just getting a free pass now for what, at least to me, looks like some pretty scary events and beliefs? I sure as hell would hope the police would question the student. If they aren't planning on it Prof. Hall needs to tell the police he has (insert drug here) on him, that'll get their attention.
posted by deacon_blues at 10:09 AM on March 7, 2010


I'm not sure who's crazier, but the student sounds a lot more dangerous.

What? ... The student is a veteran


Oh yeah, no veterans are ever crazy or dangerous.
posted by DU at 10:13 AM on March 7, 2010


It certainly does seem strange seeing an 10 year IDF veteran wearing a kaffieyeh.
posted by horsemuth at 10:13 AM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]


(meant to link to this.)
posted by horsemuth at 10:15 AM on March 7, 2010


"Only in America would this professor be considered crazy and the student in question deemed normal."

Are you saying that the reverse is true, or are you commenting on the false dilemma (or something else)?
posted by The Potate at 10:16 AM on March 7, 2010


deacon_blues: "Only in America, indeed. This student seems to present a clear picture of someone who might be dangerous in the future, if not now. The professor might have jumped to a pretty wild conclusion BUT is the student just getting a free pass now for what, at least to me, looks like some pretty scary events and beliefs? I sure as hell would hope the police would question the student. If they aren't planning on it Prof. Hall needs to tell the police he has (insert drug here) on him, that'll get their attention."

He clearly exercised poor judgment in not researching campus gun policy, which would have shown him that even disabled gun parts are not cool, before bringing them into class, however that is a far cry from scary and dangerous. Besides, I thought we already had that thread where we decided that killing in war was distinctly different than murder.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:27 AM on March 7, 2010


I don't think the professor was worried about his students' safety. He wanted a dramatic "gotcha."

But maybe he is on to something? Several people has noted that some pieces to this puzzle seem to be missing, and I can't see the FBI saying, "Ha, yeah...we're busted. He's an informant."
posted by mreleganza at 10:29 AM on March 7, 2010


There is some amount of scuttlebutt, both here and elsewhere, that Zachary Bucharest is somehow connected to Serbian extremists. It appears to be centered around his having a username in common with this Youtube channel.

If anyone has more connecting him more concretely to this site I'd be very curious.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:36 AM on March 7, 2010


I don't think either one of these people is actually insane, they just have a set of beliefs that's different from most people. But they probably have friends who share similar views. His students (even the students in question) look up to him, and probably share his views.

It sounds like they're a bunch of liberal anarchist types or something, which is why they were so worried about being infiltrated. It sounds like the Bucharest probably bought into that but then took it too far, freaking out the other students and the professor.
posted by delmoi at 10:42 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


...did they get they get the Archduke yet?
posted by clavdivs at 10:43 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Are you saying that the reverse is true, or are you commenting on the false dilemma (or something else)?

I meant only what I wrote. But it's problematic to say there's an either/or dilemma here in the sense that they both should be crazy, for example. That would only signal confusion. If or when a crazy person enters the equation, the other person's reactions will always appear distorted in hindsight because the crazy person is not engaging the rationality of the other. Whether or not his letter is delusional is a question we can't honestly answer. He had assumed the "provocateur" was revealing sensitive information about himself that was apparently secret in nature.
posted by Brian B. at 10:44 AM on March 7, 2010


Like most people in the thread, I feel like we're missing something from the story.

That said, as a combat vet myself, something doesn't ring right about Bucharest. I'm skeptical about this guy ever having seen combat, let alone having been a sniper. Why? He talks about it, and other associated military activities, way too much.

Maybe I'm wrong - but in my experience, the guys who talk the most about having been deep in the shit, as it were, are the guys who were furthest from it.
posted by arkhangel at 10:58 AM on March 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


He clearly exercised poor judgment in not researching campus gun policy, which would have shown him that even disabled gun parts are not cool, before bringing them into class, however that is a far cry from scary and dangerous.

Speak for yourself. If a shaven domed ex-vet (shades of Taxi Driver?) showed up in my classroom and started stripping down an AK47, I'd certainly find it scary. There doesn't appear to be any shortage of students on the actual course who felt the same way.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I witnessed a situation like this firsthand in one of my classes in college. In this case, the professor accused the student of being an NSA agent. The class in question was a Natural Language Modeling class, a strange sort of interdisciplinary seminar that was listed under Engineering, Linguistics, Anthropology, and Comp Sci.

The professor was an old Berkleyite (and an adamant Structuralist) who existed in a limbo between departments; he was in Linguistics and Comp Sci but his respective offices in each were in random, out-of-the-way areas. His fellow linguistic professors didn't know much about him.

He would constantly criticise UW-Madison. One of the students grew fed up of the bellyaching and retorted "Why don't you fly to Berkeley then, and work there?". The professor replied: "I wouldn't survive the plane ride." We believed him; he was very frail.

The students were all Comp Sci, and I was the only anthropology student; as such, there was little common ground, so we mostly just listened attentively to the professor's theories. In particular, he was trying to trace the invention of discursive logic to a pivotal moment in history when prehistoric man cut a stone tool in a different way.

He brought a certain level of paranoia to the class, with stories about studying codebreaking in Moscow in the '60s and '70s, where he was being simultaneously followed by the both the KGB and the CIA.

He had a throat-microphone (due to a lifetime of smoking) which meant all of us (seven in total) had to sit in the front row of a massive lecture hall.

Near the end of the first class, he all of a sudden called out one of the students - "I know the NSA paid for you to come here." The student looked up, didn't say a word. Then, pointedly, the professor said "Get out of here. You're animating the stupidity of history."

The student, still silent, just shook his head, grabbed his bag, and left.

A month later another student, the red-haired loudmouth, was caught recording the lecture with a video camera under his desk. The professor noticed this (it was quite brazen!) and threatened to kick him out. "I know you're selling these recordings to a third party. You know, I have every right to kick you out." The student protested, and eventually they must have worked out some sort of deal because the student remained in the class for the rest of the semester, without his camera.

The rest of the semester continued without incident; the student's projects rolled in, all presentations for the Engineering building's 3D Room, in which 3D cows, stomachs, and stick figures floated in a syntactic void. I was never certain if the remaining students were true students or not.
posted by mammary16 at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2010 [18 favorites]


He literally believes that the FBI actively tried to fabricate criminal evidence on all US citizens, and he's gotten used to this, himself, and just accepts that he has to deal with it since we live in a police state. [...] The man is insane.

I understand extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof, but as I haven't personally heard any of his evidence or attended any of his classes, I don't think yours is a fair conclusion to jump to. Is it really that outrageous to suggest that the FBI might have fabricated evidence to indict suspects? Is it insane to suggest our country has becomes more permissive of all kinds of Executive-branch excesses that fall under the (large, vague) umbrella of police state? Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:04 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


mammary16, that needs to be written up as the most awesome New Yorker short story ever.
posted by availablelight at 11:24 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every day, my office receives faxes from a mentally ill man who believes that MI6 are trying to kill him. He takes unimportant, incidental facts - such as something a news reader says - and turns them into evidence of a huge conspiracy against him, masterminded by a shadowy organisation. Hall's letter immediately brought him to mind. I had to deal with another man who was convinced that the police were poisoning his coffee. I have also heard of a man who thought that everyone he saw using a telephone was reporting his movements to the authorities. It is such a terrible condition to be in. I hope that, if it turns out that Hall has this problem, help can be found for him.
posted by marmaduke_yaverland at 11:27 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Finally something interesting happens at my alma mater!!!
posted by josher71 at 11:31 AM on March 7, 2010


PeterMcDermott: "Speak for yourself. If a shaven domed ex-vet (shades of Taxi Driver?) showed up in my classroom and started stripping down an AK47, I'd certainly find it scary. There doesn't appear to be any shortage of students on the actual course who felt the same way."

I suppose I have had more exposure to and comfort with guns than many mefites or students in an advanced economics class at a liberal arts college. Though to be clear, he brought in two incomplete and inoperable parts of an AR-15, which when together do constitute the legal definition of a gun under federal law, but are not a gun by any reasonable non-technical definition.
posted by Blasdelb at 11:32 AM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


I suppose I have had more exposure to and comfort with guns than many mefites or students in an advanced economics class at a liberal arts college. Though to be clear, he brought in two incomplete and inoperable parts of an AR-15, which when together do constitute the legal definition of a gun under federal law, but are not a gun by any reasonable non-technical definition.

Given your level of experience, am I wrong to be surprised at your apparent naivete in accepting what seems to be Bucharest's unsupported word (that it lacked a firing pin) claiming the weapon was inoperable?
posted by jamjam at 11:47 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


The student sounds like a nut and should have been expelled when he brought a gun on campus, if not when he bragged about the people he killed.

Are you kidding me? Leaving aside Blasdelb's objection re: the operability of the weapon, you're actually advocating that he should have been expelled for talking about having killed people in an ostensibly military context? It's completely over the top fearfulness like that that gives liberal communist peaceniks a bad name.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:50 AM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thhink there's a generational divide regarding the professor's belief of that the FBI could be infiltrating his class. THE FBI, from the civil rights movement to more recently, has an established history of infiltrating harmless groups.
posted by zippy at 11:59 AM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


I know Mossad isn't looking good for the recent Dubai debacle, but is it really the best way to infiltrate a leftist/anarchist "group" to talk about how cool it was to be a sniper in the Israeli military?
"Hey guys, I was talking to this ex-Israeli miliary sniper talking about how cool it was to shoot Palestinians, I think he should let him into our group that fights the fascist military state."

Sounds more like a gun nut and a paranoid teacher didn't work together so well.

Also, if he's showing off his guns in class for 15 minutes, doesn't that mean he was asked by the prof to do a presentation of some sort (but probably not with gun parts...) instead of him just deciding to take over the class for 15 mins for a gun show?

Lots of weird here.
posted by superchris at 12:09 PM on March 7, 2010


THE FBI, from the civil rights movement to more recently, has an established history of infiltrating harmless groups.

The FBI has also been known to use agent provocateurs.
posted by ryoshu at 12:09 PM on March 7, 2010 [4 favorites]



jamjam: "Given your level of experience, am I wrong to be surprised at your apparent naivete in accepting what seems to be Bucharest's unsupported word (that it lacked a firing pin) claiming the weapon was inoperable?"

I find it plausible because none of the primary sources we have access to contradict it, and because the presence or absence of a firing pin is mostly a moot point anyway. Legally the two hunks of metal, upper receiver and lower receiver, are still a gun without the firing pin. While even with it they wouldn't work like a gun or look like a gun, just heavy somewhat recognizable parts of one.

The Oregonian's statement that only these two parts were brought to class has also not been contradicted by Professor Hall or any of the other primary sources I have seen yet.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:10 PM on March 7, 2010


I had a classmate of mine in a Computer Engineering class. This really attractive, fit blond girl. I had taken a couple years of Chinese and it turned out that she took Chinese too, but was a year or so behind me.

Our teacher, at least for the first two years was actually a really loyal socialist intellectual type, I think an actual member of the CCP or something. She would sometimes complain about how China was loosing it's socialist ethos. Anyway, very charismatic and fun teacher.

At the end of the CompE class, everyone exchanged MSN names, etc. and I added her to MSN, but didn't talk to her that much. A couple years later I did message her and it turned out she was working for the CIA. Doing what, I didn't ask, but I figured given her core skill set it was probably decoding technical stuff. She was also telling me that there was a $30k signing bonus and that I should sign up! (I doubt they would actually have wanted me)

But it's interesting to think that my patriotic socialist Chinese teacher was teaching someone who was going to use those skills to spy on the motherland for the CIA. I doubt she would have cared, but it's still an interesting coincidence.
posted by delmoi at 12:27 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't understand how one goes from 'this person spent ten years with the IDF' to 'obviously they're an FBI informant and agent'. To my mind, the sane choice is Mossad.
posted by pwnguin at 12:41 PM on March 7, 2010


When I was in Montreal, my roommate attended McGill Law School. A good friend of his was an Iranian woman whose father had some middling-high position under the Shah, and who fled to Canada with his family during the 1979 revolution.

The Iranian government pays for Iranian nationals to attend university in other countries, so several of this woman's classmates were Iranian nationals who made a point of telling her that they knew about her, her family, her death sentence in Iran for prostitution (the woman was born in Iran but her family left when she was a child; apparently it's standard procedure to book death sentences against the families of the members of the Shah's regime). They told her things that the Iranian government had on file against her, and that they reported back to the Iranian government about her; they scrupulously attended her presentations, and several presentations ended in class clearing disruptions because the woman insisted on applying feminist analysis to Sharia law ("under Sharia law, a woman is worth more than a man's right testicle, but less than his left").

This is all by way of anecdotally verifying that it's not unusual for governments to cultivate and use low level, student informers. They're under no illusions that these informers are capable people, but there's a certain value in continually harvesting a wide variety of information on people who might potentially be worth having a dossier on, down the road.
posted by fatbird at 12:45 PM on March 7, 2010 [6 favorites]




The only interpretation of these events that makes real sense to me is that Bucharest is some kind of agent whose presence was well known and approved of by the administration.

Here
is one of many tells to this effect:

Posted by harryheck
March 06, 2010, 11:11AM

i was in the class. at least some of the facts were reported. what the oregonian failed to mention was the lack of concern, displayed, from the administrators on the afternoon of the 19th. when the administrators were questioned about safety concerns they did not flinch when told about bucharest carrying a gun on campus--a gun with two extra clips. specifically, carol mack did not care; she, instead, treated the students like they were fools and children.
after being asked numerous times--about what to do if students saw bucharest on campus--and receiving a vague and generic answer, we finally asked "why are you not concerned about our safety and about the allegation that bucharest was possessing a gun on campus?" mack still did not provide a relevant answer.
...

The interesting thing is that Bucharest had no chance of recruiting disaffected Muslims, but keep in mind that Portland has been one of the hotbeds of skinhead activity in the US for a long time (A very active chapter of Volksfront and the skinhead murder of that Ethiopian).

Last I heard though, most skinheads were pretty anti-Semitic. Has something changed there?

In any case, this is a really fabulous post, Blasdelb. One of the best of the year so far.
posted by jamjam at 1:32 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, the far right has certainly placed spies in classrooms, including several times at my university.

As a prof, if someone brought a gun into my classroom, disassembled or not, I'd stop the class that instant, call security, evacuate the classroom, and warn everyone in the building to go inside locked rooms and not come out until LEOs gave the all clear. I'd damn sure never let that person near any classroom where I was teaching, ever again.

Both parties seem nuts to me in this case. But one of them has a gun.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:34 PM on March 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


I understand extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof, but as I haven't personally heard any of his evidence or attended any of his classes, I don't think yours is a fair conclusion to jump to. Is it really that outrageous to suggest that the FBI might have fabricated evidence to indict suspects?

Did you read his complaint? I thought the stuff he listed there was his evidence. It was not compelling. Also, he didn't claim the FBI was trying to indict suspects, but rather that it wanted to fabricate evidence of imaginary crimes specifically to reduce his students' income-earning potential.

I thhink there's a generational divide regarding the professor's belief of that the FBI could be infiltrating his class. THE FBI, from the civil rights movement to more recently, has an established history of infiltrating harmless groups.

It's not FBI infiltration by itself that is hard to believe. It's the whole story this guy tells. You did read the complaint, right?
posted by Xezlec at 1:40 PM on March 7, 2010


Seems we do not as yet have all the facts fully and truly sorted out. That said, in most places I know of, having a permit to carry a weapon (this one wasn't concealed) does not mean you can carry it anywhere you want--airplanes, colleges.

I would agree with the comment above: Hey, prof--that is a gun in a classroom. Is that acceptable?
I would really be curious as to the economics lesson the gun incident was "developing," other than the fact that a foreign gun was superior to an American made one.
posted by Postroad at 2:07 PM on March 7, 2010


jamjam,

I don't think it is so implausible that Bucharest at least believed himself to be an agent of something or that he really did get disturbing information on professor Hall from some organization likely to keep a file on him, like an AIPAC related student group. Though the idea that the FBI would have so much interest in a professor with an almost entirely unremarkable, if successful, career that it would devote this idiot to him is ridiculous.

From what I know of campus administrative justice, I would suspect that harryheck only went to Vice-Provost Carol Mack after January 14 and the grand reveal, two months after November, if indeed our random internet poster was involved at all. We only have clearly confused professor Hall's hedged suspicion and harryheck's word that Bucharest was ever on campus with a functioning gun, much less two extra clips of ammo.

And thank you, I was actually afraid this would turn into another Israel/Palestine derail instead of the beautiful pot of madness, ego, and poor judgment it really is.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:17 PM on March 7, 2010


Last I heard though, most skinheads were pretty anti-Semitic. Has something changed there?

Ever since 9/11, a lot of white supremecist and white nationalist groups, especially the ones who preach preach racial segregation instead of genocide, have been advocating teaming up with "the Jews" against "the Muslims". The more rabidly genocidal and specifically anti-semitic groups, of course, think that this is insanity, and so there's more and more schisms and splits amongst the batshit.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:27 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I understand the point about the gun being disassembled and not immediately fireable but isn't this the country where we suspend younger students for possession of even vaguely gunlike objects?
posted by irisclara at 2:48 PM on March 7, 2010


amazing how many psychiatrists we have hanging out on Metafilter.
posted by edgeways at 3:22 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, the far right has certainly placed spies in classrooms, including several times at my university.

That sounds like an awesome job. Are they hiring?
posted by b1tr0t at 3:47 PM on March 7, 2010


This is going to be one of my more dull & reasonable Mefi comments, but isn't it obvious what the most likely scenario is here? Student is a gun nut, probably not dangerous enough to be some kind of campus shooter, but who knows; professor is worried, picks up on student gossip, but has also listened to too much Pacifica Radio and might be a bit weird, as professors can be; whole thing unfolds in insular world of a university; end result is that authorities are now aware of possibly dangerous gun nut.

On balance I hope the professor gets his job back.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:50 PM on March 7, 2010


The student sounds like a nut and should have been expelled when he brought a gun on campus, if not when he bragged about the people he killed.

Are you kidding me? Leaving aside Blasdelb's objection re: the operability of the weapon, you're actually advocating that he should have been expelled for talking about having killed people in an ostensibly military context? It's completely over the top fearfulness like that that gives liberal communist peaceniks a bad name.


Not for being a soldier, for bragging about the people he killed.

From the article, which admittedly is the only thing I have to go from:

Bucharest boasted of being a sniper who "killed more than a few people"

and

Bucharest, a 30-year-old combat veteran with a permit to carry a concealed handgun, was so preoccupied by his past that he spoke often about guns, warfare, explosives, martial arts and the science of bullets penetrating flesh.


In the wake of Virginia Tech and countless other incidents, is it really "over the top" that a guy with a preoccupation with violence, who allegedly threatened to shoot a handgun while drunk, who had an accidental discharge of a firearm in his apartment, who brings the components of a semiautomatic weapon into an economics classroom, deserves some kind of forceful administrative response? I realize we are supposed to be talking about Professor Hall's public accusations, but I am really trying to understand why you are advocating a university should support Bucharest's right to this behavior. Because it gives liberals a bad name?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 4:24 PM on March 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


Did I miss the part where it was explained how Bucharest's presentation was in some way related to economics? I can think of how it might have been - something tying economic theory to the failure rate of the AR - but what's the story there?
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:55 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


That sounds like an awesome job. Are they hiring?

Just send your resume (or is that CV?) to David Horowitz, c/o Campus Watch.

They absolutely deputize (and probably pay) currently enrolled students to spy on professors. Other groups publish lists of names of professors they want watched and reported on. Some of my colleagues get threatening emails and letters and phone calls when they appear on these lists.

Some of my colleagues who teach controversial subjects or have controversial views have learned, for example, to never allow any auditor to sit in on their classes, not even one session.

I have had colleagues receive death threats for things they have supposedly been reported to have said in class. It's not a joking matter at all.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:20 PM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


schoolgirl report: "Did I miss the part where it was explained how Bucharest's presentation was in some way related to economics? I can think of how it might have been"

Considering the professor's bio and the material at hand, my guess is that the course is about the economics of the cold war. Given that many argue Reagan's plan to outspend the USSR worked, it's worthwhile to examine how. The AK is by no means a quality weapon; higher tolerances at the factory and a simple action likely make it cheaper to mass produce and even export. People mainly zero in on how it's simplicity and tolerance for blemishes helps it operate in harsher conditions, particularly Vietnam, but the m-16 fires faster and further. I'm told Russian squads were regularly formed with snipers to compensate for the m16's greater effective range over the AK.

The wikipedia comparison gives an enlightening look at how manufacturing considerations come into play:
Where the AK-47 has so far relied on huge Soviet-style, state-run factories(albeit with considerable illicit small-scale production existing), the M16 is considered ideal for market economy production, spread among many manufacturers around the country, this also ensures it would be nearly impossible to disrupt U.S. M16 production in the case of a major conflict.
posted by pwnguin at 6:07 PM on March 7, 2010


What a strange story.

Legally the two hunks of metal, upper receiver and lower receiver, are still a gun without the firing pin.

Actually the lower receiver by itself is what legally counts as a gun.
posted by Tenuki at 8:44 PM on March 7, 2010


Tenuki: Actually the lower receiver by itself is what legally counts as a gun.

Your absolutely right.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:04 PM on March 7, 2010


Just send your resume (or is that CV?) to David Horowitz, c/o Campus Watch.

A few years ago, a scumbag working for Horowitz spent a year trying to get one of the profs at my undergraduate college fired. She circulated flyers accusing him of all manner of mendacity, accused him of being the leader of a dangerous cult, and pulled all kinds of related nonsense. She now writes for a nationally circulated conservative newspaper.

These folks are dangerous, motivated, and viciously malevolent.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:10 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am really trying to understand why you are advocating a university should support Bucharest's right to this behavior. Because it gives liberals a bad name?

A good chunk of Metafilter fetishizes guns. What can ya do?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:15 PM on March 7, 2010


Wow! Who would have thunk it.
posted by ianiacocca at 9:22 PM on March 7, 2010


I am really trying to understand why you are advocating a university should support Bucharest's right to this behavior. Because it gives liberals a bad name?

I am not advocating the university do anything. I don't see what hearsay about drunken brandishing and a seemingly off-campus accidental discharge have to do with an "administrative response". I am responding to your claim that he should have been expelled based on his "boasting" (according to his accuser, anyway) that he killed people, a claim I find frankly hysterical.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:44 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I feel like I should add something, since I took (and, about halfway through, dropped) a class with the prof a few years ago. But I don't have much to say, except that I'm not terribly surprised that he would interrupt a lecture to talk about how some students might be FBI informants.
posted by Casuistry at 12:52 AM on March 8, 2010


To those who are thinking that there may be something to the professors complaints: What exactly was the student supposedly inciting? What could he be informing on?

The entirety of the complaints focus of his bringing in non-functional gun parts, talking smack about his questionable exploits, and trying to share an interest with the professor's own gun ownership. Informers and provocateurs generally are involved in groups that have a longer history and stronger than a semester-long class. They share sympathies with the group, and encourage extremism. What kind of econ class was it such that it could be infiltrated?

I'm also very curious what the professor's history was, which could only be known by the sherrif's office. Was he arrested for some protest? Was it something that no one at the school knew about? Are journalists lookinig into it?
posted by FuManchu at 6:49 AM on March 8, 2010


I'm siding with the professor on this one. He probably could have handled it better, but if he really believed that Bucharest was some sort of black-ops ninja type, he may have thought twice about simply putting it in the hands of the campus cops. And Bucharest certainly seems to have gone out of his way to emphasize to anyone who would pause long enough to listen to him about what a bad-ass motherfucker he was.

That brings me to what arkhangel said upthread, about guys who like to brag about all the cloak-and-dagger stuff that they've done. After reading Eric Haney's book about Delta Force, I was convinced that anyone who was really in that level of special operations, or whatever you want to call it, really went well out of their way to hide their involvement in it, including having a well-rehearsed cover story about what they were doing in Fort Bragg. They certainly didn't drop heavy hints about all the really gnarly shit that they've done, shit you wouldn't believe, maaaaaaaaan, and then spill all after a couple of drinks, which is what a couple of Tucker Max's drinking buddies who were supposedly in black ops did, which makes you wonder about how good they were at that sort of thing if they were bragging openly about it to someone like Tucker Max.

In fact, my pet theory is that the Army probably subtly encourages the big talkers to lie about it, because if there was someone who did decide to target members of covert operations teams, hey, no big loss.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:32 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]



I am not advocating the university do anything. I don't see what hearsay about drunken brandishing and a seemingly off-campus accidental discharge have to do with an "administrative response". I am responding to your claim that he should have been expelled based on his "boasting" (according to his accuser, anyway) that he killed people, a claim I find frankly hysterical.


As I said before, it's not really about who he actually killed in a military capacity. It's about a guy who has multiple people around him describing unusual, frankly disturbing behavior, and in my mind, a line has been crossed when he brings a semiautomatic weapon into class. Yes, he made it part of an academic presentation, but you can't tell me he wasn't aware of the shock value choosing to focus on gun manufacturing versus say textile production. My wife and I are both faculty at a public university where we've had student shootings in the last 2 years and the impact this would have in a classroom is obvious. A student's right to carry himself this way ends when it squicks out all of the other students who are trying (and paying through the nose) to get an education.

So, I suppose a gun advocate would argue, if me and my students are fearful of the weirdo with a gun, then we should all be packing heat as well, regardless of our moral stance on firearms, just so we can feel safe (at a fucking institute of higher learning no less). In my bizarro world view, the onus is on the weirdo with a gun fetish to ensure he doesn't freak everyone out and if he can't do that, he needs to be removed. There are plenty of places he can wave his gun and his dick around besides an economics classroom.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:09 AM on March 8, 2010


Look, man, this is what you said:

The student sounds like a nut and should have been expelled when he brought a gun on campus, if not when he bragged about the people he killed.

It was the bolded portion to which I have been responding. Expel him for bringing in gun parts? Fine, sure, whatever. Expel him for bragging about something you find distasteful? No.
posted by adamdschneider at 9:37 AM on March 8, 2010


I suppose I have had more exposure to and comfort with guns than many mefites or students in an advanced economics class at a liberal arts college.

I've had plenty of exposure to M16s, not so much with AK-47s. I've even lost a Jesus pin once or twice. If I'm attending an advanced economics class as a student, and another student breaks out an M16 - disassembled or no - I'm reporting it. Because that is just crazy stupid behavior. You want to talk about the economic advantage of, say, firing smaller rounds, or the potentially higher battlefield cost of less-lethal rounds, etc, etc? Fine. You don't need an M16 as a prop for that.

Expel him for bringing in gun parts? Fine, sure, whatever. Expel him for bragging about something you find distasteful? No.

Sure, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If you carry a gun on campus, there could conceivably be legitimate reasons for doing that. If you talk about people you killed in the war, that's understandable. But when you put the two together, each casts the other in a different light.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:11 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it even clear which came first? I couldn't tell.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:47 PM on March 8, 2010


So, Slarty Bartfest, as a faculty member, doesn't it seem at least odd to you that neither this professor nor any of the allegedly squicked students addressed this issue with either the Bucharest, the administration, or campus police? And waited for two months until the professor convinced himself that Bucharest was capable of setting off a fire bomb? And instead of addressing those concerns with him, the administration, or campus police, publicly berated and provoked him in front of his confused and vulnerable class?

Thank god he was wrong.

I can understand this presentation making people uncomfortable, with everyone suddenly knowing crazy eyes in the corner has a gun designed to kill people at home and all. It is also unequivocally the responsibility of gun nuts like Mr. Bucharest and I to not scare people, and not the responsibility of others to somehow not be scared by stupid shit like this. You're right. But a university both cannot and should not attempt to punish or administratively correct activity that does not make people squicked out enough to report it. If someone had reported him, I think we can all concede that his behavior would have certainly been worth a long conversation with a grievance officer, academic probation, an extracted promise to chill the fuck out, and careful observation. Which would be the course of action most likely to predict and forestall catastrophe, create a paper trail, correct the behavior, and all while not violating the student's rights to privacy and due process or slandering a guy who is almost certainly just eccentric and a little narcissistic.

At least this gun advocate is not saying to pack heat, but instead to address potentially dangerous people as human beings with all the rights you want for yourself, as full members of the community, and for the love of god to not escalate any danger that may or may not be in them.

The Oregonian article mentioned that professor Hall's dedicated friends and students consider what he did to be heroic and they're right, this deuchebag is a hero, a Don Quixote of our times. In his senility or just plain old madness he became the personification of exactly how heroes get people killed, it even turns out he was just tilting at windmills.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:48 PM on March 8, 2010


So, Slarty Bartfest, as a faculty member, doesn't it seem at least odd to you that neither this professor nor any of the allegedly squicked students addressed this issue with either the Bucharest, the administration, or campus police?

Oh yes, this discussion about whether Mr. Bucharest deserves sanction is a derail, and whether he's some kind of government agent is immaterial. To be clear, I think Professor Hall's actions are completely illogical unless there's some piece of information that's being withheld from us (I stated as much in my first comment in this thread).
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 2:41 PM on March 8, 2010


adamdschneider: "Is it even clear which came first? I couldn't tell."

Timeline:

2007

Fall term:
Zachary Bucharest enrolls in Professor Hall's course "Principles of Microeconomics" Hall reports Bucharest as "making concerted efforts to establish contacts with [Hall] and [how] he seemed to enjoy talking about himself."

2008

March:
Hall reports Bucharest as using Hall's office hours to ask questions about an unspecified legal activity that took place more ten years before. Hall believes that the knowledge Bucharest has of this could only have come from files stored in the local sheriffs office.
He begins to compile information displayed by Bucharest over time which convinces Hall that Bucharest is an informant. Hall remains unsure what organization Bucharest works for.

2009

Winter:
Bucharest does a stint as a mercenary in Afghanistan

2010

Sep 28: Fall classes begin

Nov 19:
Zachary Bucharest does his presentation on the firing mechanism of the M16 at it relates to that of the Kalashikov series using the similar upper and lower receivers of his AR-15 to demonstrate. He uncorroboratedly reports receiving a B+.

Jan 14:
Professor Hall begins class with materiel relevant to the course.

Halfway through the class he began to describe his experiences with law enforcement in other countries including Eastern Europe, according to a student who wished to remain anonymous.

With fifteen minutes left Professor Hall exposes Zachary Bucharest a former IDF sniper and an FBI agent, with this letter projected onto a screen. Tells students that Bucharest is "a killer with access to a personal arsenal." Professor Hall then asks him to leave campus and not come back, takes a picture of Bucharest, and threatens to post it around campus if he sees him on campus again.

Zachary Bucharest remains silent during the accusation, confirms to the class that he was a member of the IDF and a sniper but says everything else is untrue, and leaves the classroom quietly.

Professor Hall posts the picture on his office door with Bucharest's name and student number on it.

Jan 17:
In an e-mail to students in the class economics department chair Randall A. Bluffstone said that he was aware of Thursday’s incident saying, “I would especially like to assure you that this incident is being taken seriously and that the appropriate university administrators are fully involved.”

Jan 19:
(The next day the class was scheduled to meet) Bluffstone, Mary Beth Collins, director of Student Health and Counseling, and Carol Mack, vice provost for Academic Administration and Planning, met with the class. Hall was not present.

Feb 3:
Vice-Provost Carol Mack sends this letter to President Wim Wiewel

Feb 4:

President Wim Wiewel sends this letter to Hall suspending him from entering campus

Mar 7:
The Oregonian publishes the comprehensive article on the issue and a professor at my college sends out an e-mail on our discussion listserve asking folks to support Hall.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:24 PM on March 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


So his bragging is not really a matter of public record, and Slarty Bartfast is advocating his expulsion because of words that as far as I can tell contained no threat to anyone at that educational institution, based the sole word of someone who may or may not be delusional?
posted by adamdschneider at 3:29 PM on March 8, 2010


The linked article contains quotes from an unnamed student as well as a Daniel Drier who discuss at least three other incidents. But I'm done here, you and I appear to live in different universes. Hooray for mercenaries who bring guns to classrooms.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 5:07 PM on March 8, 2010


Yeah, man, I live in a universe where you own up to the arguments you make. Once again, we (as in you and I) are not talking about getting expelled for bringing gun parts to classrooms, we're talking about getting expelled for allegedly making statements that make no threat of harm, explicitly or (arguably, and I guess that's what I'm arguing) implicitly. You'd rather obfuscate the issue, but that's what you advocated, that's what I took issue with, and you'd rather be kind of a jerk than address that. Fine by me.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:54 PM on March 8, 2010


Slarty Bartfast: "To be clear, I think Professor Hall's actions are completely illogical unless there's some piece of information that's being withheld from us"

Really the big unknown, I think, is what Bucharest was really intending with his attempts at friendship with professor Hall. His statement after the fact is cogent and strongly suggests sincerity though was almost certainly written with the help of a lawyer, and professor Hall's paranoia would make significantly more sense with a kernel of truth in the middle.

“I have never been affiliated with the FBI in any way, and I have never been an informant,” the statement reads. “I have never in any way done anything to incite violence at PSU. I have admired Professor Hall since I first took a class from him, and cannot imagine what I did or said to cause him to treat me the way he did. I truly hope that the university will take steps to clear my name, and I also hope that something like this will never again happen to a PSU student.”


My suspicion is that what we are missing is a connection, whether real or imagined by Bucharest, between him and a student organization related to AIPAC with an interest in dirt on professors unfriendly to Israel. Campus Watch is not alone.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:26 PM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


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