PICKET: FLA Congresswoman leads 87 member effort demanding Swat-ting investigation from DOJ

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Congresswoman Sandy Adams, Florida Republican, senta letter on Monday, signed by 87 House Republicans, to Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to assign Justice Department officials to investigate the recent threat of “SWAT-tings.” (Scroll further down for letter in bold)

A SWAT-ting happens when a person calls 911 emergency dispatch services under another individual’s name and falsely claims he or she is committing a violent crime. Such an act is committed to cause local law enforcement authorities (like a SWAT team) to surround and enter the residence of an innocent individual, who was impersonated and framed for a violent crime through the 911 call. The false call can be made via the internet, so as to mask the true caller’s identity and location. 

“My concern is someone is going to get hurt,” Rep. Adams told me on Friday. “It’s very dangerous for the people living in the home that didn’t call 911, because they have no awareness whatsoever that something like that had happened. So they open the door to law enforcement whether it’s with or without guns drawn.” 

“It’s a danger to the law enforcement agency that is being sent there, and it’s also a danger to the people in the community, because you’re pulling people away from what could be a real emergency.”

Congresswoman Adams is a first term Capitol Hill lawmaker and has a military and law enforcement background. Following her time in the Air Force, she served for seventeen years as a deputy sheriff in the Orange County, Florida.

“We were dispatched from 911 calls where there were shots fired and holding of a hostage. Those were the things that you went to and you’re going to want to know that,” she said.

The SWAT-ting issue caught the Florida Congresswoman’s attention when she heard that CNN contributor and Red State blogger Erick Erickson was a victim of a swat in late May. Another blogger who was SWAT-ted, Patrick Frey, a Los Angeles assistant district attorney, went through the terrifying experience in July of 2011.

“Bloggers shouldn’t be targeted for exercising their first amendment right. It isn’t right these folks are being subjected to swat-ting,” said Lisa Boothe, Rep. Adams’s press secretary, who pointed out that the Florida GOP’er wants to protect first amendment rights on this issue as well.

“Years ago, when someone dialed 911 from a hard line, you could figure out where it was coming from. With mobile lines you can pretty much tell where it’s from, but when you have a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP), it’s apparently making it a lot harder to do this,” said Adams.

House members on the letter to AG Holder join Senator Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican, and Rep. Kenny Marchant, Texas Republican, who previously called on the attorney general to investigate the recent spate of swat-tings.

Adams collected a little over 80 House signatures for her letter last Friday afternoon from her colleagues on the House floor during votes, a task rarely accomplished in such a short period of time before the weekend of a recess week. Members are known to dash out of the Capitol after final votes are taken at that particular period.

“I hope that the Attorney General takes a very hard and close look at this, because it’s putting our citizens at risk and in danger—because they’re having people arrive at their house with heightened awareness—because they had a 911 call with a report of shots fired or holding people hostage or whatever the quote-unquote 911 call was for,” Rep. Adams explained.

Some wonder if Mr. Holder will take the swat-ting issue seriously enough to take action on it through the Justice Department, as the Obama Justice Department is known for not responding to members’ requests for information in a timely manner often.

AG Holder appeared before the House Judiciary Committee last Thursday and was questioned by members about a range of issues from the failed ATF gun walking program Fast and Furious to Voter ID. Committee members remain concerned Mr. Holder will not comply with a subpoena to release documents pertaining to Fast and Furious and the AG could face contempt of Congress as a result.

Other congressmen from both sides of the aisle asked AG Holder why he had not responded to their requests of him on other concerns. Congressman Jerry Nadler, New York Democrat, appeared aghast when AG Holder would not definitively commit to releasing a legal memo and copy of a briefing, which Mr. Nadler requested from DOJ previously, regarding the lethal targeting of U.S. citizens who are terrorists.

Congressman Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, grilled AG Holder over DOJ’s refusal to release documents Gohmert’s office requested one year ago pertaining to the Holy Land Foundation trial, which the Justice Department only made available to convicted terrorists, according to Mr. Gohmert.

Rep. Adams observed that Holder committed himself, in the same hearing, to helping law enforcement do their jobs effectively.

Adams asked, “Didn’t [AG Holder] say he was looking towards doing things that would help protect law enforcement and that would help protect our communities from crime?”

“That is his job. He’s the head law enforcement officer in our country, and he wanted to make sure that our laws are being obeyed.”

She added, “He needs to make sure that our citizens are protected in a way that protects them from dangerous things such as SWAT-ting.”

Mr. Frey described his swat-ting experience on his blog “Patterico’s Pontifications”: (Listen to hoax 911 call here)

When I opened the door, deputies pointed guns at me and ordered me to put my hands in the air. I had a cell phone in my hand. Fortunately, they did not mistake it for a gun. They ordered me to turn around and put my hands behind my back. They handcuffed me. They shouted questions at me: IS THERE ANYONE ELSE IN THE HOUSE? and WHERE ARE THEY? and ARE THEY ALIVE? I told them: Yes, my wife and my children are in the house. They’re upstairs in their bedrooms, sleeping. Of course they’re alive.

“I recognize it as being dangerous and I would hope the Attorney General recognizes it as being dangerous. He needs to focus on how we stop this from happening before someone gets killed from it,” said Rep. Adams.

Mr. Erickson described on his Red State blogwhat happened to his family on the evening he was swat-ted: (listen to hoax 911 call here.)

Last week we spent a lot of time writing about Brett Kimberlin and the incident involving blogger Patterico where someone spoofed his phone number and told 911 he had shot his wife. Tonight, my family was sitting around the kitchen table eating dinner when sheriffs deputies pulled up in the driveway. Someone called 911 from my address claiming there had been an accidental shooting.

“I hope the Attorney General’s office will take a very close look at this—look into what’s happening—look into the rationale behind it—look into who is doing it and if there is any federal law that is being violated [by individual(s)]…” said Rep. Adams “..then DOJ will have to work to have them brought to justice.”

On the evening Red State blogger Erick Erickson posted that the was a victim of a swat-ting, he pointed out that he previously contacted his local police department about the issue of swat-ting and that the nature of his work may provoke individual(s)to attempt to swat him.

Fortunately, as a result of Mr. Erickson’s actions, no one was hurt. Rep. Adams made it clear that DOJ should also make it a priority to reach out to local law enforcement departments to spread awareness about what exactly swat-ting entails. Other bloggers began to wonder if they should do the same by contacting their local law enforcement authorities. 

“It’s their responsibility to reach out to the law enforcement agencies and law enforcement communities and make them aware of what’s happening. Now whenever you do this, you cannot expect a law enforcement officer who sees a 911 call not to respond in the manner in which is required, so making them aware of it, making dispatch aware of the fact when they get Voice over Internet Protocol call, but that does not mean that every one of those Voice over Internet calls is going to be a false call, because a lot of people in their homes have those. So the police are going to have to respond in a way in which they are trained.”

June 11, 2012

The Honorable Eric Holder
U.S. Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 5111
Washington, D.C. 20530-0009

Dear Attorney General Holder:

We write you concerning the growing threat of “SWAT-ting” and its costly ramifications. These crimes occur when individuals call emergency dispatchers under the guise of another person’s name with fraudulent claims, causing local law enforcement to swarm the home of innocent Americans. SWAT-ting first arose in 2002, but as technology and the Internet has expanded, the dangers of SWAT-ting are also on the rise.

Investigators have concluded that the majority of SWAT-ting cases utilize voice over Internet (VOIP) connections between the suspect’s computer and a distant telephone network, and then dialing 911. This enables the suspect to falsify their identifying information, such as their telephone number and address, and make it nearly impossible for emergency dispatchers to identify or track the true origin of the call, or even pin-point calls from VOIP connections.

Some of these calls involve embellished schemes, including armed suspects and hostages, and in some instances, the caller claims that he has just killed someone. Moreover, the caller knowingly uses the identifying information of another person, who is usually an adversary of the caller. This elaborate hoax is all done with the goal of having law enforcement swarm the home of the caller’s foe, which only incites fear in and tarnishes the reputation of an innocent person.

Even worse, SWAT-ting is quickly becoming a scare tactic used against political bloggers, essentially stifling those bloggers’ First Amendment rights. Just last month, a popular blogger in the state of Georgia, Erick Erickson, became the latest victim of SWAT-ting. During the Erickson’s family dinner, sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to Erickson’s home after receiving a 911 call reporting an accidental shooting that appeared to have come from Erickson’s address. Fortunately, Erickson previously alerted police to SWAT-ting tactics; however, numerous similar scenarios have ended with guiltless victims held at gunpoint.

While none of the SWAT-ting victims have incurred physical harm from these hate filled ploys, we are gravely concerned that future victims may not find themselves so lucky. Plus, when law enforcement officers are responding to SWAT-ting claims, resources are diverted from those truly in need—all of this because of differences in political ideology.

Differences of opinion should enrich our lives, not divide us. Each American has the right to freely express his or her ideas and should not be subject to fear tactics like SWAT-ting, which run counter to the liberty that forms the bedrock of our great nation. These crimes are not to be tolerated and necessitate thorough examination at every level.

We urge you to hold true to those promises and work to ensure that criminals using fear in hopes to preventing others from exercising their First Amendment rights are held to the highest standard of the law. To this end, we implore you to thoroughly review each of these cases, determine whether any federal laws have been breached, and prosecute those crimes accordingly.

Sincerely,

Sandy Adams (R-FL)
Tom Graves (R-GA)
Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
Trey Gowdy (R-SC)
Jim Jordan (R-OH)
Trent Franks (R-AZ)
Andy Harris (R-MD)
Steve Southerland (R-FL)
Joe Walsh (R-IL)
Paul Broun (R-GA)
Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA)
Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
Morgan Griffith (R-VA)
Chip Cravaack (R-MN)
Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)
Phil Gingrey (R-GA)
Dan Burton (R-IN)
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA)
Leonard Lance (R-NJ)
Jeff Duncan (R-SC)
Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA)
Daniel Webster (R-FL)
Allen West (R-FL)
Dennis Ross (R-FL)
Richard Nugent (R-FL)
Ben Quayle (R-AZ)
Tom Rooney (R-FL)
Todd Rokita (R-IN)
Renee Ellmers (R-NC)
David Reichert (R-WA)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Mary Bono Mack (R-CA)
Adam Kinzinger (R-IL)
Cory Gardner (R-CO)
Michael Grimm (R-NY)
Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY)
Don Manzullo (R-IL)
Bob Turner (R-NY)
Jon Runyan (R-NJ)
Don Young (R-AK)
Mike Kelly (R-PA)
Tom Marino (R-PA)
Lamar Smith (R-TX)
Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Michele Bachmann (R-MN)
Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
John Kline (R-MN)
Mo Brooks (R-AL)
Austin Scott (R-GA)
Pete Olson (R-TX)
Scott DesJarlais (R-TN)
Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
Ted Poe (R-TX)
Patrick McHenry (R-NC)
Alan Nunnelee (R-MS)
Candice Miller (R-MI)
Mark Amodei (R-NV)
Kenny Marchant (R-TX)
Sue Myrick (R-NC)
Todd Akin (R-MO)
Randy Forbes (R-VA)
Paul Gosar (R-AZ)
Diane Black (R-TN)
Jeff Landry (R-LA)
Steve Stivers (R-OH)
Randy Hultgren (R-IL)
Mike Pompeo (R-KS)
David Schweikert (R-AZ)
Bill Posey (R-FL)
Steve Chabot (R-OH)
Quico Canseco (R-TX)
Bill Johnson (R-IL)
Pete Sessions (R-TX)
Tim Griffin (R-AR)
Walter B. Jones (R-NC)
Lynn Jenkins (R-KS)
Billy Long (R-MO)
Steve Scalise (R-LA)
Stephen Fincher (R-TN)
Jack Kingston (R-GA)
Scott Rigell (R-VA)
Tom Price (R-GA)
Robert Hurt (R-VA)
Jeff Miller (R-FL)
Bill Huizenga (R-MI)
Steve King (R-IA)  

Bobby Schilling (R-IL)

 

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About the Author
Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket

Kerry Picket, a former Opinion Blogger/Editor of The Watercooler, was associate producer for the Media Research Center, a content producer for Robin Quivers of "The Howard Stern Show" on Sirius satellite radio and a production assistant and copy writer at MTV.

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