Satire became reality Friday afternoon when half a dozen armed federal agents wearing body armor showed up at this author’s home and detained everyone in the house for nearly 90 minutes to determine who might pose a threat to the government.
Marshal John Bolen of the U.S. Marshals Office of Protective Intelligence traveled to Manchester, N.H., to investigate threats of violence allegedly made against Steven McAuliffe, a federal judge in the district court in Concord, and other federal officials in the area. He brought along with him other marshals and agents who would only say that they were with the Treasury Department.
Later in the afternoon the federal agents detained and interrogated another Manchester resident for nearly 30 minutes trying to locate yet another person of interest to them, and then after having set up a Saturday meeting with this person of interest, didn’t even bother to show up.
The threats allegedly originated with convicted tax protesters Ed and Elaine Brown, late of Plainfield, and supporters of their cause. Marshals took the Browns into custody Thursday night to begin serving 63-month prison terms after a nine-month standoff in which the couple remained in their home, supporters brought food, supplies and firearms, and staged concerts and press conferences on the property.
Reports Friday morning stated that a supporter of the Browns left a threat of retaliatory violence on a MySpace page Thursday night after the arrest, but this author was unable to find such a threatening message. Nevertheless, according to media reports, some militant supporters of the Browns have threatened violence against government officials in the past.
And the marshals, under fresh criticism for failing to protect federal judges properly, desperately needed to look like they were doing something. A report (PDF) released Wednesday by the Department of Justice Inspector General found that marshals’ efforts to protect federal judges had “languished,” with growing backlogs of threats to be assessed and investigated, and improper assessment of threats leading to misallocation of resources.
So, apparently unable or unwilling to face the people who have said they want to shoot government agents, they came to my house instead. And misallocation of resources certainly seems to describe Friday’s incidents.
Bolen’s investigation in Manchester seemed to center around members of the Free State Project, a group whose members pledge to move to New Hampshire in order to help reduce the size and scope of government. “Anyone who promotes violence, racial hatred, or bigotry is not welcome” in the Free State Project, according to a statement on its Web site.
As I have said repeatedly here, I do not believe that using violence against government officials is an appropriate method to effect positive change. For one, it would not have the desired effect. Those of you who have read Matthew Bracken’s Enemies Foreign and Domestic know that shooting government agents is a significant part of the plot in that novel. But to see what would happen, you should read the sequel, Domestic Enemies. This would be a significant step backward for a freedom movement.
In contrast to those espousing violence, Free State Project members spent the last three days trying to determine if Ed and Elaine Brown were truly unharmed, as Marshal Stephen Monier said, and seeking a loving home for the Browns’ presumably abandoned dog.
Hopefully the U.S. Marshals, and other law enforcement agencies, will learn something from this misallocation of resources, and start spending their time going after actual threats.
One final note. Bolen told everyone here that he was seeking our help in preventing acts of violence from being perpetrated. Yet he and the agents who came with him gave numerous conflicting statements to each of us. Normal people call this lying. I would suggest that it’s not a good idea to lie to people whose support you’re trying to enlist. It tends to foster resentment and distrust, and that is the last thing that an intelligence organization should be doing.