Turning COINTELPRO on the tea party?
By: Chris Stirewalt
04/07/10 5:13 PM EDT
Writer David Herszenhorn of the New York Times has the account of how the FBI nabbed the man charged with threatening Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
The suspect, Charles A. Wilson, is accused of leaving messages for Murray saying she should be "strung up" for her support of President Obama's health care program and other ugly-sounding things.
The FBI had the number from which the calls had originated and knew that it belonged to Mr. Wilson. But to make the arrest, they needed to have evidence matching the caller on the tapes with the number -- to eliminate the possibility that someone else was using Mr. Wilson's phone.
To make the match, an agent called Wilson and claimed to be part of Patients United Now, the group behind the "Hands Off my Health Care" campaign. No one from the FBI spoke to Patients United or their parent group Americans for Prosperity about the ruse.
The agent talked with Wilson about the group's effort to see the president's program repealed and asked for his opinion about the legislation, eliciting responses similar to the sentiments left on Sen. Murray's answering machine.
That was enough to get a warrant for Wilson's arrest.
Some questions to consider:
How comfortable are you with the idea of agents posing as activists to elicit anti-government tirades? Sounds like good investigative police work to me.
How comfortable would you be if the Bush administration had done the same thing with Code Pink in an effort to get a anti-war activist to threaten a Senator who voted in favor of invading Iraq? Based on my experiences with code oink, I would have volunteered to help, for free.
Would it be appropriate for an agent to attend a tax day tea party rally next week and elicit similar statements from attendees in an effort to find more threats to lawmakers? See the first question.