Republican Reps Ask AG Holder to Investigate SWAT-ing
87 Republican representatives have asked Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether federal laws were broken in the growing practice of “SWAT-ing.” The letter explains the problem:
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.
Dangerous on its face, the practice has recently become a political weapon deployed against conservative bloggers, apparently by some left-wing activists who want to punish those they disagree with politically:
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 it is less than clear that there is a legitimate federal issue here (false police reports and reckless endangerment would seem to be state crimes, not federal), one would hope that putting a stop to such blatant political harassment would be a bipartisan issue. Unfortunately, however, all 87 signatories on the letter were Republicans–not a single Democrat signed on. Moreover, reaction from the blogosphere has largely split on partisan lines, with conservatives trying to drum up support for the First Amendment while their critics make excuses, blame the victims, or just ignore the issue entirely.
This is unacceptable. Even in our polarized political culture, we should be capable of agreeing on the basic idea that political dissent is not punishable by having the police show up with guns drawn based on a false report of a crime.