Yesterday was my 20th blogging anniversary. I admit it carried more emotional freight than I expected. 20 years is a long time to do anything, let alone something that's so personal and yet so public.
As it happens, an anonymous reader gave me a hell of a blogiversary gift: my first-ever FBI investigation! I've spoken to FBI agents before (Agent: Does your Tor exit node keep logs by any chance? Me: Nope. Agent: Dang), but I've never actually been *investigated*.
My phone rang with an unfamiliar local number. A calm voice on the other end introduced itself as an FBI special agent with the LA office. I pointed out that this was an unlikely claim and asked for a switchboard number I could call back on.
The agent said this was an entirely reasonable thing to do. A few minutes later, I was back on the phone with him.
Me: What can I do for you?
Him: I'm calling about a blog post you published. I'm sure you know which.
Me: Uh, no.
Him: The one about toppling statues.
He meant this post:
tldr: it's a link to a Popular Mechanics article on the science of toppling monuments, with a brief intro and summary.
There's nothing illegal in that post, but also you should never talk to cops without a lawyer, so I asked him if he minded my setting up a time to make that happen. He said that was fine with him.
My EFF colleague Mark Rumold was kind enough to volunteer to call the special agent. He reported back shortly thereafter to say that the agent was responding to a complaint, and that he agreed my post was not unlawful in any way.
Mark confirmed for the agent that I was not planning any unlawful activity, and the agent asked him to remind me that people can misinterpret the things we publish on the internet.
That was it.
It was an anticlimax, sure. I confess that I was a little freaked out. It was just the anniversary of Aaron Swartz's death, and my mind kept going back to his account of the time the FBI showed up to ask him about PACER, and the horrors that followed.
@bouncinglime You're right. The obvious thing for an immigrant who's been put in danger of incarceration and losing his residency is to simply be silent, rather than sounding the alarm about a broken system that puts people in serious risk. After all, only the world's most sophisticated genius reactionary could every think of calling the FBI on someone they like and no one will ever independently rediscover this brilliantly original tactic.
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