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.


@pluralistic It's great that that was the end of it, but imagine that the reported article was written by some who doesn't have white male privilege. By someone who doesn't have connections to the EFF or other agencies that can help them. Imagine how different the FBI response would be for pretty much anyone but you.

Now think about what it would mean for someone who is trying to target others to see that reporting a blog post to the FBI results in a phone call. You're enabling them. wtf dude.


@bouncinglime Also, if you're a woman who discovers that vulnerabilities in your phone OS let your abusive former partner stalk you, you should keep silent, because once the existence of stalkerware is widespread, other women will be in danger.

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@bouncinglime if there's one thing that having privilege demands of you, it's that you NOT keep silent when you discover that the system has a vulnerability that can be used to target people more marginalized than you. The culprit here is the FBI, not the person they victimized and who blew the whistle despite the risk that creates.

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