A Visit from the Secret Service

A couple of stories about writers receiving visits from the Secret Service have been getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere, and a lot of people have been wondering if they're real or fake. The first case involves fanfic writer Annie Sewell-Jennings who posted an entry on her blog in which she satirically prayed that Bush would die. A couple of weeks later, according to her, "the Secret Service showed up on my mother's front door to talk to me about what I said about the President, as what I said could apparently be misconstrued as a threat to his life. After about ten minutes of talking to me and my family, they quickly came to the conclusion that I was not a threat to national security (mostly because we are the least threatening people in the entire world) and told me that they would not recommend that any further action be taken with my case." There's a thread going about this in the Hoax Message Board, and Annie posted a follow-up here.

The second case involves an anonymous romance novelist (who refers to herself as Dilyn) who claims that her house was raised by agents from the FBI simply because she checked out some books from the library about Cambodia and the use of land mines there as part of some research she was doing for a novel. An interview with Dilyn appeared in a recent issue of Romance Writers Report, which isn't online, but the text of the interview has been copied and can be read here (scroll down to find the post).

Are these cases real? Well, in each case you only have the word of a single person to go on, and since I've never heard of these people before (and 'Dilyn' is even choosing to remain anonymous) I wouldn't place absolute blind faith in what they say. However, what they're saying doesn't seem that outlandish to me either. I know that cases like this have happened before and have been investigated and verified by the media. So I'd vote that the cases are real. But like I said, there's not much evidence here besides their word and your own gut instinct.

Hate Crimes/Terror Law/Police/Crime

Posted on Mon Nov 01, 2004


Four years ago during the Bush/Gore campaign, then Vice President Al Gore stopped in town and gave a speech across the street from where I work. The Secret Service moved into town a few days prior to the arrival of Gore and did security checks on all the surrounding buildings (including ours). The day of Gore's visit arrived and all the streets surrounding my work were blocked off so that once you got in you couldn't leave. Gore gave his speech and left but the police continued to keep the streets blocked. Around 2:00 p.m. I was dying for some lunch and finally walked outside and asked if there was any possible way they would let me leave so I could get some food. The police officer and Secret Service man both looked at me and then pointed at my car parked in a crowded parking lot. The police officer said that's your car right? Follow me and I'll escort you out. How in the world did they know I belonged to that car?
Posted by Jellybelly  on  Mon Nov 01, 2004  at  07:39 AM
I won't comment on the second case (and there's no point, when the person involved can't even be proved to exist), but the first is standard procedure for the Secret Service. If you read the post about the Secret Service visit, she makes it clear that somebody who read the original post reported it to the Secret Service (rather than, as dipshit places like Slashdot reported, the Secret Service reading LJ). (And if you've seen the original post, you can see how someone with a thin grip on reality, or someone with a grudge, might make such a report).

The Secret Service call it a "concerned citizen report," and given how important presidential security it, they must investigate each and every one, even if it's obvious that it's all bullshit. They're extremely polite, and make it clear they're just going through the motions, unless, of course, they think there's something to it, and even then, they're probably very polite.

So the woman's got a file with the Secret Service now. Big deal. So do thousands of other people. And her's most likely says something to the effect of "somebody file a bogus report on her, nothing to it." Does anybody really think that will ever cause her the slightest bit of grief?

In the end, the key thing to remember is that this is a very routine thing that happens, literally, thousands of times a year. Everything about her account rings true for a routine "concerned citizen report," but even if it's real, who cares? It's no different than your neighbor reporting a woman screaming in your house, only to find out she's having great sex with you. A bit embarassing, and you'll end up with "a file" with the local police department, but nobody cares.
Posted by Terry Austin  on  Mon Nov 01, 2004  at  11:39 AM
I call the police all the time. Mostly on the snotty suburb parents that park in my yard because the "maintenance" entrance to their school is nex to my backyard.
"Yes, I need to report that there's someone strange in my yard, and I'm home alone with a baby...so I don't want to go outside and talk to them. Can you send someone out?" My husband says I shouldn't do it, because it's a waste of police power...I say I can do whatever the hell I want, because where the heck is all the police power when I'm driving thru the 30mph zones in the neighborhood while the suburb parents are racing thru [child-filled streets] at 50??
Posted by Maegan  on  Mon Nov 01, 2004  at  11:54 AM
P.S. I don't think the story about the woman who checked out the books is real, only because I used to work at the library...and NO ONE tags books or has a 'list' of books to watch. It just doesn't happen. Besides, if it were true, you'd find out when you sign for you library card, because we have to explain what we would use any of your information for. Even in a PUBLIC library accounts are still PRIVATE.
Posted by Maegan  on  Mon Nov 01, 2004  at  11:56 AM
The second one plays on the fears of the PATRIOT Act and the possibility that the FBI can access your library account without you knowing about it. But they don't monitor every person and show up to search their house because they checked out books on mines. That requires a judicial search warrant and probable cause. As far as the first, as noted, that's standard procedure. Running down those leads is quite time consuming.
Posted by Bill B.  on  Mon Nov 01, 2004  at  03:27 PM
The first report is probably true, it is standard procedure for the Secret Service to make a check on any threat, however remote. I can remember a joking reference to the procedure in an old sitcom back when Ford was President. All it would take is one such incident to be real and everyone would be all over the Secret Service for failure to do its duty. As far as the second "report", can you say paranoid hysteria? I knew you could.
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Sat Nov 13, 2004  at  08:27 PM
I don't know if the stories are true or not, but coming from the US, I am willing to believe most anything... I just want to say that the stories about the Secret Services reminded me of one of the best jokes I heard lately:

"An old Muslim man living in the US writes a letter to his son who is living in France:
- Dear Son, I hope all is well with you, but I need to ask for your help. I am very old and I can
Posted by corax  on  Mon Nov 15, 2004  at  06:45 AM
I join the consensus. First story credible, second story not -- at least, not as told.

The Secret Service has to humorlessly track down everything anyone could consider a threat, it's not optional for them, but they're not looking to make something out of nothing (and more work for themselves), they're hoping to cross you off the list.

A library red flag for the FBI? Especially for something as tangential as land mines in Cambodia? Sounds like Patriot Act paranoia. I know of no mechanism in place to make such a thing happen, though I suppose you can never entirely rule out some nutbar librarian calling the FBI on his or her own hook.
Posted by Bill  on  Tue Jan 25, 2005  at  12:49 PM
who do i notify of not 1 but 2 barristers trying to get me an inheritance from a relative. 1 is a barrister koffi the other is barrister james. one is for 12.5 million the other 15 million dollars who do i notify? please get back to me
Posted by greg kaminski  on  Sat Jun 03, 2006  at  09:47 PM
greg kaminski, I have received similar emails and they are scams. If you respond to them, at some point you will be asked to pay some sort of fee or tax before the money can be released. This will prove that the emails are scams. There is no fee or tax that must be paid prior to the release of any inheritance or other similar action. Any such money is taken from the inheritance at the time the money is released to the heir. Plus, ask yourself, did you ever know of these rich relatives before these sudden emails? If there was someone rich in your family, why didn't anyone else know of them? Who should yu contact? The FBI, who are responsible for investigating all wire fraud (which is what these are) claims under 18USC.
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Mon Jun 05, 2006  at  03:19 PM


Posted by Deal  on  Thu Jan 14, 2010  at  07:34 PM
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