Today, CNN featured a story centering around CNN contributor and RedState managing editor Erick Erickson, the latest victim in a series of incidents in which an imposter mimics the phone number of a target, then calls the police and confesses to a violent crime. Such confessions often result in law enforcement personnel, many times special weapons and tactics teams (SWAT teams), responding to calls with full force, risking the life and health of the target. This tactic has been called SWATting by the FBI.
The CNN story featured the 911 phone call that led to Erickson’s SWATting on May 27, 2012. It can be heard below.
On the heels of that SWATting, Breitbart News contributor Lee Stranahan decided to conduct a podcast late that same evening to discuss the incident; the podcast extended into the very early morning hours of May 28, 2012. Stranahan had invited guest Patrick Frey, a deputy district attorney at Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office who also blogs under the pseudonym Patterico, to offer insight into his own experience as a victim of SWATting. Frey was the target of a similar incident in June 2011, an account that Frey has detailed extensively at his own blog in recent weeks. Frey has also alleged a much broader, prolonged campaign of lawfare and harassment against a group of political writers.
What followed on the May 28 podcast was shocking.
Partway into the program, at about 49:28 on the podcast, which can be heard by clicking here, a caller with an unidentified phone number greeted the Stranahan and Frey, and then claimed to be the SWATter from Frey’s June 2011 incident. Here is the transcript:
CALLER: It’s me. Hey Pat, you remember me, buddy? It’s me that SWATted you, buddy. How about I punk you one more time for old times’ sake, huh? (laughter) You still there, buddy?
STRANAHAN: Yeah, we’re here. Now why are you saying…now give us some proof that you’re the person who SWATted Pat. (silence) And, they’ve gone.
A stunned Patrick Frey commented that the call was “pretty spooky,” and that he felt like this was “a bad movie.”
Moments later, the brazen caller returned, at about 65:40 on the tape. Here is the transcript. Note that at this point on the podcast, the author of this post had called in:
CALLER: Hey, Pat, buddy, what is this, Lee? Alright. You wingnuts make me laugh. This is all so funny. I mean, Michelle with her cousin still missing, for what, her cousin offs herself, that’s so funny, I still laugh about that. Hey Pat, how’d that feel when you got SWATted that night? I was watching from outside, buddy, that was kinda funny, watching your ass go out in handcuffs. (laughter)
LIBERTY CHICK: Your voice sounds kind of funny.
STRANAHAN: Your voice sounds funny, you’re talking a little too fast.
CALLER: Oh, I’m sorry, am I speaking too fast for you, buddy?
STRANAHAN: Try it slow. Do the whole ‘I shot my’…do what you said on the call. Repeat what you said on the call.
CALLER: What call? I don’t know what you’re talking about, buddy. I thought you invited me to talk some serious things here. Or are we not?
STRANAHAN: You sound like Sean Penn as Spicoli, that’s what you sound like. But if you could slow it down a little bit, what did you sound like on the call?
CALLER: I don’t know, buddy.
FREY: Well, well, tell us why you did it. If you’re the guy, tell us why you did it.
(Caller hangs up).
The “Michelle” to whom the caller callously referred was presumably Michelle Malkin, whose cousin tragically went missing in March of 2011. During that evening’s podcast, Stranahan had mentioned Malkin’s recent efforts in bringing exposure to the stories of the SWATtings and to the alleged broader, prolonged campaign of harassment over the course of the last year against a group of political bloggers. Malkin had also been tweeting about Stranahan’s podcast just moments before the alleged SWATter called in.
One important detail to note: Stranahan scheduled the May 28 podcast spontaneously, in response to the Erick Erickson incident that same evening. He announced the program on Twitter only six minutes prior to its start.
The story about the SWATtings and about the alleged broader campaign of harassment gained traction last week, after one of the targets was recently jailed for violating a peace order, which was an unreasonable restraint of his First Amendment rights by a judge who thought comment in the public domain constituted harassment. An outcry from the political blogging and activism community – from both sides of the political spectrum – has now prompted intervention from members of Congress. Letters from both Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Texas Congressman Kenny Marchant have urged the Department of Justice to investigate the SWATting incidents to determine whether or not federal laws have been violated.