Rep. Adams and the Politics of SWAT-ting Calls

Rep. Adams and the Politics of SWAT-ting Calls

Last month Rep. Sandy Adams of Florida sent a letter to AttorneyGeneral Eric Holder asking him to look into the SWAT-ting ofconservative bloggers. Eighty-six other members of Congress co-signedthe letter (all of them Republicans) but so far there has been noresponse from the DOJ.

Rep. Adams is a former law enforcement officer who spent 17 years as a deputy sheriff in Orange County, Florida.Last week we spoke with Rep. Adams by phone and she explained some of thereasons this is a such a high priority issue for her. “I have been tonumerous 911 calls” she explained, adding “I’ve been there when someonehas been shot.” Because of her personal experience as a cop on thebeat, the idea of sending police to a home based on a false murderreport, i.e. SWAT-ting, is something she finds especially dangerous.

As Rep. Adams explained in her letter to the DOJ, SWAT-ting endangers thecommunity in three specific ways. First, police who’ve been called to amurder scene are in a hurry to get there. They believe a life is on theline which means they are going to be racing to the scene, lights on,sirens blazing. While this is entirely appropriate, it is always dangerous. Police may be forced to bypassred lights, exceed speed limits and other activity that can lead toaccidents involving officers and other vehicles or bystanders. Neither the officers nor the public should be put at risk for a hoax.

Secondly and most obviously, SWAT-ting calls represent a real risk tothe unsuspecting target of the calls. When police are called to the scene of abe prepared to defend themselves. Fortunately, no one has been hurt inthe SWAT-ting calls thus far, but the danger that a sudden move could be misinterpreted and lead to a shooting is real.

Finally, officers diverted to respond to a fake 911 call are notavailable to respond to a real one. This means that someone else may notbe getting the life saving attention they need because resources werebusy or delayed by a hoax.

There’s also the political issue. The recent spate of SWAT-ting callshave all been aimed at conservative bloggers in a clear attempt tochill public discourse. “People are being targeted for using their firstamendment rights,” Rep. Adams explained, “People should be able in ourcountry, people with differences of opinion, to speak freely. That’swhat makes this country so great. It should not be happening to anyone.”

However, because the people behind the calls are using Voice OverInternet Protocol (VOIP), it’s not as easy to identify who is behindthem as it would be with land lines or even cell phones. We asked Rep.Adams if state police have the technological savvy to track down thesource of these calls. She noted that all states have the ability toseek assistance from the federal government, especially when there isreason to believe the illegal behavior took place across state lines.

So that’s where this investigation stands. Attacks on the freespeech of conservatives could be quickly resolved with federal help,but so far that help is not forthcoming. It probably doesn’t help the situation thatRep. Adams and the other signatories to the letter voted to hold theAttorney General in contempt last week. It seems clear that politics motivated theSWAT-ting calls and, at least for the moment, politics may interfere with holding the perpetrators accountable.