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More on Secret Service and phone calls to Internet essayists

Background on JG Ballard's, um, paean to Ronald Reagan, published some 13 
years the Gipper became prez:

Anyone who's been online for a while knows that Secret Service visits and 
phone calls about threats to the president are part of the background noise 
of the Internet. It may be that they've expanded the scope of what they 
consider a credible threat after Sep. 11, but it's too early to tell.



Date: Wed, 5 Dec 2001 13:18:10 -0500
To: declan@well.com
From: Sean Gullette <kgb@dti.net>
Subject: U.S. Secret Service responds to "Why I Want to Fuck George Bush"

This summer I had a telephone call from the Secret Service to ask me about
a piece I had published online called "Why I Want to Fuck George Bush," an
homage to JG Ballard's classic essay.

Did I want to 'talk to the President,' I was asked? I laughed. After
reassuring the polite and intelligent agent ("I have a great sense of
humor," he assured me) that I was a harmless satirist, I asked about his
job. The Secret Service has an office devoted to investigating
possible-threat items on the Internet. They use search engines to look for
potentially hostile word patterns. Agents do telephone assessments on
around 30 cases a day, year round.

To my surprise I didn't feel harassed or bigbrothered. There had been no
impingment of free speech, no chilling effect. Clearly my case would be
routinely marked "no threat" and filed away. If I had vibed hinky, though,
I might have gotten a house call the next time the Prez came to town: "So,
pal, are you planning to come down to the motorcade tomorrow? You been
taking your medications?" These guys are professional bodyguards for the
executive branch, trying to preempt bad guys, asking questions, doing their
job. An expensive project, no doubt. But other cops should be so fine-tuned
in their threat assessment process.

One crucial thing to remember: if my piece had been titled "Why I Think
John Ashcroft is a Big  Dumbass" and the government gave me a call, this
would be a very different story, and I'd be hollering bloody murder.


Sean Gullette                     kgb@dti.net
77 Bleecker #631                  http://www.kgbmedia.com
NYC 10012                         212 475 1953

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