Congressman Kenny Marchant (TX-24) today issued a statement in strong support of free speech and conservative bloggers who are being targeted in dangerous "SWAT-tings" and asked Attorney General Holder to investigate these matters to see if federal laws have been violated by the perpetrators.
Recent reports of SWAT-tings have gripped the attention of the conservative blogosphere and are making their way to more mainstream media outlets. SWAT-tings are elaborate schemes whereby the perpetrator calls a local police department to report a violent occurrence inside the target's residence. Unbeknownst to the target, authorities have been summoned and police units swarm the residence. These hoaxes are dangerous and are being used by suspicious characters to harass and suppress free speech, particularly that of conservative bloggers.
"I have written a letter demanding Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department fully investigate these SWAT-tings. These hoaxes are clearly intended to silence speech and rational political discourse and incite fear amongst those associated with a targeted blogger. These incidents also spread local law enforcement resources thinly. Any attempt to suppress free speech is one that ought to be taken seriously, and I will lend my voice and support to this cause to ensure that no one's constitutional rights are violated, no matter what their political beliefs are. No one should be subjected to this treatment and I will not allow SWAT-tings to go unaddressed by the Justice Department."
A letter has been sent to the Attorney General demanding an investigation into SWAT-tings. The full text of the letter to Attorney General Holder is printed below and a copy of the letter is attached.
June 7, 2012
The Honorable Eric Holder
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW Suite 5111
Washington, DC 20530-0009
Dear Attorney General Holder:
I am writing to you regarding my concern that several conservative bloggers have been the targets of significant harassment and potentially criminal violations. I am very afraid of the potential chilling effects that these reported actions may have in silencing individuals who would otherwise be inclined to exercise their Constitutional right to free speech.
It has been brought to my attention that many of these harassing actions are dangerous hoaxes popularly known as "SWAT-ting." SWAT-ting involves someone contacting the police with a false report of a violent incident at the home of the target. It is further believed that perpetrators are using advanced telecommunications technology to mask the real location of their contact with police. Local police then respond to the target's home under the false pretense that the call originated inside of the home which also hides the true identity of the caller. Victims are left with a significant police presence at their home which is not only embarrassing but could potentially be dangerous. I am asking the Department of Justice to immediately investigate this alarming trend of SWAT-tings.
In addition to causing significant unjust harm to the victims, SWAT-ting is a major drain on police resources that could be responding to actual crimes. Does the Department of Justice have an action plan in place to help local law enforcement reduce the occurrence of SWAT-ting? If there is no current plan in place, I strongly encourage the Department of Justice to create a plan and provide guidance to state and local law enforcement to greatly reduce SWAT-ting occurrences. Moreover, given the advanced use of telecommunications technology involved in many SWAT-ting incidents, do any of these actions potentially constitute federal crimes?
Though the practice of SWAT-ting may not be new, I am very concerned that it has now become an option for those who seek to do harm to those of differing political opinions. Is the Department of Justice aware of the recent reports of SWAT-ting being used to target political opponents? Are there any statutory or regulatory changes that you would recommend be made to improve the Department of Justice and/or state and local law enforcement's ability to reduce occurrences of SWAT-ting and apprehend those responsible?
Thank you for your review of this correspondence and I look forward to your reply. Should you have any questions regarding this letter, please feel free to contact me, or my Legislative Director, Scott Cunningham, at 202.225.6605 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Member of Congress