US Government Jails Marine Veteran for Posting Comments to Facebook

A US marine veteran is in custody after making comments on Facebook about 9/11 conspiracy theories. In addition to being detained, he is reportedly being forced to undergo psychiatric testing as well. For me, this case disturbs me, but for reasons no one else seems to be even covering at all.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

It’s always troubling whenever we hear of people being detained by the government over online activities. It is disturbing when any country does it – especially when the United States does it for political reasons. First off, there are perfectly legitimate reasons to detain someone like if they are about to cause harm to another individual for instance. This case, however, I don’t see how the actions of this individual justifies such an extreme response from the US government given how the government has handled other similar cases.

The story starts with a marine veteran by the name of Brandon J. Raub posting 9/11 conspiracy theories to Facebook. Apparently, these comments were published privately. From the ABC Report, there’s not a whole lot that was out of the ordinary from someone passionate about 9/11 conspiracy theories. There were reportedly pictures of the hole in the Pentagon building and words splashed on it “where’s the plane”. Another comment which, I agree, was over the line, was “Sharpen my axe; I’m here to sever heads.”

It apparently was that comment that caught someone’s attention and that comment was reported to authorities. Raub was then taken into custody and will definitely remain there for another 30 days as he is forced to undergo psychiatric testing. From the report:

Police — acting under a state law that allows emergency, temporary psychiatric commitments upon the recommendation of a mental health professional — took Raub to the John Randolph Medical Center in Hopewell. He was not charged with any crime.

A Virginia-based civil liberties group, The Rutherford Institute, dispatched one of its attorneys to the hospital to represent Raub at a hearing Monday. A judge ordered Raub detained for another month, Rutherford executive director John Whitehead said.

While this has sparked the usual debate over the first amendment, an alleged violation of free speech, national security, wiretapping and even caused others to create a support group for Raub amongst others, there is one thing that actually bothers me about all of this. If you’re thinking that it’s fears of an impending police state (which can be a concern), an opinion about the conspiracy theory itself (which I don’t buy into after looking into the science surrounding 9/11), or how our digital rights are constantly being encroached (which is also a legitimate concern), those are not the reasons that is bothering to me here. The thing that really bothers me about this case arises from when you compare this reaction to when other ideologies made similar comments and how the government reacted.

The most famous example is when a Republican newsletter called for an armed resurrection if Obama is re-elected back in May. The only reaction from all of that (to my knowledge) was that the person in question was shown the door for the publication and his comments were denounced by Republicans. The comment in question was, “The ultimate task for the people is to remain vigilant and aware ~ that the government, their government is out of control, and this moment, this opportunity, must not be forsaken, must not escape us, for we shall not have any coarse but armed revolution should we fail with the power of the vote in November ~ This Republic cannot survive for 4 more years underneath this political socialist ideologue.”

This, of course, isn’t the only example of an over-the-top comment. Back in 2010, Richard Behney said, “I believe personally, we’re at a crossroads. We have one last opportunity. And I believe 2010 is it. All right? And we can do it with our vote. And we can get new faces in, whether it’s my face or not, I pray to God that I see new faces. And if we don’t see new faces, I’m cleaning my guns and getting ready for the big show. And I’m serious about that, and I bet you are, too.” (Hat tip ZeroPaid forum member YWD67 for that find.)

What was the reaction of authorities? A questioning by the FBI? Some aftershocks from the publicity?

My question is, have authorities really gotten to the point where they are beginning to pick and choose ideologies when it comes to national security? You have Raub threatening to sever heads on a private page on Facebook and he is detained and being forced to undergo psychiatric tests against his will, then on the other side, you have a Tea Party activist threatening to take up arms if they don’t like the outcome of an election and he seemingly gets, at most, a rap on the wrist and on his way he goes. I’m not going to sit here and be an apologist for comments being made in any of these cases, I am questioning why when two different individuals make similar threats, they are treated so differently by authorities. Either you go in and detain individuals for making such stupid remarks based on concerns for the safety of others or you treat both as heated and regrettable rhetoric, dust off your hands and say these were just stupid comments made in the heat of the moment. Above all, I personally see it as a national security risk. If someone has malicious intent, all they have to do is align themselves with whatever ideology the authorities will turn a blind eye too and they’ll find a safe haven as they start potentially carrying out some life threatening plans.

It’s disturbing in and of itself when people start being detained in the US over certain comments made online that the government finds unfavourable, it’s even worse when there’s the appearance of authorities picking and choosing which ideologies to look at seriously whenever they start making threats either online or offline.

(Via /.)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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