Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The FBI came for me yesterday. Really.

Yesterday around lunchtime the boyfriend calls me at work. “Chica,” he says, “you should listen to this message.” He plays a message from an NYPD detective asking me to call him. I was confused, but assumed it was some sort of fundraising request. A couple of hours later I the detective and left a message. His voicemail said he was a part of the NYPD-FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.

[As background, almost 10 years ago I worked as an investigator at the New York Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), the agency that investigates complaints against the police department. It was an interesting job and a lot of fun (all of the investigators were just out of school, which made it a little more party-like than you would think. Or perhaps a lot more). I eventually quit and went on to work on a couple of movies before going to grad school. About a month ago I got a myspace friend request from some group called ‘CCRB Underground’ and said yes. It was a collection of current or former CCRB investigators making fun of the place. I remember looking at it and trying to figure out if I knew any of them, but I didn’t. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how they knew who I was until I realized I had CCRB listed as one of the places I’d worked on my profile.]

So it did occur to me that this might have something to do with the CCRB, but I couldn’t imagine what. After a little phone tag I finally spoke with the detective. He wanted to meet up with me and ask a few questions relating to CCRB but about a current case. He was willing to come to my work or home, but wanted to do it that day. I’m not too big on having the police in my house, so I suggested the Starbucks by work. The detective said they could drive me home if I was in a hurry, and that they didn’t want to inconvenience me.

None of this made any sense, but I wasn’t especially concerned. Maybe some old investigator had some issue with the cops? There was one guy who did a lot of street theatre stuff, and another girl who had been pretty heavily involved in protesting the RNC back in ’04, and I know that the Joint Task Force was involved in that. More worried were all of my coworkers, who were horrified at the idea that I might just get into a car with strangers.

I went and met the detective. He and his partner showed me their IDs. One was indeed an NYPD Detective and the other an FBI agent. They were very friendly and asked where I wanted to talk. I said on the way home was great. We got into their car (a big one with DC plates) and the detective sat in the back with me while the g-man drove. They already knew my address. Why? Because they’d been to my house three times already. In fact, they hadn’t ever called me, they had been ringing my buzzer (which runs through the phone line and which my machine eventually picks up).

Here’s where it gets crazy.

The detective pulled out a folder and took out a piece of paper. It was all the pictures from my myspace page printed out. He pulled out some more papers and (basically) said this:

Some ‘concerned citizen’ was trolling myspace and came across CCRB Underground. Somewhere on there was the quote from Back to the Future about how Doc got the uranium to power the time machine by stealing it from some Libyan nationalists: “They wanted me to build them a bomb, so I took their plutonium and in turn, gave them a shiny bomb-casing filled with used pinball machine parts.”

This citizen took it upon his or herself to look at who the friends were on this site and found me. (Now would be a good time to look at my profile.) He or she then sent an email through the NYC.gov site saying (as far as I can tell) CCRB Underground was some sort of terror group and I advocated armed revolution and narcotics trafficking. Somehow this ended up on the Mayor’s desk the Commissioner got upset and then the gears went into motion. A priority investigation was launched and, they said, the original CCRB Underground guy had his computer confiscated.

The detective proceeded to ask me if I traffic in narcotics, if I am involved in terrorist activities or armed violence, what is my primary email address, who do I live with, where do I work, what do I do, how long have I been there, whether I had travelled outside the country in the last ten years, who the other people in the pictures on my page were, if I knew anyone involved with CCRB Underground, or recognized any of the people from the page.

Now I’m a grown up girl who investigated cops. They don’t scare me. And these guys were as nice as can be, and we were laughing about the whole thing – I mean, Back to the Future? But I was not exactly in a position where it would have been easy to say, “I don’t really want to answer that.” At all.

I did point out that I was being sarcastic, and that the art (such as it is) of my myspace profile lay in the ironic juxtaposition of interests like the destruction of the military industrial complex and napping. I also pointed out that my profile also said I started high school over a decade before I was born and spent nine years in college. I believe I also digressed into my theory that there is an X vs. Y generational change in terms of how to present oneself on the interwebs – us Xers are all about the irony and the snark, whereas I see more Y kids being all earnest. I think I also compared the investigation they were running to a kabuki dance. They didn’t disagree. The FBI agent mentioned that he had been in Japan for a while and actually seen a kabuki dance.

They got to my block. I told them that if it was all the same to them, I was going to keep my profile the same, as it had already gotten me into about as much trouble as it could. They said fine. We exchanged pleasantries and I got out, shook their hands and went into my building.

So, in summary:

An anonymous person (or at least unknown to me) found something patently false on the internet, not to mention perfectly legal (as being interested in revolution, not to mention WRITING ABOUT IT, certainly is), made a complaint about it, and next thing I’m being visited and questioned by the FBI. Needless to say I’m assuming that the email address I gave them (and probably any of mine they can find) is now being monitored, and I’m pretty much going to have to figure my phone is going to be tapped as well.

Because I wrote something completely legal on myspace.

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Blogger Shambhu said...

Say hello to big brother for me.

June 05, 2007  
Anonymous Trav said...

hey china travers here this is odd stuff. I have a story along these lines as well. While testing new traceroute software today, I discovered that my dad's emails were being routed through a DoD IP address. After I alerted him to it, I can no longer send email to him. Could be nothing, but after seeing this, I'm getting a little more curious.

June 05, 2007  
Blogger Lily Kane said...

holy fucking shit

June 05, 2007  
Anonymous kim kelley said...

That's some crazy shit. However, I'm not even surprised by the absurdity of it all. That's how fucked up our country has become. I'm just think it's cool that other people love "Veronica Mars" as much as I do. That and "Freaks and Geeks" are my favorite shows, too! The person who turned you in is probably the same person responsible for cancelling these shows.

June 06, 2007  
Blogger Sam said...

Crickey, thats mad!
Good luck, and I hope nothing more comes of it.

June 06, 2007  
Blogger Kathleen said...

One of the many appalling things going on here is that the taxes we pay? On just about everything? Are indirectly--or sometimes directly--funding these investigations. Kids are starving in this country, not to mention the world, and our US government spends money investigating someone who put up a quote from "Back to the Future?"
Every time I hear anything new, I end up thinking, And just when I thought it couldn't get any sicker!
Somehow, though, it does--get sicker and sicker...

June 06, 2007  
Blogger fjb said...

I linked over from TheGallopingBeaver. Yup, the paranoia gets better and better. Nice times we live in.

June 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you tell them it was to build the flux capacitor which is what makes time-travel possible?


June 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if they visited Michael J. Fox?
Cool shit though. Chalk it up to sticking a finger in big brothers eye. If they run down everyone of these concerned citizen reports, the real bad guy must be having a field day with their pin ball machine parts!

June 23, 2008  

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