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Fwd.: Lesen ist verdächtig

Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2003 22:56:04 -0700
To: usawatch _at__ derechos.net 
From: Margarita Lacabe <marga _at__ usawatch.org>
Subject: [usawatch] Careful: The FB-eye may be watching 

Careful: The FB-eye may be watching - Reading the wrong thing in public
can get you in trouble


"The FBI is here,"Mom tells me over the phone. Immediately I can see my
with her back to a couple of Matrix-like figures in black suits and
sunglasses, her hand covering the mouthpiece like Grace Kelly in Dial M
Murder. This must be a joke, I think. But it's not, because Mom isn't

"The who?" I say.

"Two FBI agents. They say you're not in trouble, they just want to
They want to come to the store."

I work in a small, independent bookstore, and since it's a slow Tuesday

afternoon, I figure, "Sure." Someone I know must have gotten some 
government work, I think; hadn't my consultant friend spoken recently
getting rolled onto some government job? Background check, I think, 
interviewing acquaintances ... No big deal, right? Then, of course, I
a big deal about it in front of my co-workers.

"That was my mom," I tell them. "The FBI's coming for me." They laugh;
a good joke, especially when the FBI actually shows up. They are not
bogeymen I had been expecting. They're dressed casually, they speak 
familiarly, but they are big. The one in front stands close to 7 feet,
you can tell his partner is built like a bulldog under his baggy shirt

"You Marc Schultz?" asks the tall one. He shows me his badge,
himself as Special Agent Clay Trippi. After assuring me that I'm not in

trouble, he asks if there is someplace we can sit down and talk. We
back to Reference, where a table and chairs are set up. We sit down,
I'm again informed that I am not in trouble.

Then, Agent Trippi asks, "Do you drive a black Nissan Altima?" And I 
realize this meeting is not about a friend. Despite their reassurances,
despite the fact that I haven't committed any federal offenses (that I
of), I'm starting to feel a bit like I'm in trouble.

They ask me if I was driving my car on Saturday, and I say, reasonably

sure, that I was. They ask me where I went, and I struggle for a moment
remember Saturday. I make a lame joke about how the days run together
you're underemployed. They smile politely. Was I at work on Saturday? I

think so.

"Were you at the Caribou Coffee on Powers Ferry?" asks Agent Trippi.
where I get my coffee before work, and so I tell him yes, probably,
before remembering Saturday: Harry Potter day, opening early, in at

So I would have been at Caribou Coffee that Saturday, getting my small

coffee, room for cream. This information seems to please the agents.

"Did you notice anything unusual, anyone worth commenting on?" OK, I
It's the unusual guy they want, not me. I think hard, wondering if it
Saturday I saw the guy in the really cool reclining wheelchair, the guy
struck me as a potential James Bondian supervillain, but no: That was

Then they ask if I carried anything into the shop -- and we're back to

My mind races. I think: a bomb? A knife? A balloon filled with
But no. I don't own any of those things. "Sunglasses," I say. "Maybe my

cell phone?"

Not the right answer. I'm nervous now, wondering how I must look:
mid-20s, unassuming retail employee. What could I have possibly been

Trippi's partner speaks up: "Any reading material? Papers?" I don't
so. Then Trippi decides to level with me: "I'll tell you what, Marc. 
Someone in the shop that day saw you reading something, and thought it

looked suspicious enough to call us about. So that's why we're here,
checking it out. Like I said, there's no problem. We'd just like to get
the bottom of this. Now if we can't, then you may have a problem. And
don't want that."

You don't want that? Have I just been threatened by the FBI? Confusion
a light dusting of panic conspire to keep me speechless. Was I reading

something that morning? Something that would constitute a problem?

The partner speaks up again: "Maybe a printout of some kind?"

Then it occurs to me: I was reading. It was an article my dad had
off the Web. I remember carrying it into Caribou with me, reading it in

line, and then while stirring cream into my coffee. I remember bringing
with me to the store, finishing it before we opened. I can't remember
the article was about, but I'm sure it was some kind of left-wing 
editorial, the kind that never fails to incite me to anger and despair
the state of the country.

I tell them all this, but they want specifics: the title of the
the author, some kind of synopsis, but I can't help them -- I read so
of this stuff.

"Do you still have the article?" Probably not, but I suggest we check 
behind the counter. When that doesn't pan out, I have the bright idea
call my dad at work, see if he can remember. Of course, he can't put 
together a coherent sentence after I tell him the FBI are at the store,

questioning me.

"The FBI?" he keeps asking. Eventually I get him off the phone, and
it may be in my car. They follow me out to the parking lot, where
asks me if there's anything in the car he should know about.

"Weapons, drugs? It's not a problem if you do, but if you don't tell me
then I find something, that's going to be a problem." I assure him
nothing in my car, coming very close to quoting Rudy Ray Moore in
"There's nothin' in my trunk, man."

The excitement of the questioning -- the interrogation -- has made me
a little bit giddy. I almost laugh out loud when they ask me to pop my

There's nothing in my car, of course. I keep looking anyway, while
them it was probably some kind of 
what-did-they-know-and-when-did-they-know-it article about the buildup
Gulf War II. Trippi nods, unsatisfied. I turn up some papers from the 
University of Georgia, where I'm about to begin as a grad student. He
me what I'm going to study.

"Journalism," I say. As I duck back into the car, I hear Agent Trippi 
informing his partner, "He's going to UGA for journalism" in a way that

makes me wonder whether that counts against me.

Back in the store, Trippi gives me his card and tells me to call him if
remember anything. After he's gone, I call my dad back to see if he has

calmed down, maybe come up with a name. We retrace some steps together,

figure out the article was Hal Crowther's "Weapons of Mass Stupidity"
the Weekly Planet, a free independent out of Tampa. It comes back to me

then, this scathing screed focusing on the way corporate interests have

poisoned the country's media, focusing mostly on Fox News and Rupert 
Murdoch -- really infuriating, deadly accurate stuff about American 
journalism post-9-11. So I call the number on the card, leave a message

with the name, author and origin of the column, and ask him to call me
he has any more questions.

To tell the truth, I'm kind of anxious to hear back from the FBI, if
for the chance to ask why anyone would find media criticism suspicious,
if maybe the sight of a dark, bearded man reading in public is itself 
enough to strike fear in the heart of a patriotic citizen.

My co-worker, Craig, says that we should probably be thankful the FBI
these things seriously; I say it seems like a dark day when an American

citizen regards reading as a threat, and downright pitch-black when the

federal government agrees.

Special Agent Trippi didn't return calls from CL. But Special Agent Joe

Paris, Atlanta field office spokesman, stressed that specific FBI 
investigations are confidential. He wouldn't confirm or deny the

"In this post-911 era, it is the absolute responsibility of the FBI to

follow through on any tips of potential terrorist activity," Paris
"Are people going to take exception and be inconvenienced by this at
Oh, yeah. ... A certain amount of convenience is going to be offset by
increase in security."

Librarian & Cybrarian
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