Saturday, January 12, 2008

Your taxpayer dollars at work

-- by Dave

We've periodically reported on the antics of far-right maven Hal Turner, who most notably has made a career out of threatening people. This includes issuing threats against judges (and taking credit when one of his target's family members were murdered), calling for vigilante force to "rescue" Terri Schiavo, and demanding we begin shooting Mexican border crossers on sight.

Now it seems that, according to a devastating report from the SPLC, he's been doing it on the payroll of the FBI:
On Jan. 1, unidentified hackers electronically confronted Turner in the forum of his website for “The Hal Turner Show.” After a heated exchange, they told Turner that they had successfully hacked into his server and found correspondence with an FBI agent who is apparently Turner’s handler. Then they posted an alleged July 7 E-mail to the agent in which Turner hands over a message from someone who sent in a death threat against Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.). “Once again,” Turner writes to his handler, “my fierce rhetoric has served to flush out a possible crazy.” In what is allegedly a portion of another E-mail, Turner discusses the money he is paid.

On Thursday, as the E-mail exchange was heatedly discussed on a major neo-Nazi website, Turner suddenly announced he was quitting political work. “I hereby separate from the ‘pro-White’ movement,” he said, adding that he was ending his radio show immediately. “I will no longer involve myself in any aspect of it.”

The FBI declined comment. “Longstanding FBI policy prohibits disclosing who may or may not provide information,” Agent Richard Kolko of the agency’s press unit said. Reached in New Jersey, Turner also declined all comment.

The apparent revelation set off a torrent of criticism from experts in criminology and the use of informants. “This is clearly over the line,” said James Nolan, an associate sociology professor at West Virginia University who is an expert in police procedure and a former unit chief in the FBI’s Crime Analysis, Research and Development Unit. “Informants may be involved in drugs, and you overlook that because of the greater good. However, these are viable threats — they could be carried out — that the FBI clearly knows about. I want to see the FBI stop it.”

Over the years of covering cases involving the far right and federal law enforcement's use of informants, I've certainly seen them indulging the use of some of the most questionable characters for this work. But I don't think I've ever seen anything this irresponsible before.

As Mark Potok of the SPLC put it when I talked to him about this case: "These people were playing Russian Roulette with the lives of the people Hal Turner was targeting."

Potok also spoke with Mike German, a former undercover FBI agent whose work I once covered. "This certainly raises a whole lot of questions that need to be answered in a public forum," he said. "There are strict rules about what an informant is allowed to do, and certainly encouraging or instigating others to commit acts of violence is far beyond what FBI agents should have their informants doing. Aside from the fact that you're possibly encouraging someone to commit an act of violence, there¹s also the danger that you're actually entrapping that person, which means he would get off."

This deserves to be a significant scandal. We'll see if the press can divert its attention long enough from Britney Spears to bring it to the public's attention.

No comments: