Anti-War Submariner Free Speech Update
The Boise Guardian followed up on the breathless stories of a local anti-war activist, Dwight Scarbrough (a submariner from the 70s) being harassed by "Homeland Security Agents" (actually Federal Protective Service parking lot cops, but "Homeland Security agents" sounds more menacing), and reported, as I predicted, that it was a case of local low-level louies overstepping their bounds, for which they were chastised:
"The GUARDIAN has followed up with the U.S. Attorney’s office where a spokesperson said the Homeland Security folks have been verbally advised that Scarbrough’s actions are protected speech under the Hatch Act which allows government employees to display bumper stickers and signs on personal vehicles, regardless of the message. There CAN be sanity among government officials!
"No charges were ever filed--despite the threats by the agents--and it appears the matter is closed."
The Guardian still persists in using the fear-provoking "Homeland Security Agent" tag for the FPS cops, which sounds even sillier now that it's been shown that they were out of bounds in their actions. Still, I'm guessing that the resolution of the case won't result in the firestorm of posts we saw on the left side of the blogosphere that the initial reports of the incident caused.
The best description I've read about what probably happened came from a commenter in my earlier post, who describes himself as an FPS employee not in Boise:
"This is just a case of the FPS officers making a bad call on their citations. The regulation they used is intended to preserve federal buildings and grounds by not allowing anyone to randomly post signs or flyers on the premises, to keep the buildings from turning into giant bulletin boards or college dorms. The regulation certainly doesn't extend to bumper stickers on POVs (privately owned vehicles).
"My personal advice, Mr. Scarborough should continue parking his vehicle on government property. If he is cited, he should not pay the fine, just wait for a court appearance date before a US magistrage judge (if it even gets that far -- the US Attorneys Office will probably just decline to press charges at all). At some point, clear-thinking, rational minds will assume control of the case and clarify that this regulation was improperly cited by the FPS officer.
"There is no vast right-wing conspiracy here. My guess is that, as usual, the messages on his truck must have rubbed somebody the wrong way and they complained by making a phone call to the FPS office. The easiest thing for the FPS officer to have done would have been to just inform the complainers that no law or regulation was being violated and there was nothing that FPS could do. It could also be possible that if such a complaint took place, the officer may have been ordered to write the violation notice by a supervisor who did not have a good understanding of the regulation. Who knows. But this one is a no-brainer."
Makes sense... but doesn't really provide any evidence of a Bush/Cheney/Rove conspiracy to deny Mr. Scarbrough his rights, which is what most of the people covering this story were looking for. I'm sure they'll keep looking, though...