Monday, March 24, 2008

In support of John Adams

Late to the party again, but it has recently come to my attention that a blogger writing under the pseudonym of John Adams (at a blog called Free Whitewater) has been the target of rather sketchy (I'd say illegal) investigations by Whitewater police. Why? Is this blogger making threats of violence? Spreading libel? Nope, just exercising his right to free speech by criticizing the local government and police.

In what looks a lot like a case of someone not being able to maturely handle criticism, Whitewater police chief James Coan has been using city time and personnel to attempt to unmask this anonymous critic. The Wisconsin State Journal recently had a good article about this whole brouhaha:

According to Whitewater Police Department e-mails obtained by Adams under the state's open records law, Coan involved at least two detectives, the city's director of public works, its information technology officer and the city clerk — all working on city time and using taxpayer-funded resources — to find the identity of a man described as a "suspect" but who had not committed a crime.

Coan defended the "minimal" use of city resources, which he said was aimed at gauging "potential threats" from "someone who seems so extremely angry at me and with our department."

What gets me is that Coan even admits to using city resources to help with his petty vendetta, something that is pretty well against the rules.

In Whitewater, the effort to discover Adams' identity included examining his e-mails and Web site registration, running a license plate check on a man suspected of being Adams (he wasn't), and suggesting city officials conduct surveillance at the dedication of a restored historic landmark on the chance he might be there.

"I think it is someone we want to keep an eye on...," Whitewater Police Detective Tina Winger wrote in an e-mail to Coan. "Seems like an anti-government radical to me."

The investigation culminated in a Jan. 4 visit from Coan and Whitewater Police Lt. Tim Gray to the home of Scott, whom Coan said afterward he was "99.9 percent convinced" was the blogger.

In fact, said Adams, who revealed his identity to the Wisconsin State Journal on condition of anonymity, the chief was "100 percent wrong."

...not to mention "100% ridiculous." This kind of action by people in positions of authority should never be tolerated. Thankfully, legal precedent is very much on the side of this new John Adams. As the article points out, there have been similar such cases of local government attempting to unmask an anonymous critic, either through tactics such as these or through subpoena. They've all been bitch-slapped in a court of law, and rightfully so. Hopefully Adams or someone representing him will file suit against Coan and the city so that we can reiterate one of the fundamental rights afforded to us as Americans--the right to call out corruption and dysfunction in our government when we see it, without fear of warrantless repercussions and meddling, middling police chiefs.

Go John Adams go!

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