Hal Turner's Fiery (and It's the FBI's Fault)

A couple of months ago, I noted the arrest of New Jersey blogger Hal Turner for threatening federal judges. His crime was writing that two judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit who ruled that the Second Amendment does not apply to state governments "deserve to be killed"; the post included the judges' photos and the addresses of their chambers. Turner also faces charges in Connecticut for threatening state legislators. According to A.P., he "urged his readers to 'take up arms' against Connecticut lawmakers and suggested government officials should 'obey the Constitution or die,' because he was angry over legislation—later withdrawn—that would have given lay members of Roman Catholic churches more control over their parish's finances." In my view, neither of these statements constitutes a "true threat" or incitement, and they ought to be protected by the First Amendment. In an interesting twist, Turner's lawyer is reinforcing that argument by claiming that his client was trained by the FBI to cozy up with white supremacists and encourage them to break the law:

Hal Turner worked for the FBI from 2002 to 2007 as an "agent provocateur" and was taught by the agency "what he could say that wouldn't be crossing the line," defense attorney Michael Orozco said.

"His job was basically to publish information which would cause other parties to act in a manner which would lead to their arrest," Orozco said.

Prosecutors have acknowledged that Turner was an informant who spied on radical right-wing organizations, but the defense has said Turner was not working for the FBI when he allegedly made threats against Connecticut legislators and wrote that three federal judges in Illinois deserved to die.

"But if you compare anything that he did say when he was operating, there was no difference. No difference whatsoever," Orozco said.

This argument could backfire, since by Turner's account the FBI wanted him to say things that would provoke others to commit crimes. That sounds a lot like speech that was both intended and likely to result in "imminent lawless action," a category the Supreme Court has said is not covered by the First Amendment.

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  • Art-P.O.G.||

    But what if he's under deep cover (informing on the FBI for internal affairs)?

  • ||

    It's one thing to shine a light on people who are likely to commit crimes anyway, to get them to commit their crimes in a way that they can be identified. It's another thing to actually increase the number of violent criminals out there by inciting people to hatred and violence. Wouldn't it be nice if some agency had a "violent crime prevention unit" that actually put some effort into talking the lunatics back down, instead of stirring them up?

  • Kevin||

    The rat defense. Bizarre!

  • ||

    Sorry, but no kind of death threat is a defendable form of expression. If some idiot threatens to kill someone or straight out calls on other people to act violently, then they deserve whatever consequences that brings. He isn't a credit to our side, and therefore he deserves none of our compassion.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Well, in defense of that approach to 'crimefighting', maybe they're trying to achieve the scenario in The Man Who Was Thursday, which is (SPOILER ALERT) an extremist organization made entirely of cops/informants.

  • ||

    It's good to know that the FBI is still up to its old 60's tricks. Well, I guess we already did from most of the terrorist cell busts.

  • ||

    In my view, neither of these statements constitutes a "true threat" or incitement, and they ought to be protected by the First Amendment.

    Agreed.

    If I am not mistaken, the fact that he posted the addresses/contact info played was a factor in deciding to charge him. If I remember correctly the reason was that on their own, the statements aren't a threat or incitement, but when the statements were coupled with the info that elevated it to a threat.

    I don't see why posting publicly available info about government officials should change the meaning of words.

  • ||

    Did Turner write any diaries while involved with the white surpremacists?

  • ||

    Sorry Jacob, but I really can't see how posting that somebody deserves to be killed, and in the same post including that person's work and home addresses, doesn't count as a threat / incitement.

    I would definitely appreciate a follow-up post laying out your rationale and how you make that distinction.

  • ||

    Wouldn't it be nice if some agency had a "violent crime prevention unit" that actually put some effort into talking the lunatics back down,

    How would that get the LE budgets increased? And how would that justify more militarization of the police?

  • The Angry Optimist||

    Sorry Jacob, but I really can't see how posting that somebody deserves to be killed, and in the same post including that person's work and home addresses, doesn't count as a threat / incitement.



    Because it doesn't? What if wrote "here's where Posner lives - run up and praise him when you get the chance"?

  • JB||

    God thinks everyone deserves to die. When is the FBI going to arrest God?

  • ||

    When is the FBI going to arrest God?

    We tried. He's a slippery little bastard. Ignores our subpoenas. Never have been able to find a fixed address. At this point, we're just waiting on a no-knock warrant to raid before the first moment of the Big Bang. No one really thinks he's there either, but we've got to keep trying.

  • ||

    God is right after D.B. Cooper on the FBI Most Wanted List.

  • ||

    He isn't a credit to our side, and therefore he deserves none of our compassion.

    Now there's a man with strong principles.

  • JB||

    I don't see why posting publicly available info about government officials should change the meaning of words.

    It doesn't. I would be shocked if he is found guilty at any level and even more shocked if it isn't overturned on appeal. The 'deserve to die' speech is definite political, protected speech and this arrest comes very close to attempting to regulate thought and religion.

    I personally think that everyone deserves to die. Is the FBI going to come and lock me up?

  • 24AheadDotCom||

    That makes the date on this (from a friend of Reason) all the more interesting.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Even you, Mrs. Lovett, even I.

  • ||

    Now there's a man with strong principles.

    Okay. Let's waste our energy defending sociopaths. That'll really create support for the Libertarian movement.

  • squarooticus||

    I still don't see why "incitement to violence" is a crime at all. Telling someone to "go kill X" doesn't actually pull the trigger. The only type of case in which I'd agree is one in which someone brainwashes others into being assassin automatons, at which point I'd posit that they're directly guilty of murder just as if they had planted a bomb. A blog posting calling for the killin' of a politician simply doesn't qualify for that level of control over the actions of the mob.

  • NeonCat||

    I don't know if he went beyond the protections of the First Amendment or not, but unless he's a quadriplegic or an extreme agoraphobic, telling other people that so and so ought to be shot when you have no intention of going and shooting them yourself is proof that you are a giant, useless pussy. Hal Turner deserves the Mall Ninja Seal of Approval.

  • ||

    The 'deserve to die' speech is definite political, protected speech

    Um, no it isn't. Not only did he post information on where to find these people, he also declared the following:

    "Their blood will replenish the tree of liberty. A small price to pay to assure freedom for millions."

    He very much wants these people die, either by his hands or others. There's no dancing around that. This guy is a definite threat to other people, and the authorities are quite right to take that threat seriously.

  • hotsauce||

    Wagers on whether Sullum would think it constitutes a true threat if the dude listed his (Sullum's) home address?

  • Fluffy||

    "His job was basically to publish information which would cause other parties to act in a manner which would lead to their arrest," Orozco said.

    So wait - Radley Balko is an FBI provocateur?

  • ||

    """God thinks everyone deserves to die. When is the FBI going to arrest God?"""

    ""I personally think that everyone deserves to die. Is the FBI going to come and lock me up?""

    It's not about thinking, it's about speech. When God starts posting those kind of commments, maybe they will go after him.

    """"But if you compare anything that he did say when he was operating, there was no difference. No difference whatsoever," Orozco said"""

    That's probably true, but the laws work differently for those acting under the color of law.

  • ||

    """So wait - Radley Balko is an FBI provocateur?"""

    In the post-911 America, we all are.

  • ||

    It's a been a while, but I think the "imminent" part is critical to the analysis as well. So if the guy had said the same thing to a crowd outside the courthouse occupied by one of the judges, his speech would be more clearly actionable.

  • </||

    Lonewacko,

    A link to a site other than your own?
    You might want to try that more often.Extra points for relevancy.

  • ||

    24AheadDotCom | August 19, 2009, 2:47pm | #
    That makes the date on this (from a friend of Reason) all the more interesting.



    You fucked up, dipshit. The one-liners are supposed to be posted under "William." You can't even troll worth a shit.

  • Gunboat Diplomacy||

    So far this week we have learned that drug test kits the cops use produce false positives; that DNA evidence can now be manufactured and planted; and that the FBI hires people to incite criminal behavior.

    Glad I'm a gunboat.

  • Gunboat Diplomacy||

    "We tried."

    The Romans succeeded.

  • ||

    I personally think that everyone deserves to die. Is the FBI going to come and lock me up?

    Only if you post everyones addresses as well?

  • JB||

    He very much wants these people die, either by his hands or others.

    Bullshit. How do you know what's in his head? Maybe he wants God to kill them with heart attacks or bolts of lightening.

  • JB||

    Only if you post everyones addresses as well?

    Earth. There, come arrest me.

    I think everyone on the planet deserves to die. Death is the high cost of living. That's a religious belief.

  • ||

    Okay. Let's waste our energy defending sociopaths. That'll really create support for the Libertarian movement.

    Right. Because principles are nothing but a means to grow a movement, and are only worth standing when the cause is one that furthers the movement or the person being defended is likeable.

    It's a variation of the "only popular speech needs to be defended" mindset.

  • JB||

    I think everyone on the planet deserves to die. Death is the high cost of living. That's a religious belief.

    That doesn't mean I have any imminent, short or long-term plans to help them along. Every single one of those people will get there without my help and every single one of them will deserve it.

  • ||

    ChicagoTom,

    Spare me your fake concern for the libertarian movement. Since your recent Obambotomy you've done nothing but argue with the libertarian in your head. I know joe left a power vacuum in disingenuous partisan hackery, but you didn't need to fill it.

  • ||

    The words alone are not incitement but I think posting the addresses makes this incitement. There was a similar case where an anti-abortion website provided addresses of abortionists who were subsequently shot.

  • Nipplemancer||

    If you're the FBI and you execute a no-knock raid on God, do you shoot his dog(s)?
    Do they die, or just get more pissed off?

  • Paul||

    It's good to know that the FBI is still up to its old 60's tricks. Well, I guess we already did from most of the terrorist cell busts.

    These are right-wing radicals. It's different now.

  • Elemenope||

    If you're the FBI and you execute a no-knock raid on God, do you shoot his dog(s)?
    Do they die, or just get more pissed off?


    You go shoot Cerberus. Tell me how it works out.

  • ||

    Alphabet soup: No problem. I would just shoot him in the head that sees the future, so he wouldn't know where to look for me.

  • ||

    I would just shoot him in the head that sees the future, so he wouldn't know where to look for me.

    You have a poor grasp of the implications of precognition. :-)

  • Guy_Smiley||

    His job was basically to publish information which would cause other parties to act in a manner which would lead to their arrest.

    Isn't that what "entrapment" is?

    As a thought experiment, what would the world be like if the police weren't able to break any laws?

    They couldn't do any stings, and they couldn't arrest until you were found guilty of something, because that would be kidnapping.

    Also once a judge convicted you of something, it wouldn't be illegal for a random citizen to decide to carry out the punishment.

    Seriously, I like it.

  • ||

    JB if you really want to prove you'll stand up to the government, stopping making vauge threats on Reason's web site and leave one somewhere that means something, like on the Whitehouse's web site.

  • QuestionAuthority||

    Hal Turner was trained by the FBI om how to stay on the right side of the line while working for them, and all was fine.

    Now, playing by the same rules, he finds himself locked up without bail.

    What's wrong with this picture?

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