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02/26/2006 Entry: "Homeland Security harasses man for bumpersticker"
Thanks to Lee K. for bringing the following article to my attention: "Homeland Security Hassles Owner of Truck with Bumperstickers." I reprint the opening paragraphs, Dwight Scarbrough used to be in the Navy. He was a machinist on submarines, some of them nuclear, in the Pacific from 1975-1980. Now he heads up the Vets for Peace chapter in Boise, Idaho. And he’s not shy about expressing his opinion. At any given time, he may have as many as ten bumperstickers or peace signs on every conceivable spot of his truck. He usually doesn’t get hassled, he tells me. But then, on February 7, at his day job for a federal natural resource agency, Scarbrough got a call from, of all places, Homeland Security. An official told him to come out to the parking lot and said he was in violation of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Scarbrough had the foresight to tape the exchange that ensued; it can be read here or, in case the link disappears, I have reprinted it below.
Around 2:15 p.m., Scarbrough says, he answered his office phone and found himself talking to a man who identified himself as Officer R. of the Department of Homeland Security. (I'm withholding the officer's name; you know, what with Plamegate and all.) Scarbrough was told that he was in violation of the Code of Federal Regulations, the set of rules that govern all executive departments and agencies, and that he was in danger of being cited unless he came out to the parking lot or let the officer come up to his office. Scarbrough chose the first option, and took along a co-worker--also a veteran--and, being an experienced peace activist, a tape recorder. Downstairs, they found two armed officers with "Homeland Security" insignia patches on their shoulders, waiting for them in large white SUVs. Scarbrough informed the officers that he would record their conversation, and what follows is the transcript of that recording.
Officer: Step back here please.
Dwight Scarbrough: Let's have a seat.
O: I'd like to talk to you.
DS: Let's have a seat.
O: Sir, come over here please.
DS: I don't want to come over there. I want to sit down.
O: Let me tell you what's going on here. OK, there's a violation of the code of federal regulations.
DS: For what?
O: The CFR. 41, CFR, 102, 74, 415. Posting or affixing signs, pamphlets, handbills or flyers on federal property. Do you understand that?
DS: I'm not doing anything on federal property.
O: Yes, sir, you've got signs posted on your vehicle. I'm informing you that you're in violation.
DS: That's not illegal. That's not illegal.
O: You're posting ...
DS: I ... All right.
O: Would you like to listen to me before ... sir...
DS: [To his co-worker] Would you go get [their supervisor]?
O: I need you to listen when I'm talking, sir.
DS: [To co-worker]. Would you go get [him] please? [To officer] I'm listening.
DS: You're at my place of work, first of all. And you're harassing me.
O: Sir, you're in violation of the code of federal regulations.
DS: I'm not in violation.
O: You're posting signs on this property.
DS: I am not posting signs. That's on a private vehicle.
O: Sir, I'm here to tell you now that you have to remove those signs.
DS: Was the law just changed?
O: No, there was no law just changed.
DS: Then it's not a violation.
O: I just told you what the law is, sir.
DS: It is not a violation. I've read the statutes already.
O: If you do not comply with my order to remove the signs from the property, I will cite you for it, OK? Do you understand that?
DS: You know what? This is harassment.
O: No, sir, it's not.
DS: Yes, it is.
O: No, it's not.
DS: Say it again, please. (Holds up microphone.) This is harassment.
O: Do you understand what I've told you?
DS: I understand what you've told me, but I've also read the statute that as a federal employee--
O: I've just given you an order and told you to remove those signs from the property.
DS: I will move my vehicle off the property.
O: That will be fine. That will comply with it, and we don't have to ...
DS: You know this is total B.S., though. Because--will you get [his supervisor], please?--I've already had this conversation once, and we've already looked up all the statues and laws covering personal vehicles with stick ... with anything on them on government property. And it is not illegal.
O: It's in 41 CFR. Look that up.
D: "Why don't you look it up?" I have.
O: 41 CF4 102--
D: What is the violation?
O: Posting of signs on--
D: Which one?
O: I just told you the violation.
D: Those are not signs.
O: Twice now I've told you.
D: Those are not signs.
O: Yes, sir, they are. What are they then?
D: So any vehicle that comes on with, like, a police sign, or with delivery or FedEx or something, that's not a sign?
O: All signs are prohibited--
D: You know you're harassing me. You know you're harassing me.
O: No, sir, I'm not.
D: You know the Department of Homeland Security is giving me harassment--
D: --because I'm a person who happens to express my viewpoints on my vehicle.
O: I need you to comply with my order and remove the signs...
D: Who has filed a complaint?
O: ...you said you'd do that, that's fine ...
D: Who has filed a complaint? Who has filed a complaint?
O: No one has filed a complaint, sir.
D: Well, then what's the complaint?
O: It's law enforcement on federal property.
D: You know this is ... I would like my supervisor down here, please.
O: This doesn't concern him at all.
D: Yes, it does, because I've already had this discussion with him, and I've already been asked to change the signs, and I did. And I looked up all the statutes.
D: Do you have a piece of paper with the number then, please?
O: I told you the number.
D: I would like to write it down, then.
O: I will give you a piece of paper ...
D: Just write it down. That's all I'm asking.
O: But I need you to comply with my instructions to remove the--
D: You're harassing me, in other words.
O: Sir, this is not harassment.
D: It's crap, and you know it.
O: No, sir, it is not.
D: It is. Okay, go ahead.
O: 41, C-F-R...
D: 41, C-F-R...
O: 102 ...
D: 102 ...
O: 74 ...
D: 74 ...
O: Subpart C ...
D: Subpart C ...
O: Paragraph 415.
D: Paragraph 415.
O: And they are posted at the entrances to federal facilities, as they are here, and it is referenced.
D: And this defines exactly what "signs" are, right?
O: It says "signs," sir.
D: Yeah. You're harassing me. I'll be back in a minute. I don't have my keys with me.
D: I don't have my car keys with me.
D: I had no clue what you were here to bother me about ... (walks toward door)... this is your buddy, your boss and my boss harassing people for expressing political viewpoints. And you know it. There's nothing illegal about it. (Door beeps).