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It's late at night.
You are home alone with your children.
There is a knock on the door.
You open it.

Armed men pour into the house.
They grab your 16 year-old son.
They tell you he is a terrorist.
They take him away.
Almost a thousand miles away.

Months go by.
Lawyers say they can't help you.
The police say they can't help you.
Your government won't help you.

Originally this was where I relayed reports of concern that his constitutional rights were being abridged.  Initially it was claimed that he was a victim of overzealous application of the USAPATRIOT Act.  That has since been categorically denied (see relevant portion of DA Capp's statement below).

The answer turns out to be the kid may be involved in an ongoing operation that could be described as "prank calling" except the calls are not even close to funny.  

Following the story here gets a bit tricky because it evolved over the course of the day.  Let's start with the conclusion:

The key concern motivating people early on was the (unsubstantiated) claim that the kid was a poster child for everything wrong with the USAPATRIOT Act.

As the day progressed, contradictory reports came in calling the original claim into question.  Some called for this diary to be deleted.  I was not willing to do that without some independent verification besides competing reports.  I thought some official statement on this from a recognized authority would settle the matter.  However, many attorneys repeatedly stated my request for "a formal official statement from the appropriate authorities that convinces us the constitution is not being abridged" was completely unreasonable and would NEVER happen.  

Well, this case seems to be a rare one.

At some point later in the day, the office of US Attorney David Capp in South Bend Indiana issued a formal press release regarding the matter. It categorically denied the detention of Ashton Lundeby was related to the PATRIOT Act.  However, it went beyond merely denying that.  Mr. Capp affirmatively addressed in some detail the broader issues outlined above that persisted throughout the day...specifically the concern that constitutional rights like due process were being abridged.  This press release exceeding anything I was looking for in terms of a dispositive formal statement.  Here is a report of the relevant section:

"The juvenile has appeared in court on three occasions, once in North Carolina for an initial hearing and a detention hearing, and twice in Indiana for a continued initial hearing and a status hearing," the press release relates. "At each hearing, the juvenile was represented by counsel.... The juvenile is presently housed in a juvenile facility in the Northern District of Indiana where he does not have contact with adult offenders. His mother has been apprised of each court appearance and has attended the hearing in North Carolina; she did not appear at either of the hearings in Indiana."

Although this particular report did not mention the presence of counsel at the hearings, it is my understanding that others have seen reports indicating the juvenile was always represented by counsel at each hearing.  

The issuing of the statement was the criteria I said would lead me to remove the posting.  However, this is now in search engines and people are still finding this and linking to it.  At this point, I have decided  not to delete it because the update provided above, along with the original post and the associated comments forms a record of a rapidly evolving process over the course of several hours.  I was also concerned that deleting it might give the impression that I took it down at this point to hide anything.  

Although Mr. Capp took the unusual step of issuing a public statement about a matter concerning a juvenile in detention, I do not want to give the impression that I believe this posting is why Mr. Capp took that action.  I am sure it was in response to the large volume of inquiries generated from a variety of sources and a desire to correct a widespread and growing concern that was incorrectly based upon unsubstantiated comments made to the press.  We will never know what, if any impact, this posting contributed to that volume of inquiries or to Mr. Capp's decision.  In the final analysis, it doesn't matter.  The key point is we rapidly obtained official affirmation that the  constitutional protections we all embrace are not being threatened in this instance and that is recognized in this document.  

The key finding here is that the original concerns about a)constitutional rights being abridged or b) inappropriate application of the USAPATRIOT Act were misplaced in this instance.  

Because the original piece had so much impact -- and was wrong -- I have posted a follow up that contains apologies, retractions, errata, and lessons learned.  I recommend reading that piece before delving into the following archival material.

NOTE: This final edition of the post resulted from various edits, updates, corrections, and deletions over the course of the day.  Thus, some of the appended commentary may seem out of context.  In those cases, it is safe to assume that if someone's comment refers to text not present in the body of the post it is because the text was edited after the comment.

Let me introduce you to 16 year-old Ashton Lundeby of Granville County, North Carolina.  This is his story.  This may be his mother's nightmare, but this is our problem. Because as she so aptly puts it, "Know they can come and take away anyone in your family, including your children."

Around 10 p.m. on March 5, Annette Lundeby said, armed FBI agents along with three local law enforcement officers stormed her home looking for her son. They handcuffed him and presented her with a search warrant.

"I was terrified," Lundeby's mother said. "There were guns, and I don't allow guns around my children. I don't believe in guns."

Whoah... sounds serious.  What the hell did this kid do to get the FBI pounding on his door and cuffing him?

According to the United States government, the tenth-grade home-schooler is being held on a criminal complaint that he made a bomb threat from his home on the night of Feb. 15.

The family was at a church function that night, his mother, Annette Lundeby, said.

Wait a second...  you were at church?  Now we all know there are churches and there are ... churches.  What exactly are we dealing with here?  Some kind of suburban Randy Weaver clan of neo-nazis?

"Undoubtedly, they were given false information, or they would not have had 12 agents in my house with a widow and two children and three cats," Lundeby said

Ok... uh but they had a they must have searched the place.  What did they find?

"There were no bomb-making materials, not even a blasting cap, not even a wire," Lundeby said.

Ok... but they claim he made a threat.  That's some serious stuff.  What's that all about?

According to the United States government, the tenth-grade home-schooler is being held on a criminal complaint that he made a bomb threat from his home on the night of Feb. 15.

Wait a second...the threat was made on February 15th and they came in all Rambo almost three weeks later?   What the heck was going on?  How did he make the threat?  Who did he threaten?  How credible is this threat?  Why did they wait three weeks?  Anybody bother to check the family's alibi?  What else did they do?

Agents seized a computer, a cell phone, gaming console, routers, bank statements and school records, according to federal search warrants.

Ok... so here's where I am going to speculate.  They have some evidence of a threat found on the Internet that they traced back to his computer.  That certainly sounds like a straightforward call.  But wait...

Lundeby told the officers that someone had hacked into her son's IP address and was using it to make crank calls connected through the Internet, making it look like the calls had originated from her home when they did not.

Hold it right there.  I know what she is trying to say, but she clearly isn't technically competent to explain it properly.

What she is trying to say is someone either
a) spoofed his IP address or
b) they have an unsecured wireless router.

The "crank call" thing suggests someone may be using some sort of VoIP, like Skype or Vonage.  Who knows.  Let's give the FBI the benefit of the doubt for a moment.  Let's accept they have reason to believe this guy is part of a plot.   Someone is sending money to someone.  Someone is calling someone.  Someone is doing this over the Internet.  

There are a whole host of technical and forensic questions that I could ask at this point.  Believe me it wouldn't be the first time law enforcement screwed the pooch on that one.  But I'm not here to litigate the case.  I'm not here to offer an expert opinion.  I just want to make the point that we shouldn't be tossing out presumptions of innocence because a bunch of guys with guns tell us to.  We shouldn't remove the burden of proof from people because they have magic papers that give them unlimited powers.  We sure as hell shouldn't be stripping constitutional protections from children we wouldn't let drive alone at night.  We're talking about a 16 year-old kid here.  

Where is the kid now?  What authority are they holding him under?  I'm sure you are already sitting down, but in case you aren't... you might want to sit down for this next part.

Ashton now sits in a juvenile facility in South Bend, Ind. His mother has had little access to him since his arrest. She has gone to her state representatives as well as attorneys, seeking assistance, but, she said, there is nothing she can do.

Lundeby said the USAPATRIOT Act stripped her son of his due process rights.

"We have no rights under the Patriot Act to even defend them, because the Patriot Act basically supersedes the Constitution."

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  That was a rhetorical question.  Let's assume the kid did make a bomb threat.  It wouldn't be the first time that's happened.  In fact, just last week, two kids were arrested for plotting to blow up Springbrook High School in suburban Maryland.  Sounds serious, doesn't it?

Police say two Springbrook High School students plotted to set off explosives in the Silver Spring school, assault a school counselor and principal and set off an explosion using the school's natural gas lines, after allegedly sending the school a threatening e-mail on April 20, the 10-year anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School.

That's because it WAS serious.  When they searched the house of one kid the found:

chemicals used in making chemical reaction bombs, including flammable liquids, a carbon dioxide cartridge, nails, balloons, homemade wicks and fireworks, the release said. Detectives also allegedly found written plans outlining the physical design of the school and preparations to execute the plan, the release said.

Now that's a HELL of a lot more serious than some idle threat on a computer... of indeterminate origin.  Oh the assault charge?  It seems they were planning to beat the guidance counselor and principal using a bag of rocks and nails before they blew up the building.  Nice.  

What happened to these guys?  Are they being held incommunicado as terrorists?  Are they disappeared to a facility thousands of miles away?  Are they denied constitutional rights?  Are they denied legal representation?

Hell no.  As you would expect the kids were:

charged with conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, three counts of first-degree arson, one count of reckless endangerment and one count of conspiracy to manufacture or possess a destructive device.

Both are being held without bond at the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville.

If you don't think Montgomery County is treating this seriously enough, don't worry.  The Montomery County Public School system has suspended these two kids and is recommending them for expulsion.

SO HERE'S THE PROBLEM: It is being claimed that his constitutional rights are being violated.


If that is true, he is alone.  

If that is true, there is only one person who can help him.
The President of the United States of America.

The man we elected to change things.
He needs to hear from us.
Now.  Right Now.

If that is NOT true, then we need a formal official statement from the appropriate authorities that convinces us the constitution is not being abridged.

The same FBI that wasn't able to act on field agent reports that would have crippled or stopped the attacks on 9/11, the same FBI that falsely claimed Brandon Mayfield was implicated in the Madrid bombing, the same FBI that totally botched the anthrax investigation, the same FBI that has a record of botching high profile cases is now acting like... it has before.

I think it's high time these cowboys realized we got a new sheriff in town.  We don't have to surrender our rights and our safety.  We can have both.  If the FBI has a case against the kid from North Carolina, fine.  Let them make it.  The old fashioned way.  Under existing constitutionally sanctioned legal processes.  

I don't think that's asking too much.

Eichmann had a lawyer.  So did Bormann, Göring, Hess, and more than a dozen other Nazi war criminals.   They were a hell of a lot scarier than any teenagers we've seen running around our country since... forever.  If due process is good enough for Nazi war criminals it should be good enough for your average American teenager.  If we set the bar any lower, we're going to have to dig a ditch.  While we're at it, we may as well just bury the Constitution there and call it a day.  

I think I've made a compelling case that things are out of control here.


We won the election because people like you and me worked for change.  Well now its time to make that change work for US.  Today that includes Annette Lundeby and her children, because tomorrow it could be anyone of us.

Mr. President, Mr. Constitutional Law Professor, fellow Kossack, I know you are busier than a one-legged man in an ass kickin' contest, but I'm sure you could delegate this to the right person in one phone call, and I'll bet you already have them on speed-dial.  

We're not asking for much.

It would be great to get some action out of the White House, but that doesn't let the Senate off the hook.  We worked hard to replace North Carolina Senator Libby Dole with Kay Hagan.   She can be as moderate as she likes, I think supporting the constitution she swore to uphold qualifies as moderate.  

We're not asking for much.

I realize Kay Hagan is new in town, but she's not the only Senator who should be contacted.  There are whole committees responsible for oversight here.    

That includes the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, I know we can't expect squat from Lieberman, but fellow Kossack Jon Tester sure as hell owes his seat to the work we did for him.  And he knows it.  He can be as moderate as he likes, but a threat to the constitution anywhere is a threat to it everywhere.  

We're not asking for much.

That includes the Senate Judiciary Committe, chaired by a staunch defender of the constitution and fellow Kossack  Patrick Leahy. It also includes fellow Kossacks Russ Feingold, and Dick Durbin.  These guys have been out in front leading the charge against this kind of nonsense for YEARS.  

I could go on, but now it's time to hit the  phones, rec the diary, email your friends, and get to work.  Here's a 30 second script you can use when you call.  Feel free to expand upon it as you see fit.  

Hello, my name is [  ], and I am an American citizen.  I am calling today because I am outraged. I'm talking specifically about the case of 16 year-old Ashton Lundeby of Oxford, North Carolina.  

All I want is for someone to reassure me that children like Ashton Lundeby can enjoy their birthright of due process, and the other "quaint" rights established under the constitution and guaranteed under the 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th amendments.  All I want is for this child to at least have the same rights we give to murderers, rapists, arsonists, and extortionists.

I'm not asking for much, but after the last election, I expect results FOR A CHANGE!  What will [Senator ---- / President Obama/ Anyone you call] do to reassure me that Ashton Lundeby and all Americans can exercise these rights?

Here's some quick contact information.  Feel free to add anyone else you think should be contacted in the comments section.  

[The contact info deleted as there is no need to be contacting people concerning this matter.  It has been resolved.]

Originally posted to henry porter on Thu May 07, 2009 at 04:34 AM PDT.

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