Since our story on the FBI’s (alleged) efforts to infiltrate RNC protest groups went to print two weeks ago, it’s exploded on the blogosphere. The story has been picked up by the Left (Atrios, Raw Story, Drudge Retort), the paleo-Right (Boortz, Alex Jones’ PrisonPlanet.com), and almost every freedom-mongering blog in between. The article continues to haul in an average of 1,000 hits a day even though it’s scrolled off our homepage.
Most readers reacted with bemusement and horror at the possibility that the FBI is attempting to enlist college-age kids to attend "vegan potlucks" and report back:
“Sure, their food is sometimes bland and makes me gassy, but I didn't think that qualified vegans as terrorists,” quipped a commenter on Newsvine.
Others were less cheeky.
“This activity, clearly, is an attempt to redefine legitimate social/political activity as ‘terrorism,’ ” opined a reader at Boing Boing. “This sort of semantic co-opting of constitutionally protected rights reminds one more of the Communist Chinese Party's tactics than it does America's.”
Although we’ve continued to call to the FBI in an attempt to get comment, the Bureau has remained mum. But a spokesman for the University of Minnesota Police Department has confirmed to us that Sergeant Erik Swanson, who allegedly moderated a meeting between the would-be mole and FBI Special Agent Maureen E. Mazzola, has been on the Joint Terrorism Task Force about three years. (The JTTF is a partnership between multiple federal agencies and local law enforcement.) Swanson is the only U of M police officer on the JTTF and remains on the U of M police department payroll. Swanson, too, has not returned numerous calls both before and after the story was published.
We also got back in touch with our source, “Pete Carroll,” who told us about the attempt to recruit him as a paid snitch (on the condition that his real name not be used.) Carroll seemed a bit taken aback that the story has garnered so much attention. “It didn’t seem like that big of deal at the time,” he says. “I just thought it was kind of weird.”