How To Deal With a Death Threat

Roger ShulerMy Alabama colleague Roger Shuler this week published two powerful blogs addressing what he justifiably regards as a threat of death or other serious harm delivered by email Monday. "Yours is coming -- Don't Worry," said the email. The coding indicates that it came from a computer located near Shuler's home in Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city.

Shuler, portrayed at left with Murphy, his late pet, has turned this week's challenge into a useful educational tool. That's the kind of useful information readers of his Legal Schnauzer blog have come to expect in his fearless, near-daily, four-year campaign to expose the most abusive lawyers and public officials in his region. In that spirit, his two columns this week describe why he decided to report this threat after ignoring in print many previous ones. He describes steps he's taken to protect himself and his family, plus practical guidance for readers who fear anonymous threats for themselves and family. His guidance may be unique. But his experience of receiving a threat is not. Bloggers and critics of major companies and public officials are especially vulnerable to anonmyous reprisals. Malefactors may even include supposed "friends" or government contractors, as we recently reported. Check out his tips below, and share your own.

Below are significant articles for this two-week period on legal reform and related political, security and media factors. The articles, including a strong representation from independent blogs and other media, contain a sample of news. See the full article by clicking the link.

Aug. 30

Legal Schnauzer, How Should a Progressive Blogger React to a Possible Death Threat? Roger Shuler, Aug. 30, 2011. On Monday evening, Legal Schnauzer received an anonymous comment that I interpreted to be a death threat. How should a blogger handle such a situation? I'm not aware of any textbook or position paper on the subject, so there seems to be no clear-cut answer. But I can tell you what I've done, so far. In the four-plus years that I've been producing this blog, I've received probably 50 to 75 anonymous messages that had a threatening tone. I'm guessing that 20 to 30 of those have been ugly enough to cause me some measure of alarm. I've never described any blog-related communication that I thought caused me to be in danger of bodily harm or death--until now. What's different about this most recent message? Well, I explained that, in a general sense, with a post yesterday afternoon. Mainly, the timing of the comment--and the content of the post to which it was attached--made me think the individual behind this one might be dangerous.

Aug. 29

Legal Schnauzer, Did I Just Receive a Death Threat Via E-Mail? Roger Shuler, Aug. 29, 2011. At 6:55 p.m. yesterday, I received an anonymous comment on this blog that reads as follows: "Yours is coming- Don't Worry." The comment was in response to a post I published last Tuesday (August 23), titled "Death of a Bush-Era Prosecutor Prompts Deep Thoughts On the Hereafter."  Anonymous threats, unfortunately, are not an uncommon occurrence around here. In fact, I've written several times about threats, most recently in a July 18 post that includes a roundup of the various charming messages we've received through the years.  I've always taken threats seriously, but not so much that I've ever reported one to authorities. This time, it might be different.

Other Legal News

Rolling Stone, The GOP War on Voting, Ari Berman, Sept. 15, 2011. In a campaign supported by the Koch brothers, Republicans are working to prevent millions of Democrats from voting next year.  As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots., Cheney's Kettle Logic, David Swanson, Sept. 1, 2011. On "Morning Joe" on MSNBC on Thursday, the former Vice President claimed that the intelligence used to invade Iraq had been sound and accurate; the faulty intelligence was all Bill Clinton's fault; the invasion didn't do any damage but rather it was the Iraqis who damaged Iraq; and any invasion causes horrific things to happen, that just comes with the territory. The Justice Department answers to Obama, and Obama is protecting Cheney because Obama is continuing similar crimes and abuses. If Obama were to allow Attorney General Eric Holder to enforce our laws against Dick Cheney, Obama might very well save his own electoral prospects. But he would put himself at risk of future prosecution. The question of whether we will have the rule of law becomes the question of whether Obama wants to trade four years of power for decades in prison. That's not how it is supposed to work.

Washington Post, SEC record purges at odds with other agencies, David S. Hilzenrath, Aug. 31, 2011. While the SEC directed its staff for years to purge certain investigative records, other agencies in the United States and abroad that enforce financial laws have instructed that similar documents be kept. Law enforcement authorities in related lines of work have preserved records of inquiries even if those probes never led to charges against anyone. Regulators and archivists said that the records could be a valuable source of information for investigators probing other cases and could help hold the authorities accountable.