'We're From the FBI and We Just Want Your Help'

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At a press conference on August 12th, 1986, President Ronald Reagan said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’” I remember the media went into quite a tizzy at that quote; even then, the legacy media (which is pretty much all there was) was wholly partisan. Now, the Mises Caucus presents another example of someone being confronted by a government agent who is just there “to help.”

When this citizen opened the door to find these three (two FBI agents and one county Sheriff’s deputy) at his door, he should have replied with two questions:

“Do you have a warrant?”

“Am I being detained?”

Since these three would have had to answer “no” to both of those, the next statement would be, “In that case, please vacate my property immediately, or I will have you charged with trespassing.” That is where this encounter should have ended.

But since that didn’t happen, let’s parse through the statements made by these officers.

At the outset, the unseen citizen did the right thing in insisting these officers identify themselves. But he did continue to engage.

“I’m here to talk to you,” the primary agent (at least, the one who did the most talking and who does not give his name in the video) began, “…to see if you can give us a little help.”

When asked, “On what?” the primary says, “I can discuss it, but we need to sit down and talk first.”

He’s angling to be invited into the citizen’s home. Without a warrant.

Note that there is never any specific request by the agents. They tell the citizen, “[Y]ou’re not in trouble, you haven’t done anything wrong, but you may know somebody that put the hair on the back of your neck up, that you’d be willing to talk to us about, and that’s why we’re here to talk to you.”

To describe this as disturbing is a gross understatement. When the citizen here declines to talk to the officers, the primary says, plainly, “[S]o, you’re not willing to talk to us?” And later, the primary agent asks, “Have you done anything that may get you some publicity?” 

Is that against the law? These agents are clearly on a fishing expedition, asking vague, nebulous questions.

Finally, at about 1:50, we get to the heart of the matter when the primary agent says, “[Y]ou are known, and you are known to have association with sometimes some people in your groups, there’s always one that does something, and then everybody looks at the group and says ‘Hey, we should have been talking with some people that knew this guy, beforehand, so then we could have prevented something.'”

No specifics. Not even a hint.

Our unnamed citizen/correspondent then ends the conversation by refusing to discuss any such associations, and the officers (presumably) leave.

It’s hard to see this as anything but an understated attempt to browbeat or intimidate a citizen into giving up information without his being legally required to do so. This, at a time when the FBI’s reputation is in the toilet; when they are a de facto arm of the Democrat Party, when in this case they attempt to sidestep the Fourth Amendment; this should be a matter of concern for anyone who cares about civil liberties, left or right.

The proper response to this kind of thing is simple:  “Do you have a warrant?”

In this case, they didn’t. And that should have been the end of the conversation.

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