WSJ – Ex-Marine Detained After Facebook Posts Files Suit
Where is the line between the 1st Amendment rights to free speech and an act that requires Government intervention.
By Jacob Gershman
A civil liberties group is claiming in federal court that an ex-Marine was locked up in a mental hospital last year because of his hostile views toward government.
The case involves a Virginia man named Brandon J. Raub who spent a week in confinement last summer after being questioned by local police and FBI agents about comments he made on his Facebook page, according to the Associated Press.
A Virginia circuit judge ordered his release in August 2012 on the grounds that the state’s petition for involuntary commitment was “so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.” He was never charged with a crime.
Law Blog reached out to the FBI for comment. Chesterfield County attorneys could not be reached for comment.
The suit, filed in federal district court in Virginia on behalf of Mr. Raub on Wednesday, claims that his detention at a Chesterfield County psychiatric ward was the result of a “systematic surveillance of military veterans.”
The suit said Mr. Raub was taken into custody as part of a nationwide operation launched by the FBI dubbed “Operation Vigilant Eagle.” It cites a 2009 report in The Wall Street Journal about an FBI program targeting white supremacists and “militia/sovereign-citizen extremist groups.” The operation focused on veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to memos sent from bureau headquarters to field offices.
Mr. Raub’s Facebook posts expressed an anti-government zeal and dabbled in 9/11 conspiracy theories, according to various press reports about his detention. At least one included violent imagery. “Sharpen my axe; I’m here to sever heads.” His lawyers say that line was just a lyric from a song by a Canadian hip-hop group called “Swollen Members.”
He was taken into custody two days after posting, “The Revolution will come for me. Men will be at my door soon to pick me up to lead it,” according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Mr. Raub, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is represented by the Rutherford Institute, a conservative group that advocates for religious liberties and financed Paula Jones’s sexual-harassment lawsuit against President Clinton. He’s now living near Richmond with his mother, John W. Whitehead, president of the institute, told Law Blog.