The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Secret Service question high school girl

A Sacramento high school freshman was pulled out of biology class and bullied to the point of tears by Secret Service agents on Oct. 11 because of her “Kill Bush” MySpace page. Her name is Julia Wilson and if you’ve seen the pictures she looks as innocent as apple pie. She’s got blonde hair, freckles and braces; she’s not exactly the image of a terrorist or a presidential assassin.

Wilson had a picture of President Bush with the caption “Kill Bush” on her MySpace page. Secret Service agents took the threat seriously and went looking for Wilson at her Sacramento home.

According to the Sacramento Bee, which was able to interview Julia and her parents, when two Secret Service agents arrived at their home to speak with Julia, her mother told them she was in class, but would come right home from school. She asked them to return an hour later. Minutes after texting her daughter, she received a message from Julia saying they had just taken her out of class.

The Bee reported that during the 15- to 20-minute interview, Julia was asked about her father’s job, her e-mail address, and her Social Security number. Julia Wilson told CNN reporter Alina Cho, “They said, ‘This is a serious matter. I don’t think you understand this is a federal offense.’ And they were just yelling at me, and then, I broke down crying.”

Julia told the Bee, ‘I told them I just really don’t agree with Bush’s politics. I don’t have any plans of harming Bush in any way. I’m very peaceful; I just don’t like Bush.’

Julia told Cho, “I don’t actually hate him. Hate is a very strong word. I really dislike him. I should say that I hate his policies.”

Julia’s parents were mostly concerned about the fact that they were not present during the interview, since their daughter is only 14 years old.

First Amendment lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union have become involved. The Sac Bee quoted Ann Brick, an attorney with the ACLU of Northern California, who felt that Julia’s post would most likely be considered political speech and thereby protected by the First Amendment.

“The courts have to distinguish between political rhetoric and hyperbole and a real threat,” Brick said. “A reasonable person would have to interpret what was said as indication of a serious intent to commit harm.”

Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, in an interview with the Bee, said of the current political climate, “the threshold that brings (agents) in has gotten lower.”

“It’s a cautionary tale for kids who are on MySpace that putting something on MySpace like ‘Kill the President’ is not the same as saying it on e-mail or over the phone,” Scheer said. “The government is not systematically listening to all phone calls or going through e-mails, but it probably does search the Internet.”

As Sacramento teenager Julia Wilson told Cho, the lesson she learned was, “The government is watching your every move.”

Lesson for Americans: watch your back and your free speech.

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