You want a chilling effect? You want to see overt government intimidation? Check this out:
An Asheville businessman is left with more questions than answers after a May 2 visit to his home by two armed special agents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accompanied by an Asheville police officer, apparently to question him about what the EPA interpreted as a “cryptic and concerning” email.
The incident is under investigation by the office of Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.
Larry Keller, who runs a computer consulting business from his Asheville home, sent an email April 27 to the EPA in an attempt to reach Al Armendariz, EPA regional administrator for Region 6. Two days earlier, a video from 2010 was posted on YouTube in which Armendariz said his enforcement philosophy was to “crucify” officials from big oil and gas companies.
The video became a sensation on blogs and on Twitter, and on many conservative news websites. After seeing it, Keller told Carolina Journal, he was troubled by the comments and just wanted to express his concerns to Armendariz, a public official whose salary is paid by taxpayers. “I wanted to know why someone in his position would say what he did. I wanted to question his reasoning and principles. It’s all about freedom of speech,” Keller said.
An Internet search for Armendariz’s contact information directed him to email David Gray, director of external affairs for EPA Region 6. Keller sent the following email: “Hello Mr. Gray-Do you have Mr. Armendariz’s contact information so we can say hello? -Regards-Larry Keller.”
Armendariz resigned April 30, after the ensuing national uproar over his comments. The EPA agents arrived at Keller’s home May 2.
Keller told CJ that Special Agent Michael Woods asked if he had sent an email to an EPA employee. At first, Keller said no, but then remembered the email to Gray. At that point, Woods produced a copy of the email and asked if it was the email he sent.
The second agent said Keller’s choice of words could be interpreted in many different ways and asked if Keller thought the content was suspicious in any way. Keller said he didn’t have anything to hide and the email postscript had his company logo and website address.
It “could be interpreted in many different ways”? Really? Read his email again – “Hello Mr. Gray-Do you have Mr. Armendariz’s contact information so we can say hello? -Regards-Larry Keller.” That email is why these two thugs, and I have no reservation calling them that, showed up. They were there to intimidate. If you don’t believe that, read this:
The discourse quickly became adversarial, Keller said. When Keller asked for a copy of the email, Woods said it was impossible because the investigation was not yet concluded.
At that point, Keller heard his wife arriving home and asked the agents to stay so his wife could meet them and “see what all the fuss was about.” Woods said they had to get going and the trio started toward the back staircase, Keller said.
Keller had asked for the agents’ business cards, but after initially saying they had them, they later told Keller they were “out of cards.” He insisted they give him the name of their supervisor, and Woods wrote the name and number on a piece of paper, Keller said.
Keller said he followed them outside and noticed a police cruiser parked in the neighbor’s driveway. The agents left without acknowledging his wife, Keller said. He also learned after contacting the Asheville Police Department that another officer had remained in the cruiser throughout the interview.
This is what government has come too? First, why are “EPA agents” armed? Want someone armed and think the situation warrants that? Take a local police officer with you.
Note that they refused to leave evidence of their visit by giving Keller the business cards he requested.
Finally, when Keller said he wanted them to stay so his wife could hear what they were saying, they quickly retreated and left.
Keller is justifiably angry and trying to get answers.
He’s asking for a thorough review of EPA protocol and has emailed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson almost daily since the incident, but has yet to receive a response from her.
It appears that Keller’s emails to Jackson and to Michael Daggett, the assistant deputy inspector general for the EPA, were forwarded to Patrick Sullivan, assistant inspector general, office of investigations organization.
In his emailed response, Sullivan defended the EPA’s actions, saying a thorough review of the facts failed to find “any unprofessional behavior by EPA OIG personnel” and that the agents had acted in accordance with “established Federal law enforcement policies and procedures.”
Or “situation normal, we were well within our rights to roust you, attempt to intimidate you and question your intent.”
This should unsettle even the most complacent among us. And it deserves to be elevated to a national level.
This sort of behavior by government is … unacceptable!