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When the FBI comes to your door

Whether you agree with her politics or not, this woman handles an encounter with the FBI brilliantly … and gives wise advice on how the rest of us can, too.

Of course, the feddies didn’t arrive at her doorstep at 5:00 a.m. in ninja suits and with itchy trigger fingers. But still … brilliantly done, lady.

This also makes me realize (once again) that I really need to invest in a video camera. I don’t even have one on my cellphone. Anybody got a used one to sell? Or advice on what I should look for in a video camera on eBay?


  1. Tom Cryar
    Tom Cryar May 31, 2012 4:45 pm

    An Android phone with video record capability would be (and is) my preference.

    Once you have your new phone, make sure you install the Quik app or something similar. Those apps upload your video *as you are shooting it* to your private repository on the internet. You can post it to YouTube later if you want. But — no cop can grab your phone and erase the video. They can’t destroy evidence that they can’t get to.


  2. Claire
    Claire May 31, 2012 6:40 pm

    Tom — Thanks for the suggestion. I have a hard time imagining subjecting myself to either the privacy compromises or the long-term financial commitment I fear a smart phone entails. But I’m listening. May I ask why you think this is the best choice for video?

    I do hear what you’re saying about the instant upload and that’s a good point. Is that the reason you think a smart phone is the best option?

  3. Claire
    Claire May 31, 2012 6:54 pm

    I should clarify — Definitely instant upload is a wonderful feature for this purpose. Is a smart phone the only video device that can do that? (I’m very fond of my TracFone and its privacy.)

  4. Ellendra
    Ellendra May 31, 2012 9:13 pm

    Her responses to the questions don’t make much sense. She seems to be deliberately misinterpreting them in order to get a better soundbyte. Is that just me?

  5. LarryA
    LarryA May 31, 2012 10:25 pm

    Note: Not all FBI agents look like Clarice Starling or Jack Crawford.

    The first question to answer about your video recorder is whether it will be keep-at-home or don’t-leave-home-without-it.

    Personally, the lady was very clever. But being clever during Federal questioning is not a good idea. They’re the professionals, though they’re doing a good “aw shucks” job of not looking like it. You’re at best an informed amature.

    Even if they they weren’t also recording, (unlikely) the FBI knows about her recording and can download it. They have almost ten minutes of her dancing around questions about property destruction and people getting hurt. (IMHO about 9 minutes to long.) Yeah, it’s your right to remain silent, and refusing to answer SHOULDN’T be used against you. Then there’s the cow special effect, and the protest scenes.

    If I was on trial for conspiring with someone who had done something like the Oklahoma City bombing I sure wouldn’t want a jury to see that tape.

    “Right to remain silent” = STFU.

  6. Pat
    Pat May 31, 2012 10:46 pm

    Ellendra – She was a seasoned protester, so she probably WAS trying to get a better soundbyte. OTOH, by doing so, she was able to prevent saying anything “that could be used against her.” As a result of her approach, they recognized her expertise and finally gave up the questioning. It was a standoff.

    I’m not sure how many of us would have the knowledge or remain that cool when approached by the FBI.

    And if they were the FBI, either they were not sure of her position, or they were setting her up for a later visit. They were so low-key (Do they dress that casually on an official visit?) that it makes me wonder if SHE made the video as an educational lesson in how to respond to an FBI visit.

  7. Otis
    Otis June 1, 2012 3:00 am

    The FBI hires people with exciting educational backrounds like having an accounting degree. So if an agent looks like a pudgy cubicle dweller… it is because he is one. Their dress is meant to help them blend in. These days “business casual” is the norm (unfortunately) so suits and ties are no longer exclusively worn.
    As for the lady in the video, she stood her ground and was able to vent a bit – seemingly without getting into a mess. It is easy for us to armchair Q.B. things, but I was kind of impressed. I like the repeated “mom/nurse/normal” identity thing.
    Just a guess, but I surmise that the groups with whom she protest may have ties with legit nasties (who are working a soft angle here in the states in the traditional eastern playbook style). Thus the personal attention at her doorstep. The agents may be stupid and have the situation all wrong. Or not.

  8. ILTim
    ILTim June 1, 2012 5:16 am

    Instant upload sounds wonderful, but in your case I think I’d just look for an older point and shoot digital camera. They are CHEAP and do video well enough for documentary purposes.

    There are other near-instant upload options. The eye-fi memory cards fit into any old device and will upload saved files (photo and video) via your wi-fi automatically. FAR cheaper than investing in a smartphone.

    OTOH, I couldn’t live without my smartphone, and everyone I’ve ever known who gets one feels the same way within less than a week. I bought it for a single purpose (streaming internet radio in the car to replace XM satellite radio).

  9. Claire
    Claire June 1, 2012 6:28 am

    ILTim — Cheap is good. 🙂 And I never even heard of an Eye-Fi card. So thank you for that.

    Having a device that could always be in my pocket an uploads video instantly would be even better, but seems to demand more than I’d want to put into it.

    I haven’t had a video camera for years — and then it was a huge, shoulder-carry (or tripod) model I bought off a newsguy and practiced with about twice before it broke. So much I don’t know …

  10. Claire
    Claire June 1, 2012 6:34 am

    Good observations on the lady who made the recording. I think she knew pretty well that STFU was the wise course. She sure knew that tricky little fact that federal agents can lie their heads off to us but that we can go to prison for even making the slightest mistatement to them.

    Yeah, “seasoned protestor.” Certainly looking for sound-bites — and putting them to good use in an educational video. An inspiration in cool, calm collectedness and solid knowledge — even if she did put herself out there a bit to make that point.

  11. Matt
    Matt June 1, 2012 8:26 am

    Unfortunately for your desire to avoid smartphones, the instant-and-automatic upload capability is dependent on having one, and it matters. “Here, I can upload it in only a few minutes after I’m done shooting it” is a really nice, handy feature if you’re taking video of your friends’ parties or whatever. But it doesn’t do much good in a situation where the cop you’re shooting video of realizes he’s just committed a legal faux-pas, grabs the camera out of your hand, and either seizes it as “evidence” or just smashes it against the ground. In that scenario, you need a camera that will have been streaming the video to a remote archival site _as it happens_.

    You can get smartphones will full data service on prepaid plans, these days.

  12. 12bitphoto
    12bitphoto June 1, 2012 10:41 am

    I’ve got two security cameras monitoring my front door –one recording continuously and the other on motion detection, so I wouldn’t have to go looking for a camera.

  13. G.W.N.S.
    G.W.N.S. June 1, 2012 12:01 pm

    There are so called Smartphones available to prepaid customers. Just takes a little research to find one appropriate to your needs and budget.

    Remember if privacy is a concern, both how you use it and who you call are major factors.

    Plans (data) as cheap as $35 a month paid with prepaid cards, however you have to buy the phone, starting at about $90.

    Phones are also available used (Craigslist, etc…), just do your homework to verify compatibility.

  14. Claire
    Claire June 1, 2012 12:46 pm

    12bitphoto — Must be nice to be rich! Do either of your cameras also record sound, by any chance?

    G.W.N.S. — Thanks for the details. I’m really so far behind the curve on both smartphones and video. A cost of $35 a month is about 5x what I pay for my TracFone (a $20 card every 90 days), but might be worth the investment for the added security of in-pocket, insta-upload video. I’ll check into it.

  15. BusyPoorDad
    BusyPoorDad June 1, 2012 1:18 pm

    Here in Cleveland the FBI arrested the five nuts they found while “investigating” OWS-Cleveland. I can see them using that as a reason why you should talk to them, “oh, you’re not a suspect, but you might have overheard someone talking about doing something, we don’t want that to happen do we?”

    You then are either becoming a snitch if you say yes, or are part of the “conspiracy” if you say no but have.

    She made a choice I would never make, I would say she feels she made the right one for her. For me it would have been “what do you want? Ask me questions? About what? I’ll choose not to say anything else now, thank you for your time.” Then I would recheck that I have my lawyer’s number on hand if they come back and refer all questions to her.

    That’s me. For me, my Monday Morning QB says that would be best for me.

  16. Claire
    Claire June 1, 2012 1:41 pm

    BusyPoorDad — I think I’d make your choice, too. Or would if I had my presence of mind about me. I always keep a lawyer’s card on hand that has advice on the back about not talking to cops, asking if your free to go, etc.

    Maybe that lady just likes to provoke. But whatever … her choice made a good video with some good lessons in it.

    As to those guys in Cleveland, my impression isn’t so much that the FBI found those “nuts,” but that they cut weak, dissatisfied members from the Occupy herd and used the young guys’ weaknesses, anger, and naivete to turn them into full fledged “nuts.” Then they handed their newly created “nuts” a custom-made plot and the means to carry it out.

    But yeah … that’s nitpicking. Entrapment that would have been thrown out of any court in the land 30 or 40 years ago is considered “legitimate” law enforcement today. Sigh.

  17. Ellendra
    Ellendra June 1, 2012 7:27 pm

    I sure hope she was just being like that so she could get a soundbyte, but I have to admit that for much of the video all I could think about was how much of a pain she must be to work with, and how glad I am not to be her patient.

    I’ve had to deal with too many people who were like that every day. It’s like they’re so convinced they know what you’re saying that they don’t actually hear you talk.

  18. Daniel
    Daniel June 1, 2012 9:41 pm

    Ellendra, she was like Nixon, she talked a lot without saying much. That is her right. If the FBI doesn’t want to listen to her questions, they can leave.

    The best thing to do for most people is to say, “I’m going to remain silent; I want a lawyer; I don’t consent to any searches; have a nice day, and don’t come back, bye.”

  19. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty June 2, 2012 9:37 am

    Hmmm, I wouldn’t even open the door. They can say their piece, and show me their funny wallets through the window if they like. If they don’t have a warrant, I’m not saying a single word and I’m not opening the door for any other reason. Once they left, I would call the sheriff and let him know what happened.

    The “am I being detained, am I free to go,” and “I do not consent to any search,” thing is for an encounter on the street.

    “I am going to exercise my right to remain silent,” and ” I require the presence of an attorney,” are for when you are actually arrested.

    And I don’t give a **** if they have a nice day or not. Actually, I take that back. I’d love to think they have a crappy day explaining to their boss that they didn’t get anything.

    Otherwise, keep brain engaged and mouth turned off. 🙂

  20. KenK
    KenK June 2, 2012 9:56 am

    When the black masked goons bust the door in and threaten her with 40 life sentences and the loss of her children all that iPhone video inspired bravado of hers will melt like butter in a skillet. (Anybody remember Stacey what’s-her-name from two weeks ago?)

  21. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair June 4, 2012 7:35 am

    If they have a reason to arrest you, they’ll arrest you. If they’re asking questions, they’re looking for a reason to arrest you. Don’t give it to them. I don’t consider myself to be cool enough to do what the lady in the video did. Through closed door: “I don’t talk to pigs. Unless you have a warrant, get off my property. NOW!” Then I’d get my shotgun, and prepare to shoot anything that managed to break through that door.

  22. Tom
    Tom June 4, 2012 12:23 pm

    As a follow-on to my original comment … some of the suggestions were unique and really neat !! I had never heard of Eye-Fi but it looks like a clever little gadget.

    For myself, if I didn’t have instant upload of video (Qik) via my smartphone, I would try to use my “Flip”-style video recorder. See

    When you plug one of these into a USB socket, you can upload automatically to whatever video sharing service turns you on. No Wifi necessary.

    There are also some very good reasons to get a smart phone … and some very good reasons not to … in the above comments. Your choice.

  23. Claire
    Claire June 4, 2012 1:18 pm

    Tom … Oooh, yeah. That’s a clever device, too. And so perfect for us folks who have enough complexity in our lives and don’t want complexity in our devices.

    Still … I keep coming back to the virtues of instant-upload and wish it were available in something other than a full-featured, subscription-plan smart-phone.

  24. Solosservant
    Solosservant June 4, 2012 2:06 pm

    What kills me are some of the comments below on Youtube…”Just answer the questions!”, “They were just asking a simple question, why be a witch about it?”, “They were just doing their jobs, why did she have to be so snarky?”

    I don’t have time to reply to all these people, I would have a FT job with major overtime, but it drives me up the wall when they just sit in that pot warming up…

    Why do these idiots have to come to a persons private property, on some anonymous tip that has “Nothing to do with your protesting” (which they obviously knew about), and ask if she has the mental telepathy to scry and tell these goons when and where someone she might know, could possibly do something violent at some point. The question is so ridiculous I don’t know how people aren’t seeing it! Maybe she can tell them where the next local wildfire will happen, or maybe she can tell them what the stock market will do tomorrow. The should be visiting a palm reader or something!

  25. Tom
    Tom June 4, 2012 5:15 pm

    Probably not available in your area (I am just outside their coverage here), but I think I saw that Cricket is offering iPhones on their service.

    They, generally speaking, have no-subscription plans available.

    I haven’t looked but don’t any of the prepaid phone services have an Android or iPhone? Even an older model Android should do Qik.

  26. Claire
    Claire June 4, 2012 5:40 pm

    I’ve checked TracFone for Android. No luck. Apparently Walmart has a TracFone-operated service called StraightTalk that does have Android phones. However, just about all the TracFone advantages are lost. The phones cost between $150 and $200 and require monthly plans of $45.

    When you’ve been using a $20 TracFone for five years that costs about $80 per year to operate in blessed anonymity, that’s a big change.

    I’d gladly pay for a phone capable of instant upload; but I’m not ready to marry myself to that kind of monthly expense year after year just to gain an advantage that I’ll probably never even have to use.

    Not sure what Net10 or any other pre-paid service might have, but in any case Net10 doesn’t operate in this area and the only other pre-paid service that does has always had terrible terms.

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