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The USA PATRIOT Act and the Ashton Lundeby Case. This might have started off as just a joke, but after the occurrences of January and February of 2009, what occurred in the life of 16-year-old Ashton Lundeby, of Oxford, NC, was considerably less than the enjoyable experience he had expected. Lundeby was "suspected to have enabled web gamers to charge tuition to listen to and monitor police reactions to bomb threats at Purdue University and other colleges, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Clemson University and Florida State University," according to accounts by WRAL in Raleigh NC by Kelly Gardner (2009). Lundeby also made fake bomb scare calls to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Clemson University and Florida State University.” Lundeby also made hoax bomb threat calls to the FBI offices in Monroe, LA and Pueblo, CO (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2011) which prompted the FBI to track him down and arrest him on the night of March 5, 2009 (Gardner, 2009). Even though Ashton Lundeby was a minor at the time and in general not legally responsible for his actions, he was legally arrested for committing terrorist-related crimes under the USA PATRIOT Act because he used the Internet to call in hoax bomb threats to several colleges and universities and also called FBI offices with hoax bomb threats.
On March 5, 2009 at 10pm, the FBI executed a search warrant on the home of Ashton Lundeby confiscating “a computer, a cell phone, gaming console, routers, bank statements and school records, according to federal search warrants” (Gardner, 2009). Such searches were authorized by the USA PATRIOT Act under Title 18 U.S.C. 2516 (Authorization for interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications) to investigate suspected acts of terrorism within U.S. borders (U.S. Government Publishing Office, 2011). Lundeby’s mother, Annette, initially claimed that they were at church on the night of February 12th and that “someone had hacked Ashton’s IP address and was using it to make crank calls connected through the Internet, making it look like the calls had originated from her home when they did not” (Gardner, 2009). Lundeby was charged with “conspiracy to commit one or more offenses against the United States by willfully making threats and maliciously conveying false information concerning attempts to kill, injure, or intimidate individuals and to unlawfully damage or destroy buildings by means of fire or explosives” (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2011) to which he plead guilty in federal court in Indiana (Burns, 2009) and was sentenced to time served and “ordered to pay $29,276.55 restitution at a rate of at least $25 per month in order to reimburse the agencies that scrambled to react to the threats” (Columbia Broadcasting Company, Inc., 2011).
The question then becomes whether the FBI acted properly and within the mandate to protect civil rights in all cases under its jurisdiction. In Lundeby’s case, his mother had admitted “that her son made prank phone calls on the Internet and charged a fee but said that her son never did anything illegal, to her knowledge” (Columbia Broadcasting Company, Inc., 2009) but also claimed that “the government has been trying to get her son to plead guilty” (Columbia Broadcasting Company, Inc., 2009) which casts some doubt on whether the FBI was trying to coerce a confession from Lundeby. However, there was no evidence presented during Lundeby’s trial to suggest that the FBI acted outside its mandate or otherwise tried to coerce a confession by Lundeby other than the mother’s statement, which in cases like this will always tend to favor the accused.
In cases involving the execution of law enforcement procedures and criminal actions against citizens of the U.S. under the USA PATRIOT Act, care must be taken without exception by law enforcement agencies from the local, state, and federal levels to ensure no citizen’s civil rights are violated and that the spirit of the law is also considered in all cases. This is because the USA PATRIOT Act was written in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks and more than a little emotion may have been written into the bill unintentionally by its drafters in the U.S. Congress, giving law enforcement sweeping powers to locate, arrest, and prosecute individuals suspected of terrorist activities. Precautions must always be taken at all levels to ensure that overzealous law enforcement tactics do not take precedence over the civil rights of citizens of the United States.
Burns, Matthew. (2009). “Oxford teen to plead guilty to making online bomb threats.” WRAL.com website. Retrieved from http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/8468864/.
Gardner, Kelly. (2009). “Mom says Patriot Act stripped son of due process.” WRAL.com website. Retrieved from http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/5049867/.
Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc. (2009). “Trial date set for Oxford teen accused of making bomb threats.” WRAL.com website. Retrieved from http://www.wral.com/trial-date-set-for-oxford-teen-accused-of-making-bomb-threats/6673495/.
Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc. (2011). “Oxford teen gets time served, must pay for bomb threats. WRAL.com website. Retrieved from http://www.wral.com/news/state/story/8917800/.
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2011). “Lundeby Sentenced in Telephone Bomb Threat Hoax.” FBI Archives website. Retrieved from https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/indianapolis/press-releases/2011/ip011011.htm.
U.S. Government Publishing Office. (2011). “18 U.S.C. 2516 - Authorization for interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications.” U.S. GPO website. Retrieved from https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/search/pagedetails.action?collectionCode=USCODE&searchPath=Title+18%2FPart+I%2FCHAPTER+119&granuleId=USCODE-2010-title18-partI-chap119-sec2516&packageId=USCODE-2010-title18&oldPath=Title+18%2FPART+I&fromPageDetails=true&collapse=true&ycord=4104.
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