The case of Brandon Raub: Can governm detain you over Facebook?

A Marine veteran was arrested for anti-government speech on Facebook, inspiring online discussion and outrage. Could this happen to you? Photo: Franco Bouly

WASHINGTON, August 22, 2012 — Brandon J. Raub, a 26-year-old pro-liberty activist, former U.S. Marine, and Virginia resident, was arrested after authorities deemed his Facebook posts threatening. Citing an obscure statute allowing the involuntary detainment of a citizen for psychiatric evaluation, the FBI, Secret Service, and local authorities swarmed Raub’s property to question and then seize him.

Without a warrant or recitation of his Miranda rights, Raub was handcuffed and taken into custody. After a quick hearing, government officials confirmed that Raub’s Facebook posts necessitated his detention, refusing to acknowledge legal objections that the words were wrongly interpreted. The former Marine will undergo 30 days of evaluation at Salem VA Medical Center.

Since the incident, Raub has become an online hero as the arrest video and Facebook pages teeter on the verge of going viral. Citizens from all political persuasions, veterans, civil liberties advocates and the generally curious are discussing the political manifesto and detainment of Brandon Raub.


UPDATE: Judge orders Brandon Raub released from hospital


So what did he post? A Facebook note titled “The Truth” lists grievances against the American ruling establishment. Raub expresses his belief that the American principles of limited government and personal liberty are expiring and that corporations and international bankers run the state, not the people. Raub has directly called for the arrest of bankers and politicians who consistently defy their oath to the United States Constitution.

According to his supporters, Raub also believes the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were sold to the American people under false pretenses to benefit the powerful at the expense of military families, American treasure, and domestic security. Raub served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Marine Corps from 2005 to 2011.

Many of Raub’s statements are typical among the politically active, but while many fellow rebels support Raub’s statements, others stress that he did not stop with simple dissent. Reciting popular conspiracy theories from the U.S. government’s complicity in the 9/11 attacks to a scheme to consolidate the world’s power into the hands of the few, it is clear Raub was frustrated, angry and disappointed in his country’s trajectory.

Though his defenders claim he is a patriot meaning no harm, the former Marine directly encouraged a popular revolution against tyrannical and un-constitutional government, claiming he would “kickstart” resistance. No direct threats were posted, and posts of this darker nature were a mixture of statements authorities construed as incitements to violence and song lyrics from heavy rock music.

Undoubtedly, these expressions concerned federal authorities, but was detainment for “psychological evaluation” without respect for Raub’s rights to Due Process warranted? Raub has no history of mental illness and a reputation for organizing peaceful political demonstrations.

The consensus is divided. “After the recent shootings and the Virginia Tech massacre, can the authorities really ignore threats that seem immediate?” a contrarian posted on Facebook. “Their job is to protect us.”

Raub’s defenders disagreed, citing a larger concern that federal authorities are blatantly ignoring citizens’ rights. A former Marine who served with Raub has been most vocal in his defense.

“I served alongside Brandon both in Iraq and in Afghanistan. He was in my combat engineer platoon in Iraq in 2006 and in Afghanistan 2011. Brandon was the man who opened my eyes to the slow hemorrhaging of civil rights in America and the extreme and purposeful devaluation of the dollar.

“Whether you agree with his method or mode of expressing himself is erroneous. He has broken no laws and hurt no one. He needs to be released or charged with a crime. This is a very scary path to an extreme Big Brother state. Please sign the petition to free Brandon,” posted Matthew Turner on a Change.org petition.

The Oath Keepers, a non-partisan association of law enforcement, first responders and veterans, are outraged. They plan to rally in Raub’s defense, calling his detention a “Soviet style pre-crime detention”.

Classifying dissidents as mentally ill is a timeless art. In the Soviet Union, millions were condemned to “psikhushkas,” or psychiatric prisons, in order to isolate, discredit and destroy dissent and activism. Even in the land of the free, President Wilson sought to silence suffragette Alice Paul through legal declarations of insanity, though thankfully the doctor refused.

With the current political climate increasingly hostile to constitutionally protected activism, activists worry that without public outrage, pliable psychological professionals and unethical federal authorities could resurrect this trend.

While some are concerned with ending Raub’s detention unless charges are filed, the government’s justification and processing of Raub’s arrest concern the American Civil Liberties Union and legal professionals.

Officials insist the seizure was not an arrest because there are no criminal charges, but an ACLU investigator disagrees, “I have reviewed the video of Mr. Raub’s arrest. According to federal statute, when the police restrained the subject with handcuffs and stopped him from moving about under his own free will, at that point the subject was, in fact, under arrest. The fact that he was not read his Miranda Rights is another violation.”

A lawyer in Dallas is more concerned the incident is a harbinger of things to come after recent constitutional abuses by the federal government concerning due-process rights and domestic spying:

“In May, a U.S. Judge Forrest suspended the federal government’s new unconstitutional power to indefinitely detain United States citizens based on mere suspicion of being ‘terror-linked.’ Last week, Obama’s attorneys refused to define any terms, including what constituted as ‘linked’ to a ‘terrorist.’

“They also refused to testify they were not in contempt of court for denying due process for Americans even after the judge’s restriction. This is a reckless abandonment of the American system and a violation of every American principle.

“Arresting dissidents without calling it ‘arrest,’ which is in complete violation of Raub’s civil liberties, combined with the insistence that the federal government has a right to imprison anyone based on suspicion, should scare every American. We are losing this republic and fast.”

Unless the Obama administration abandons the NDAA, it is reasonable to assume that if Raub (or any other dissident) were deemed a “terrorist”, even before manifesting intent to act, federal authorities could skip the entire judicial process and imprison him at the pleasure of the President. Very few civilized nations allow unchecked power of this magnitude in the 21st century.

Further, the language of the NDAA is so vague that Raub’s entire family, friends or anyone who “substantially supported” him or “associated forces” could also be indefinitely detained without trial. According to Obama’s lawyers, it is possible.

For John Whitehead, Director of the Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based civil liberties organization defending Raub, the larger concern is whether government officials are monitoring citizens’ private Facebook pages for dissent.

“For government officials to not only arrest Brandon Raub for doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights but to actually force him to undergo psychological evaluations and detain him against his will goes against every constitutional principle this country was founded upon. This is a scary new chapter in this nation’s history.”

According to FBI Spokeswoman Dee Rybiski, federal agents did not monitor Raub’s Facebook page, but received “a few complaints about what were perceived as threatening posts”. Whitehead doubts the FBI’s honesty, stating the page in question was recently created and private.

Though the facts are unclear in this specific case, it is an unspoken understanding of the politically aware that the federal government monitors social media accounts of American citizens for political opinions. 

Though the extent of snooping program remains classified, a Freedom of Information Act release revealed that General Dynamics was awarded the $11.3 million dollar tax-payer funded contract to stalk social media traffic. Keyword-generated status reports “capturing public reaction” and opinions that “reflect adversely” on the federal government were produced weekly for the Department of Homeland Security.

Senior officials insist the government can be trusted and that citizens are not tracked by their political views at this time, but Ginger McCall, director of the EPIC’s open government program points out, “The language in the documents makes it quite clear that they are looking for media reports that are critical of the agency and the U.S. government more broadly. This [monitoring] could have a substantial chilling effect on legitimate dissent and freedom of speech.”

Until Raub’s release, veteran activists and fellow Marines have organized demanding full disclosure from authorities as to the exact posts that triggered Raub’s detainment. They advocate that either charges be filed or he be released immediately. They also remind one another to act with caution. Said one Army veteran and Oath Keeper online:

“We understand more than federal agents and bureaucrats that protecting and serving is not always easy. Marines and soldiers expressing themselves should be careful to never give the impression we incite aggressive violence against the government.

“The United States government is watching everything you post online. What you say is not private. We may openly declare we will defend the American people against domestic terrorism, including violent government aggression, but we are the good guys. Act like it.” 

Pending an announced release date, dozens of popular “Support Brandon Raub” Facebook pages have emerged as citizens and veterans monitor the situation. To express your thoughts on the arrest and detention of Brandon J. Raub, reach out to Senator Mark Warner, Senator Jim Webb, or Congressman Randy Forbes.  


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Tiffany Madison

Tiffany is a writer and veteran's advocate. Her column focuses on civil liberties, veteran's issues and current events. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanymadisonFacebook or her website.

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