A New Jersey blogger facing charges in two states for allegedly making threats against lawmakers and judges was trained by the FBI on how to be deliberately provocative, his attorney said Tuesday.
Hal Turner worked for the FBI from 2002 to 2007 as an “agent provocateur” and was taught by the agency “what he could say that wouldn’t be crossing the line,” defense attorney Michael Orozco said.
“His job was basically to publish information which would cause other parties to act in a manner which would lead to their arrest,” Orozco said.
Prosecutors have acknowledged that Turner was an informant who spied on radical right-wing organizations, but the defense has said Turner was not working for the FBI when he allegedly made threats against Connecticut legislators and wrote that three federal judges in Illinois deserved to die.
“But if you compare anything that he did say when he was operating, there was no difference. No difference whatsoever,” Orozco said.
Special Agent Ross Rice, a spokesman for the FBI in Chicago, said he would not comment on or even confirm Turner’s relationship with the FBI.
Orozco spoke to reporters after a court hearing in Hartford on Tuesday. Turner, 47, of North Bergen, N.J., did not appear, because he is in federal custody in Illinois. His arraignment on the Connecticut charges was rescheduled to Oct. 19.
In June, Turner urged his readers to “take up arms” against Connecticut lawmakers and suggested government officials should “obey the Constitution or die,” because he was angry over legislation—later withdrawn—that would have given lay members of Roman Catholic churches more control over their parish’s finances.
He wrote in Internet postings the same month that the Illinois federal appeals judges “deserve to be killed” because they issued a ruling that upheld ordinances in Chicago and suburban Oak Park banning handguns. He included their photos and the room numbers of their chambers at the courthouse.
Orozco officially joined Turner’s defense team in the Connecticut case on Tuesday, with approval from Superior Court Judge David Gold. Orozco said his Newark, N.J.-based firm has been representing Turner for the past five years, including during his FBI informant years.
Turner’s Connecticut attorney, Matthew R. Potter, said it’s too early to tell which trial will move forward first. Orozco said he plans First Amendment defenses in both cases.
Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, said the office would not comment on Orozco’s statements.
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The U.S. Marine Corps has banned Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and other social media sites from its networks, effective immediately.
“These internet sites in general are a proven haven for malicious actors and content and are particularly high risk due to information exposure, user generated content and targeting by adversaries,” reads a Marine Corps order, issued Monday. “The very nature of SNS [social network sites] creates a larger attack and exploitation window, exposes unnecessary information to adversaries and provides an easy conduit for information leakage that puts OPSEC [operational security], COMSEC [communications security], [and] personnel… at an elevated risk of compromise.”
The Marines’ ban will last a year. It was drawn up in response to a late July warning from U.S. Strategic Command, which told the rest of the military it was considering a Defense Department-wide ban on the Web 2.0 sites, due to network security concerns. Scams, worms, and Trojans often spread unchecked throughout social media sites, passed along from one online friend to the next. “The mechanisms for social networking were never designed for security and filtering. They make it way too easy for people with bad intentions to push malicious code to unsuspecting users,” a Stratcom source told Danger Room.
Yet many within the Pentagon’s highest ranks find value in the Web 2.0 tools. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has 4,000 followers on Twitter. The Department of Defense is getting ready to unveil a new home page, packed with social media tools. The Army recently ordered all U.S. bases to provide access to Facebook. Top generals now blog from the battlefield.
“OPSEC is paramount. We will have procedures in place to deal with that,” Price Floyd, the Pentagon’s newly-appointed social media czar, told Danger Room. “What we can’t do is let security concerns trump doing business. We have to do business… We need to be everywhere men and women in uniform are and the public is. If that’s MySpace and YouTube, that’s where we need to be, too.”
The Marines say they will issue waivers to the Web 2.0 blockade, if a “mission critical need” can be proven. And they will continue to allow access to the military’s internal “SNS-like services.” But for most members of the Corps, access to the real, public social networks is now shut off for the next year.