Sen. Hirono: FBI Should Investigate Death Threats to Dr. Ford As Witness Tampering

On Rachel Maddow on Wednesday Senator Hirono of Hawaii called out the death threats and intimidation of Dr. Ford as witness tampering and said the FBI should “do its job” and investigate.

Since July Senator Feinstein’s office honored Dr. Ford’s wishes to remain anonymous. But then the press found out who Dr. Ford was so she identified herself publicly. At that point Senator Feinstein’s obligation to keep her identity secret was dropped. However, as a constituent of Feinstein, an American citizen, and a key witness in an important government decision, Feinstein still has an obligation to Dr. Ford to protect her and defend her rights. 

Feinstein’s office should have been prepared for the attacks on Dr. Ford and had a plan. There should have been a physical protection plan, a law enforcement plan, a secure communication plan, a media plan and a social media plan. But it looks like Feinstein’s office left it all up to Dr. Ford and her people. The good news is that they aren’t clueless, Lawrence O’Donnell has been praising their work all week.  Also, my new favorite Senator, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, has publicly called for the FBI to investigate the witness tampering.   

At this point I don’t think Feinstein’s office or Hirono’s office needs to officially tell the FBI,  “Look into the threats to Dr. Ford as part of a federal witness tampering case.” since crimes have been committed. But they could.

Senators Need To Proactively Protect Dr. Ford 

Democratic Senators can do more than wring their hands, “What can we do about these mean people attacking Dr. Ford now — and during the hearings?”

I don’t know how witness protection works in the real world. I believe there are protocols and processes. Maybe Kamala Harris can help since she dealt with witnesses and she has a reason to keep Dr. Ford safe until it’s time to talk to the committee.

On TV when someone from a government agency tells a witness, “We can protect you.”  I turn to Mrs. Spocko and say, “No they can’t!” Because usually two seconds later they cut to a scene where the witness is attacked. I believe protecting witnesses in real life is more successful, which is good for the people involved, but would be bad for TV ratings. I’m glad Mark Burnett isn’t in charge of witnesses.

What I do know about witness tampering and death threats is the technical process used for tracking threatening phone calls and email like the ones Dr. Ford has received.

If Sen Feinstein’s office was on the ball, (and they might have been) when Dr. Ford got the first phone call, email or in-person threat the resources of the Federal government should have been used to trace and track the people making the threats. 

When there is a good cause for tracing a call (such as death threats) and there is support from law enforcement, technically speaking tracking the call or email back to the source has a very high success rate.  It’s not like on TV, “We need another 30 seconds to triangulate the source of the call! Keep him on the line!” Forensic tracing is quick, especially when you are prepared and the people making the threats aren’t technically sophisticated.

Then the judicial system needs to determine if it is a “true threat” (see Elonis vs. United States), the intent of the person making the threats, and if the communication constitutes witness tampering. All of these decisions are a separate part of the process.  (18 U.S. Code § 1512 – Tampering with a witness, victim, or an informant)

This is something Senators Hirono, Feinstein, Harris can announce right now.

“We will track, trace and investigate all credible threats against Dr. Ford and prosecute the perpetrators.”

Sure we can send, “I believe you Dr. Ford!” tweets and write FB posts that we “have her back” but it will be the arrest and prosecution of the people making threats that will show the seriousness of the defense of the witness.

I love to flip the narratives to point out just how serious these threats are. Imagine that a candidate for the Supreme Court was worried about death threats. He or she could be prepared, they could ask to have their calls traced. We KNOW that those callers would be found almost instantly.When the level of the threat is determined someone would spend days explaining their intent and, if it was determine it was a threat, they would go to jail. That would be appropriate due process. I always demand due process for cases involving people I like or don’t like. It’s the only way to ensure a modicum of fairness.
This same level of investigation and due process for a Supreme Court nominee should be made available for Dr. Ford right now.

I’m now a big fan of Sen. Hirono ever since she called out Grassley’s office for their lame attempts to contact Dr. Ford.

“I would like us to come together and figure out what is the best way to proceed,” Hirono told ABC News on Wednesday evening.

“Not this seat-of-the-pants stuff,” she added. “The latest, being a letter from the chairman to the Democrats saying, ‘We have done everything we can to contact her.’ That is such bullshit, I can’t hardly stand it.”

Thank you Sen. Hirono for calling out bullshit. You were right about Grassley’s office then and are right about the role of the FBI now.

    Sen. Hirono on Grassley’s office inability to reach Dr. Ford.
    That is such bullshit, I can’t hardly stand it.”

The FBI doesn’t need the President’s permission to investigate death threats against Dr. Ford. Crimes have already been committed.

Now the next question to ask the FBI is, “How many people have you arrested for death threats and witness tampering?”

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