Thursday, December 22, 2005

More: Student Who Ordered Mao Book Supposedly Visited by Homeland Security Agents

We’ve reported on the story of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth student who claimed to have ordered Mao’s “Little Red Book” via interlibrary loan and then been visited by agents from the Department of Homeland Security.

The reporter who broke the story has posted a follow-up.

The reporter interviewed a spokesman from the Department of Homeland Security:
“We’re aware of the claims,” said Kirk Whitworth, a DHS spokesman in Washington, D.C. “However, the scenario sounds unlikely because investigations are based on violation of law, not on the books and individual might check out from the library.”

Mr. Whitworth pointed out that while the original story stated the student was visited by agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the DHS does not actually have its own agents. Under the umbrella of the DHS are Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Inspector General, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Coast Guard, among others.

Mr. Whitworth could not comment on the record whether the agency monitors inter-library loans, or whether there is a watch list of books that the agency maintains.
In contrast, Jamie Zuieback, a spokesperson for United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, flatly told us that there is no “watch list” of books.

The student in question firmly refuses to talk:
Two UMass Dartmouth history professors to whom the student told the story, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said they still believe the student was telling the truth. But the student and his parents have made it clear to The Standard-Times that they do not want to discuss what happened. The Standard-Times has made numerous attempts to contact the student and his parents by phone and visited their home in New Bedford. He and his family members have rebuffed these attempts for comment.
Of course, the reporter in question, Aaron Nicodemus already knows the name of the student and has declined to reveal it. Thus it is hard to see how the student would be harmed by talking to Nicodemus.

Unless such an interview would make it quite obvious that the whole affair is a hoax.

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