EPA Agents Visit Man For Sending Email

The following is NOT a work of fiction. It did take place. It took place in the most liberty rich country in the history of the world. It didn’t happen in one of the old Soviet Eastern Bloc nations. It didn’t happen in Cuba or Venezuela. It didn’t happen in Iran. It happened here, in the United States of America.

Let me first begin by telling you about a man that I have come to know over the last week. Larry Keller is just a normal guy. He’s an average, hard working American trying to live his life the best way that he knows how. He operates a consulting business out of his home in Asheville, North Carolina. He cares about his country and he believes, like most of us here, that Americans have the right to question those in government that we may disagree with.

Over a month ago, when the EPA’s Al Armendariz “crucify” comments reached a boiling point, Keller began to inquire as to how he could contact Mr. Armendariz.  Larry didn’t agree with his statements about the oil and gas industries and felt compelled to contact him by email. Like I said before, we all believe that we have that right.

Keller tried Googling Armendariz’s name to find his contact information, he ended up on a website that led him to contact, by email, a man by the name of Dr. David Gray who is the Director of External Affairs for the EPA. Larry Keller, average American, wrote a one sentence email to Dr. Gray which stated simply:

“Hello Mr. Gray-Do you have Mr. Armendariz’s contact information so we can say hello?”

That’s it. That’s all he said. He never heard back from Dr. Gray and I assume he went about his average life like anyone else would.

Then a little over a week after the Armendariz comments became public knowledge, on May 2nd to be exact, Larry Keller was visited by two individuals along with a uniformed Asheville Police Officer. The following is what transpired:

On Wednesday, May 02, 2012 at about 1:45PM two Special Agents from the EPA and an armed police officer who stood 6’6” tall visited our house in Asheville, NC. Their visit was a total surprise as we had not received any communications requesting an appointment. The agents presented very official looking badges and asked if we could sit and chat awhile. We moved to the back porch and took our seats with the exception of the armed officer who stood by the door to the house the entire time.

Special Agent Michael Woods, who acted as the leader, then asked if I ran a business out of our house and if, what kind of business. What does that have to do with the EPA I thought. I answered yes – I own and run a consulting business focused on data visualization and analysis. After explaining my business to them, he then asked if I had ever sent any emails to anyone in the EPA. I answered no initially and then recalled that I had tried to reach Dr. Al Armendariz, the then EPA Regional Administrator who had made comments about crucifying big oil companies last week. Further, using Google, I had searched for his contact information and landed on his domain which was a subset of Southern Methodist University. There Dr. Armendariz tells visitors to email Dr. David Gray, Director of External Affairs for the EPA. I sent an email to Dr. Gray and stated the following:

“Hello Mr. Gray-Do you have Mr. Armendariz’s contact information so we can say hello?”

At this point Agent Woods reach into a file and from it he pulled out a copy of my email to Dr. Gray. He handed it to me and I asked what was there about the content that justified their driving across the state of NC to visit me with no prior warning. The other agent then stated that my choice of words in the email could be interpreted in many ways. At that point I asked them to be specific as they were wasting my time. I stated that I pay for agents’ salaries and that of the police officer and they have bigger fish to fry. Special Agent Woods then asked if I had ever been arrested – the answer was a swift no. I then asked for a copy of the email they presented and they said that was impossible as the investigation was not yet complete.

Keller then asked the agents for their business cards (which they promised him when they first arrived), he was told they didn’t have cards with them and they abruptly left his home via the back staircase. Keller noticed that they had blocked his driveway and the local police officer had parked in his neighbor’s driveway where another officer was waiting in the car.

Keep in mind, the armed EPA agents drove four hours from Raleigh for that.

Keller was interviewed by local radio host Pete Kaliner on May 11th about the incident. You can listen to his interview here. I reached out to Kaliner and Larry Keller on May 24th when I first heard the story. I posted about it at my blog and was fortunate enough to be linked multiple times, trying my best to get the story out as it didn’t appear that the media was, or is for that matter, interested in our bloated government overreaching and infringing upon average citizens rights.

As of today, Larry has kept me in the loop about his communications with EPA, The Office of the Inspector General, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), and of course the local Asheville Police Department. The Carolina Journal, which is affiliated with The John Locke Foundation, finally wrote about the incident which Larry forwarded on to me this afternoon.

According to Larry, Richard Burr’s office is investigating and promises to take the investigation to the “nth degree” to get answers.

To this point, no one has been able to sufficiently answer Mr. Keller’s questions. The main one being, what exactly prompted a visit by two armed government agents? And the other being, is the “case” against him closed? Is he still under “investigation” by the EPA?

Post this to Facebook, Tweet it, email it, let people know what type of harassment they could receive simply by engaging their government officials. Is this really the kind of country we want our children growing up in?

More updates will be forthcoming when I get them from Mr. Keller.

 

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  • herddog505

    I have written my member of Congress.

    Fat lot of good it will do…

    • TWB

      I know. Writing to congress is about as big a waste of time as writing an email to the EPA. Or any other government agency for that matter.

  • GarandFan

    One thing you can say about our government:
    1) It will UNDER re-act
    2) It will OVER re-act.
    3) RARELY with it INTELLIGENTLY re-act.

    • Wild_Willie

      And they will never respond. They on know the two reactions. ww

    •  and it will OVER spend doing all of the above.

  • 914

    Why the hell does the EPA have armed agents?

    • herddog505

      I wondered that, too.  WTF?

      •  Keller didn’t say they were armed in the excerpt.

        • herddog505

          You’ve got a point.

          • TWB

            The agents WERE armed. That fact was included in an email Larry forwarded to me during one of his many with the office of the Inspector General (who confirmed the fact that the agents were indeed armed).

            I just didn’t include the email in the post. It will probably be included in further updates.

          • TWB

            Let me add that I am in possession of those emails, but I’m not at liberty to publish those yet.

          • herddog505

            Then we’re back to 914‘s question:

            What the hell is the EPA doing with armed agents???

          •  That’s fine, it just wasn’t reading that way.

  • Commander_Chico

    Your security state at work.

    • cirby

      You mean Obama’s security state.

      You know, the guy who’s ostensibly in charge.

      You’re going to do the predictable and blame this on Bush?  What did he do, leave a memo saying “remember to send some useless bureaucrats to go visit people who annoy Obama’s appointed midlevel functionaries three years after I leave office…”

    • cirby

      You mean Obama’s security state.

      You know, the guy who’s ostensibly in charge.

      You’re going to do the predictable and blame this on Bush?  What did he do, leave a memo saying “remember to send some useless bureaucrats to go visit people who annoy Obama’s appointed midlevel functionaries three years after I leave office…”

  • EricSteel

    Keller’s e-mail was a very bad choice of words and can reasonably be interpreted as a veiled threat.  What does he mean by “say hello”?  Literally say hello, have an informed debate with Mr. Armendariz, or “say hello to my little friend”?  If it helps, imagine Tony Montana from Scarface reading Keller’s e-mail or Don Corleone making him an offer that he can’t refuse.

    So, frankly, at this point I see anything wrong with the EPA investigating him out of precaution to rule out that he was a threat.

    • herddog505

      What WOULDN’T be construed as a threat by a paranoid, tinpot dictator-wannabe, especially if he imagined Tony Montana or Don Corleone writing it?

    • It does seem a little over paranoid, unless Mr. Armendariz was already receiving threats and by coincidence Keller’s email was close to the wording of a more serious threat. Good luck in confirming that though.

    • Doc

      The EPA can kiss my ass, and who gave them the authority to investigate and carry weapons?  What do they call this investigative arm, and how many taxdollars are spent?  Also, why did the local police allow/accompany them?  What local law enforcement ok’d this, why, and why aren’t the locals firing him/her?

    • UOG

       Eric, it’s also the kind of thing that security people could clear with a phone call.

      • EricSteel

        Perhaps, perhaps not. We don’t have the whole story. Keller sent his email not long after Armendariz made his also stupid comments about crucifying businesses
        like the Romans did. I expect Armendariz got a lot of kook-mail as a result.

        It is simply my opinion that Keller’s e-mail can reasonably be interpreted as being threatening. He wrote it and he owns it and any reasonable interpretations that can be made as a result. I don’t think the EPA did anything wrong in investigating his intentions, and that is not so easy to do over the phone as it is in person.

        If he had written the email differently, and it didn’t come across as threatening in any way, then I would be more sympathetic. But he didn’t so I’m not. And that’s my opinion.

    • ackwired

      Possibly another factor was that the extreme conservative blogoshere had been building enough hatred toward this guy that he had to resign.  It might not be too far a stretch to wonder if some off balance individual wanted to contact him for unfriendly purposes.

      • Guest

        Yep – there must have been threats of some kind made — by someone — after all, the right wing blogosphere got a hold on the story — that means all kinds of sick f*cks were probably writing the guy.

        • …but enough about your efforts to contact Mr. Armendariz

        • retired.military

          Chickenshit

          If true it is nice to know that the EPA has armed agents they can afford to send out to every person who contacts them requesting information.  I mean it isnt like we are in a financial hole and sinking more all the time.

          Btw Would those be the kind of threats the left is so famous for spouting when they dont like something that someone says or does.

      • herddog505

        OFFS!  I don’t know what started it, but this raging paranoia that seems to be going around is pathetic and dangerous.  “Oh, somebody said unkind things about X, so that MIGHT cause some nut to go over the edge and actually hurt X, so we’ve gotta stop people saying unkind things about X!” Is this what we’ve come to in our society?  If so, then we might as well go full Orwell and ban just about every form of speech and writing that’s even remotely uncomplimentary about other people as it COULD “incite violence”.

        Gimme a break.

        And another thing: this “extreme conservative blogosphere” is a lot of crap.  Call me back when people like Al Sharpton stop comparing Republicans to Hitler (as he did a couple of days ago), when blogs like HuffPo and Kos stop photoshopping conservatives (and even RINOs) with bloody hands, when libs stop offering bounties on George Zimmerman or shooting assassination porn about George Bush, etc.  The fact is that – like it or not – extreme rhetoric is and always has been a feature of American politics, and nobody’s hands are clean.  This recent crusade by the left about the “extreme conservatives” is nothing more than a thinly-disguised effort to shut down speech that they don’t like even while they engage in the same thing.

        • ackwired

          I guess I touched a nerve!  Please slow down, take a deep breath.  You are jumping to some very bad conclusions.  There are extreme conservatives that blog, and they do feed on each other  Pointing out that there are extreme liberals that blog, and that they feed on each other does not change that.  Extremes tend to say irresponsible things.  As you note, it has always been that way.  My pointing it out or your pointing it out is not a call to limit anyone’s right to speech.  We need free speech and to preserve it we need to be aware that some will abuse it and some will take everything they read as fact and some will become very angry.  One alternative to limiting free speech is to check out anything that may be an implied threat to people in public positions. 

          •  You mean like #AttackWatch, which was set up by the Obama administration for Americans to rat on those who oppose the regime?

          • ackwired

            I think #AttackWatch is clearly a campaign mechanism to identify rumors and negative campaigning against Obama.  I am unaware of any actions being taken that would indicate otherwise.

          • herddog505

            Yes, it does touch a nerve, especially in the wake of all the hypocritical bilge we got from the left about “civility” in the wake of poor Gabby Giffords being shot.

            Please define “implied threat”, and then tell us how we should go about checking them out in such a way that DOESN’T involve the police showing up on people’s doorsteps to (ahem) talk to them.

            It’s one thing to deal with clear threats: “I’m going to kill you, motherf*cker!” or even the more veiled, “Yeah, I wouldn’t go out alone if I were you!” It’s quite another thing to start trying to determine if somebody’s criticism MIGHT incite some lunatic to do bad things.  I am not at all eager to go down that road.

            Or should we lock up Barry who infamously exhorted Hispanics to side with him to “punish their enemies”?

          • ackwired

            I don’t have a problem with authorities stopping by to check someone out.  We live in a murderous society.

          • herddog505

            Ah.  Alrighty, then.

          • True, but I would expect the FBI or local authorities, not armed EPA agents.

          • ackwired

            It doesn’t sound like there is any indications that they were armed.  Their being unarmed is probably the reason that they brought the local police with them. 

          •  That was my thinking until TWB indicated he had information otherwise.

          • You don’t seem to be familiar with the phrase “chilling effect on free speech”. Authorities have to balance the possibility that someone is planning violence with the fear that indiscriminate visits from the authorities can bring. 

            The sad truth is that unless you are familiar with the relevant case law, you can give up legal and constitutional rights without intending to and can end up fined or in jail on entirely unrelated matters. 

          • ackwired

            I would agree that authorities need to act responsibly, and would not favor visits without reasonable cause.  However, there are people who want to harm high profile people.  Those high profile people deserve reasonable protection.

          • It is a balancing test, you are right. The problem is the govt has unilaterally picked a new balance. Unilaterally shifting balances like that should be treated with suspicion and demands for justification.

          • ackwired

            If there has been a change in criteria, I would agree.  It should be justified.

    • Bob

        What a ridiculous statement.

      The guy asked for a method of contact.  He did not ask for directions to the guys house.  The response could have been an email address or a phone number.  It could even have more or less legitimately been a statement that personal contact information is not provided to individual taxpayers.   Instead it was intimidation; pure and simple.

      • EricSteel

        It is not a ridiculous statement. I don’t have a dog in this fight, and yet my first thought when I read the email was that it sounded like a veiled threat.

        I’m not saying Keller was in fact making a veiled threat, but his email was worded in a way that it could be interpreted that way.

        • You could simply have a mailbox that is monitored by EPA legal and get an email address along with a note saying that the EPA supports 1st amendment rights to petition for a redress of grievances but does not tolerate threats and that due to a present controversy all correspondence with this employee is being currently reviewed by the legal department without exception to screen for threats. 

          That would both have followed the law and warned off the nutters. It would have been considerably cheaper too. 

  • Brucepall

    Back in 1971, I wrote to Social Security at age 15, asking if I could opt out of SS –  as it was a really bad deal for a hard working teenager because it took so much money out of my paycheck. I received a nice (long) hand written letter in reply stating that:  No, I could not withdraw from SS, and the reasons why.

    Turn the page to my letter to the US government on 1 May 2008, where I wrote to the US Treasury, who’s Secretary had just administratively set the Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) fixed interest rates to zero, and thus the US Treasury was offering a ‘negative real rate of return’ on these 30 year government debt instruments (which was just opposite of their website’s stated claim).  Basically, I politely told the Bureau of Public Debt that I wasn’t going to buy anymore of our Federal debt until they changed their policy.

    I received a one-page computer generated response letter back from the US Treasury stating: Thank You for your input, and my correspondence was very important to them.

    This response made me ponder… if I would have received the same exact canned computer generated reply, if I had wished a cursed death upon our Treasury Secretary and his minions for their insanity… but I did not follow up this supposition, as perhaps, I might of received a courtesy visit from the FBI.

    From the actions of the EPA on this post – it looks like my intuition of the changed character of our government officials is confirmed… How sad.

    Semper Fidelis-

  • The excerpt says:
    On Wednesday, May 02, 2012 at about 1:45PM two Special Agents from the
    EPA and an armed police officer who stood 6’6” tall visited our house in
    Asheville, NC.

    So where do you derive that the two EPA agents were armed?

    ” The main one being, what exactly prompted a visit by two armed government agents?”

    They had an armed officer with them, and you said in your post the two EPA agents were armed, but Keller didn’t. (I didn’t listen to his interview, if its in there) Did I miss the reference, I searched the post for ‘armed?’

    (The whole incident still sounds kind of bizarre though)

    • TWB

      Rodney, see my above comment that explains how I know the agents were armed.

  • Guest

    There has got to be more to this story.  

    • Brian_R_Allen

      @FoxNews [email protected]:disqus 

      …. There has got to be more to this story ….

      There is: Take away the tattered remnants of the united States Constitution and the criminal gang of the morbidly pathological narcissist currently besquatting and bemauring our 1600 Pennsylvania public housing projects and presently pretending to what passes as our presidency is 1930s’ Germany’s morbidly pathological narcissist and his criminal gang.

      Without his having made even Corporal on his merits or even having hung paper!

      Even.

    • TWB

      Meaning?

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  • herddog505

    Does anybody remember, back in the dark days when the eeeeeevil Bushitler was in the White House, a lackwit actor called Tim Robbins remarked about a “chill wind” that was stifling – STIFLING, I say – free speech?

    Here’s part of what he said:

    [A]ny instance of intimidation to free speech should be battled against. Any acquiescence or intimidation at this point will only lead to more intimidation. You have, whether you like it or not, an awesome responsibility and an awesome power: the fate of discourse, the health of this republic is in your hands, whether you write on the left or the right. This is your time, and the destiny you have chosen. *

    O’ course, I’m sure that our resident lefties will assure us that sending two federal agents along with an armed police officer to (ahem) “check up” on a citizen who asked how to contact a federal official ISN’T an attempt at intimidation.  Ditto:

    — Asking citizens to report “lies” to the White House (you know: where the head of our government lives?);

    — Running exposes on the “sordid pasts” of donors to the opposition;

    — Labeling opposition and criticism as “hate speech” that “incites violence”.

    Hey, Timmy!  I got your “chill wind” right here!

    ===

    (*) http://www.tim-robbins.com/achillwindisblowing.htm

  • Sky__Captain

    Given the circumstances, the point was not to investigate Mr. Keller or they would not have left hurriedly.
    I believe they left when they saw they weren’t getting any traction in the real purpose – to make Mr. Keller afraid.

    Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.  -John Basil Barnhill

    The 0bama Administration is desperately attempting tyranny. They are not succeeding.

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  • BobAgard

    Thank you for providing us with these details. I have linked you here:  http://bobagard.blogspot.com/2012/06/is-this-kind-of-government-we-want.html