Some readers of HuffingtonPost.com have initiated a new wave of harassing phone calls to Swift Boat veterans who questioned John Kerry’s military record in the 2004 campaign — and the website’s proprietors remained ignorant of it for days, despite repeated complaints.
Last Saturday morning, HuffPost, Arianna Huffington’s year-old online effort, linked to a story regarding the release of Navy personal information. By Saturday afternoon, two registered “trusted” HuffPost commenters posted the names and personal information of more than a dozen Swift Boat veterans. “SatanLivesinUSA” wrote at 2:15 p.m., June 24, “SwiftBoatVets who need some Black Ops done on them. I have some very good ideas I gleaned from ‘CIA BOOK of DIRTY TRICKS’ Don’t get mad, get EVEN.” Minutes later, at 2:19 p.m., “YvonneMoorhead” repeatedly pasted SatanLivesinUSA’s comments on that page and on another Huffington Post post. Elsewhere, in February, YvonneMoorhead had posted, “F*** em, they died for the greater Isreali [sic] goal of stealing more land by having its proxy America invade Iraq and next Iran. They are not called Masters of Deceit for nothing.” Aside from one or two complaints, fellow commenters did not object to the posting of the information or the threats.
Some of these men reported receiving harassing and threatening phone calls over the weekend. At 2:30 a.m., Saturday, June 24, Adrian Lonsdale said he received a call from an apparently drunk man claiming to be another veteran, Van Odell. The caller said, “Our lies are all over the Internet. We are in deep ****.”
After the contact information was posted on the Huffington Post, the harassing calls increased in frequency. Saturday afternoon Lonsdale received another call, “congratulating” him for “ruining our country.” In the early hours of Sunday morning, Van Odell received three calls, he told TAS, at 1:47 a.m., 1:48, and 1:50. A man calmly told him, “I want to know why you lied about John Kerry… Traitors must die. We will get you. You can’t get away with this.” Then his call descended into cursing, at which point Odell said he hung up on him. Odell received another round of calls around 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon. He has turned his phone off so that his six-year-old grandson could not pick up the calls.
Though the men have contacted their local law enforcement officials, they had difficulty addressing the harassment through the Huffington Post. They told TAS that they repeatedly emailed HuffPost at firstname.lastname@example.org, beginning Sunday night. Odell’s son said that he and co-workers flagged the comments as “abusive.”
The comments remained posted on the pages until Tuesday afternoon, when TAS contacted Katharine Zaleski, HuffPost news editor, via an unlisted telephone number. HuffPost promptly removed the comments. (They can be seen here — telephone numbers and street addresses have been blocked out by TAS.) Asked about procedures to identify and remove threatening comments, Zaleski issued a statement, “Thank you for telling us. We were not aware since we receive over up to 10,000 comments a day. We are erasing them.” She added that the offending commenters will be banned.
This incident is a repeat of similar tactics employed against members of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth during the 2004 election. The same list of names and contact information remains posted on the blog “Democratic Veteran.” And since John Kerry recently indicated that he intends to press the case for his military records and against the Swift Boat veterans ahead of the 2008 election, perhaps this is what the Swift Boat veterans can look forward to. Van Odell hopes not. “It happened before during the election,” he said yesterday. “I was hoping everyone would realize the election was over. Evidently not.”