Sander Hicks, January 31, 2003
ISLIP, Long Island? Lance Schotte works at night, so he wasn't quite awake when some three dozen Secret Service agents and Suffolk County police officers stormed into his apartment at 10 a.m.
"I woke up to this huge banging noise?it sounded like people were pounding on the back door, the front door and the side door simultaneously," recalls the Islip resident. "I opened the door. I wasn't expecting what happened."
It was December 13 when a handful of unmarked cars and a couple of cruisers pulled up in front of the house where Schotte, a computer programmer for a Nassau online retailer, rented a one-bedroom apartment. Not knowing what was up, he opened the door. "Five or six of them got in my face. 'SHOW ME I.D.' is what they kept saying," says Schotte. "I said, 'Who are you?' They just kept saying 'SHOW ME I.D.'"
Schotte asked for a search warrant.
"We don't need one, you let us in," was the reply. He was confined to his living room and hammered with a barrage of questions, while elsewhere agents rifled through his closets and drawers.
"The whole time, I was asking, 'What is this about?' They were extremely belligerent, they were hostile, in demeanor, in attitude, in intrusiveness." Schotte assumed the agents were looking for an escaped criminal, so at first he was cooperative. But when his I.D. didn't placate them, he began to suspect the search had something to do with his landlord, who owned the house but lived in various places.
Vox recoiled at the CIA's new powers. He published an article pointing out that by this logic, the Bush family could be worthy of an instant CIA hit themselves.
"Right before they left, they said, 'We want to talk with Stuckey,'" he says. That would be Mr. Harry "Vox" Stuckey, the 39-year-old founder of VoxNyc.com.
Stuckey describes himself as a musician and artist, though he has also done commercial work, including a successful ad campaign for global financial house ING Barings. Although the ad money was good, he hated the work, and since 2001 has been writing wild exposés of the secrets of the Bush family under the pseudonym "VoxFux" on his web site devoted to leftist political theories and commentary.
When the Associated Press published a report under the headline "CIA Can Kill Citizens Who Aid Al-Qaida: Bush Doesn't Exempt Americans" by John J. Lumpkin, on Dec. 4, 2002, Vox recoiled at the CIA's new powers. He published an article pointing out that by this logic, the Bush family could be worthy of an instant CIA hit themselves. Both Presidents Bush have had business dealings with Salem bin Laden, the now-dead, once-beloved older brother of Osama. They got to know Salem bin Laden through their Texas pal James Bath and the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, the now-busted Saudi front for buying political power in the United States.
Although Vox's argument about Bush was adequately made in the article, he now admits he might have poked the hornet's nest by publishing it with the following sensationalist headline:
"By Bush's Own Policy, He Must Be Immediately Terminated: No Trial, No Explanation, No Warning?Just Immediate Obliteration:
The text went on to read:
By the administration?s own policy, both Bushes must be immediately destroyed. No trial, no explanation, no warning - Just immediate obliteration.
According to White House officials the President?s policy is that ?association? alone, with ANY suspected Al Queda or terrorist, is sufficient enough justification for immediate extermination by the CIA or US military.
Yet there is NO other family in America today who has had closer ties with the Bin Ladens than the Bush family. And that bears repeating.
THERE IS NO OTHER FAMILY IN AMERICA WHICH HAS HAD CLOSER ASSOCIATIONS AND SUSPICIOUS DEALINGS WITH THE BIN LADEN FAMILY THAN GEORGE BUSH SENIOR AND JUNIOR. NO OTHER AMERICANS! Period. Prove us wrong . . .
(The original photo accompanying the story is unavailable.)
It's likely that the Secret Service was not interested in the nuances of Vox's argument about Bush, and interpreted his headline as a direct threat on the president's life. Brian Marr, official spokesman for the Secret Service, confirmed that the raid had happened but refused to discuss it on the record, since the "investigation is still ongoing."
The Long Island Press contacted the local office, and got a similar non-denial denial. "I kind of have to give you a pat answer on this issue," explained Martin Walsh, resident agent of the Melville Secret Service office. "We don't make a comment on issues of protective intelligence."
In some ways, Vox shouldn't have been surprised. High-profile attorney Ron Kuby, who has taken up Vox's case, casually states, "It seems like every year some sophomore at some remote Midwest university writes what they think is a clever article about killing the president. The Secret Service knocks on their door, they have a little interview, and then the student writes the follow-up article: 'My Visit with the Secret Service.'" But what Lance Schotte described hardly seems like "a little interview."
Furthermore, Vox's website was quietly and quickly taken down. On Tuesday, January 21, Network Solutions, the site's domain provider, took www.VoxNyc.com off the Internet, claiming nonpayment, and transferred ownership to a Hong Kong company. Vox says they did take payment and he's got the cancelled check to prove it. He said he plans to sue Verisign/Network Solutions.
Vox believes he is a victim of the war on terrorism. Critics say that new measures like the USA Patriot Act are draconian and have expanded the powers of the police and government so much that legitimate political satire, free speech and dissent?even the Constitution itself?are threatened.
Legal scholar Jennifer Van Bergen, an adjunct teacher at the New School University and board member of the Broward, Fla. chapter of the ACLU, has called the USA Patriot Act "an insult to Americans...complete abdication of democratic law and principles. It should be called the Constitution Shredding Act."
If Vox is right, the raid on his website is the Constitution Shredding Act in practice: the suppression of free speech under the guise of fighting "domestic terrorism." Right-wing politicians admit the USA Patriot Act contradicts civil liberties. But if you believe in the war of terrorism, you're supposed to believe in the war on liberty in the USA:
"I would not have voted for this bill prior to 9-11," admits Peter King, the Republican congressman Seaford, Long Island who has been highly visible in his support of the administration. "But the presence of terrorist infiltrators on our shores is a clear and present danger to the national security of America and makes certain restrictions of civil liberties essential."
Vox might indeed fit the definition of a "domestic terrorist" because of the government's fuzzy definition of that new category. Nancy Chang, senior litigation attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City, says that vigorous protest activities could, under current law, be construed as terrorist actions: "A 'terrorist' these days is anyone who engages in activities that (according to the Patriot Act) 'appear to be intended...to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion' that are 'dangerous to human life' or 'a violation of the criminal laws.'"
Thus, she explains, your little brother caught for fighting the police at an anti-globalization protest could now be tried and sentenced as a "domestic terrorist." Attorney General John Ashcroft, sworn to uphold the Constitution, has warned that dissenting about, or debating the merits of the USA Patriot Act would "erode our national unity...diminish our resolve...give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends." Conceivably, any patriotic dissent from the administration line could earn one the label of terrorist?and the consequent loss of liberties and constitutional protections.
VOX ON THE ROCKS
So the Secret Service wants to talk to Vox. But the federal agency hasn't been able to find him. Since December, he has lived like a fugitive, crashing at friends' apartments in New York City. I had a connection, though: I tracked him down and he agreed to meet at a café on the Lower East Side.
Flying down the L.I.E. on my way to see him in my rickety used minivan, I look up at my favorite billboard, the one near Exit 33, where the radical chic "End Minimum Balance Oppression" bank ad has been attacked with spray paint and turned into "Stop Bush's War Against Iraq." Cutesy corporate neo-radicalism has been covered in purple spray paint hearts and demands for peace. It occurs to me that just like in physics, for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. Cool.
I begin to realize why Vox is on the lam. These days anyone who might be a "terrorist" as the government describes it is up for some harsh treatment. Hundreds of immigrants under suspicion are being detained indefinitely, imprisoned and held in solitary confinement. They don't always get to talk to a lawyer, and can be held and interrogated for a week before being allowed access to counsel.
And it isn't just immigrants. Vox must know that U.S. citizens are also under heavy scrutiny. Since 9-11, some of the government's jitters are understandable, perhaps even justified. Yet Big Brother certainly seems to overreact at times. On December 2, Richard Humphreys was sentenced to more than three years in prison in South Dakota for commenting, in a bar, that "God might speak to the world through a burning Bush" when the president visited a nearby city. That same week, Mike Maginnis, a freelance photographer in Denver, Colo., was held in jail for 10 hours, his camera confiscated and film destroyed, for taking pictures of the outside of a hotel where Dick Cheney happened to be staying. Those are merely a taste of such events that occurred in a single recent month.
My friend Colin walks by, gives me a few pointers. Colin writes for The New York Times, and other places, as a freelancer. He's taught me a few things, like you can't call the Bushes "criminal" because technically you have to be convicted of a crime to actually be a "criminal" per se. Ah ha! I take notes. Of course, most Americans already know that President Bush the First was the former director of the CIA. But do they know that due to Bush's negligence (or possibly worse) the left-wing Chilean, Orlando Letelier, was mysteriously murdered in Washington, DC during Bush's tenure at CIA? Letelier was a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy, which had backed a right-wing military coup of his democratically elected leader, Salvador Allende. Most remember Bush Senior grinning and claiming he was "out of the loop" when the Iran/Contra scandal was tarnishing the Reagan White House. But who recalls that Bush had a key role in the illegal arms and hostage-swapping, according to General Richard Secord? Who recalls Bush white-washing his own record by pardoning four major Iran Contra indicted suspects on Christmas Eve right before he left office?
I meet up with Vox in a café in the Lower East Side. I hadn't seen him in three years. He used to be friends with the downtown performance artist, LaRuocco, whose book, Document Zippo, I edited. The book was wild, artful and sexy. The small press who put it out were hoping it would make a splash, but then the author and her boyfriend (yep, it was Vox) decided on a whim to take this gonzo cross-country trip across Vietnam and Cambodia on small motorbikes. I wasn't surprised when I heard Vox was back in town, waging an info-war on the CIA. He looked tired, and a little apprehensive when I walked in. But in a black leather peacoat and fur cap, he was in good spirits, looking a little like Ghengis Khan.
HICKS: I know you have gone back to Islip once or twice to check out what happened to your house, right?
VOX: Yes I have, to photograph the scene. And to secure it and remove the valuable items. These klutzes left the doors open when they left.
HICKS: Was there anything missing?
VOX: Yeah, videos of theatre performances of friends at the performance-art space Surf Reality [in the Lower East Side]. What else they took, I can't be sure.
HICKS: But they didn't take your computers?
VOX: The computers were at my Brooklyn location, the raid was on Long Island. When I found out about the raid, I cleared everything out of Brooklyn.
HICKS: How did you know to do that?
VOX: I was tipped off.
HICKS: What? Who?
VOX: I can't say, exactly. She's female, maybe inside State Department, but that's all I can say. I haven't been contacted by her since, and I don't expect to be.
HICKS: That reminds me of the way you described the raid.
VOX: I was told that half of the agents and police were gung-ho, and the other half were less sure, disinterested. There is dissent among their ranks, I promise you. Not everyone wants Bush's war on the Constitution.
HICKS: But some people could interpret this incident as a legitimate threat on the president's life, and that you got what you deserved.
VOX: If you read the article, it's crystal clear what I said. I simply closed a logical loop. I said that if the Bush administration's policy is that it's all right to kill anyone for 'associating' with terrorists, then Bush sets forth a process of self-annihilation. There is no other duo in America with closer ties to terrorists, and in particular the bin Laden family, than Bush and his dad. These two go back thirty years with the bin Ladens. The relationship is littered with corporate sleaze and dead bin Laden family members in mysterious plane crashes in, you guessed it, Texas.
HICKS: Even MSNBC reports that Osama bin Laden worked for the CIA and the United States all throughout the '80s, when Reagan and Bush were funneling weapons into the region, to Iraq, to Iran, to Afghanistan. Now, on your website you also draw attention to the Bush/Hinckley family association and the 1981 assassination attempt on the life of President Reagan.
VOX: As we know, ex-CIA chief George Bush was v.p. at the time, a heartbeat away from the top slot. Well, in the early hours after the attempt on Reagan it was revealed that Scott Hinckley, the brother of would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr., was scheduled to dine that evening at the home of Neil Bush, the son of then-Vice President George Bush.
NBC's John Chancellor had the information, but received orders not to mention the dinner date. He defied orders with his newscast, an astonished look on his face. I remember, I saw it as it happened. When I looked for developments and follow-ups to the story, there were none. Zippo. Never mentioned again on the television medium, ever. Newsweek included the fact under some small article about 'Kooky Conspiracy Theories,' a sidebar mentioned at the end of their reporting on the attempt.
HICKS: So you think this was a major story that Newsweek and the networks missed?
VOX: There's an expression, "Where there's smoke, there's fire." Well there's an inferno raging about this one! The most fishy moment in Bush family history. It was further revealed that Papa Bush and Hinckley's father were friends and fellow oilmen in Texas and Colorado. Hinckley claimed to have supported Reagan, so no suspicion there right? Wrong. Not only did that turn out to be a lie, it turns out that he financed Bush's bid for the nomination against Reagan!
But there's more. It was revealed that while George Junior [George W. Bush] was running for Congress in Lubbock, Texas. with his brother Neil as manager, guess who else lived in Lubbock? John Hinckley Junior. When probed as to whether the Bush boys had ever met Hinckley during their Lubbock days, our current president said that it was 'conceivable' that they had met. Do you know what that means? That's politician-speak for 'they met.' What should have been the biggest, most investigated story of the Eighties was wiped clear from the face of history.
FACTS & FEARS
It's a lot to absorb, but in fact a lot of what he says checks out. Newsweek did write a story mentioning that Hinckley's brother was scheduled to dine with Neil Bush on the day of the Reagan assassination attempt. John Chancellor did mention the same fact on the air. Vox's website was not the only one reporting the Bush/Hinckley family link. Nathaniel Blumberg, dean of the University of Montana School of Journalism and founder of the Montana Journalism Review, has also reported this on his home page, NathanielBlumberg.com.
"I have never been a conspiracy theorist; I am an analyst of press performance with credentials extending over four decades," Blumberg explains. In his view, the Neil Bush/Hinckley story "was censored by NBC News and the other organs of the national news media [for] 10 years. And even in the several months of extensive coverage of Neil Bush's part in the massive Savings and Loan fraud, no mention was made of his role in the continuing cover-up of the most significant story in the 1980s."
The USA Patriot Act was passed in October of 2001, while the country was maddened by mysterious anthrax attacks. Free-speech advocates immediately called it an assault on the Bill of Rights. Within five days of Bush signing it into law, Electronic Frontier Foundation published an analysis that noted much of the Patriot Act eradicated the 1974 laws that limited FBI surveillance and the policing of dissent.
The 1974 reforms were created to combat real and serious problems of government over-reach. The Watergate scandal was still a fresh scar; Vietnam had taught us the limits of international aggression; and on Capitol Hill, the Church Committee was preparing to issue two years worth of reports on the secret crimes and surveillance techniques of U.S. intelligence. The public was shocked to learn that the FBI had spied on over 10,000 U.S. citizens, including Martin Luther King, who was sent anonymous letters urging him to commit suicide. In 1974, legislators responded by pulling back the leash on the secret police. Almost 30 years later, those reforms have been gutted.
Which leads us to this downtown café. "I've talked a lot but I don't feel like I've made my main point," Vox says as he sits back down at the table. "The biggest commodity is fear. The amount of time Americans spend in a haze of fear represents money spent. I'm trying to tell everyone, there's no need to fear. I'm gonna fight these bastards standing up. These people have zero, they are hollow. Replace fear with courage, and you're free."
Vox has a habit of building up so much momentum when he talks that he sacrifices facts for the sake of his passion. Sometimes facts aren't even there, just passionate suspicions. He kept talking about the "Bush Death List," insisting that a Bush cabal had killed Americans. But when pressed, he cited only one specific death: Senator Paul Wellstone's.
What's the evidence? "With these kinds of things, you cannot expect to find evidence," he says. "There's never a direct order, the dimwitted president wouldn't even need to give a direct order."
His attorney, Kuby, isn't fazed by such half-thoughts. "Even paranoids have real enemies," he points out with cheerful determination. Kuby says that Vox himself may be overreacting. "The Secret Service is not contending that he is guilty of threatening the life of the president. They have not even obtained a warrant for his arrest." Kuby sees the brouhaha as a matter of procedure. "The Secret Service is like a big computer, you publish the words, 'President, kill, death' on the Internet, and it starts a program that has to go to its end."
But it begs the question: Why the heavy-handed approach? If the feds just want to ask a few questions, why send a force of 30 to batter down the doors? Do they come down on those Midwestern college kids like that?
According to Donna Lieberman, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Vox and Schotte were subjected to a "bad search." "Just because you let them in doesn't give them the right to ransack the place. The police need a warrant," she says. "Whatever you could say about the wisdom of the headline [of Vox's article], speech cannot be criminalized unless it incites lawless activity. This is a post 9-11 police action that violates individual rights."
Brzezinski to Vox: "No, Luke I AM your father"?
As part of his political education in the GOP, Vox claims that he was allowed to audit the class of Zbigniew Brzezinski, then teaching at Columbia. Columbia has a record of him, but no records of classes attended. It's unclear whether this might be an exaggeration under the influence of the Brzezinski analysis of leading internet publisher Michael Ruppert (copvcia.com). Vox reports he had quite a rapport with Brzezinski. But Brzezinski, contacted through his assistant, doesn't recall meeting him. (The assistant politely explains that Doctor Brzenzinski has almost 20 years of teaching experience, and a lot of students were fond of him.)
But whether or not Vox actually studied with Brzezinski, Brzezinski's is a influential right-wing ideologue, its worth stopping to look at how his writings are relevant are relevant to today's global politics. Brzezinski was a foreign policy advisor to Carter, Reagan and Bush, and today is one of the top experts of the future of the U.S. foreign policy. He also pushes all the buttons of the conspiratorial: he was founder of the Trilateral Commission, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and goes to Bilberberger meetings. My sources inside the State Department tell me his name is often associated with his old pal, Henry Kissinger. B.'s 1997 book "The Grand Chessboard" has become an influential tome in Washington and beyond. It might be able to help explain to the layperson what's going on in the brains of our leaders.
"The Grand Chessboard" is quite a trip, Brzezinski talks like a British imperialist who walked out of a late-night rerun of something on PBS. He wants U.S. Foreign Policy to focus on controlling Eurasia, in order to destablize Russia and China and prevent the emergence of any other superpower other than the U.S. The point is "to keep the barbarians from coming together" he's a modern day Caesar with a new "divide and conquer."
But controlling Eurasia is not just important politically, there are natural resources to think of: "The Eurasian Balkans are infinitely more important as a potential economic prize: an enormous concentration of natural gas and oil reserves is located in the region, in addition to important minerals, including gold."
America, according to Brzezinski is "fixated on mass entertainment... heavily dominated by hedonistic and socially escapist themes." But since the USA is such a "increasingly multi-cultural society" and the average people are not inclined to support any more Vietnams, the only thing that will motivate massive emotional support for foreign wars is something like "the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor." America will likely "find it more difficult to fashion a consensus on foreign policy issues, except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat."
Just like Bush's "thousand points of light," the brutality of the power politics are dressed up with a positive spin. At the end of the book, Brzezinski vaguely predicts that America will "eventually will give up the empire for 'an enduring framework of global geopolitical cooperation."
Is Vox for real? Sometimes it's hard to tell. But one thing's for sure: What he's saying and publishing earned him not only a raid from the Secret Service, but also a tip-off from intelligence insiders. Parody and political speech are protected by the First Amendment. Maybe Vox isn't the most polished publisher or political commentator, but the First Amendment is supposed to protect the abrasive as well as the established. If his lawyers can make the case that the "Bush Family...Obliterated" piece was legitimate political commentary, then Harry Vox can stop living on couches, and go back to making films and publishing his website.
Kuby is trying to negotiate a sit-down between his client and the Secret Service?in fact, he's looking forward to it. "I want to know what the interview questions are going to be," he comments. "I'm fascinated to know what the protocol is to determine whether someone is a threat to the president." But there are a few roadblocks. Not surprisingly, Vox is keen to have both witnesses and an accurate record. The government is demanding total control of the tape recorder and tapes. Talks have since cooled. Kuby says: "I'm getting the sense that they have decided that Vox and Kuby are more a threat to their mental health then either are a threat to the president."
Sander Hicks founded Soft Skull Press in 1992, and worked there until 2001, most notably on ?Fortunate Son,? the controversial biography of George W. Bush. On a leave of absence, he is working on a biography of Bush White House strategist Karl Rove. He is the lead singer of White Collar Crime, a playwright, and a political activist. His home page is www.sanderhicks.com.
A shorter, edited version of this originally appeared in print in the Long Island Press. Thanks to Edith Updike, News Editor, L.I.P. for the feedback in development of this article.
To discuss this Article and other issues please visit the Guerrilla News Forum