Congressional Republicans are stepping up an effort to press the Department of Justice on alleged harassment of conservative bloggers through a practice known as "swatting."
Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) signed on to the effort Thursday, sending a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder expressing his concern about incidents in which police had been dispatched to the residences of prominent conservative bloggers after calls, ostensibly placed by the bloggers themselves from within their own households, reporting crimes.
“I am very afraid of the potential chilling effects that these reported actions may have in silencing individuals who would otherwise be inclined to exercise their Constitutional right to free speech,” Marchant wrote, according to Fox News.
Marchant's letter comes on the heels of a similar one from Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), who wrote Holder asking him to launch a probe into the supposed occurences of swatting.
Swatting is a scamming method that involves a caller using voice-over-IP technology to manipulate the tracking information of their location, tricking an emergency service into believing that the call is being placed from elsewhere.
Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative site RedState.com, was an apparent target of swatting last month, when cops were sent to his Macon, Ga. home to respond to a call claiming that he'd shot his wife.
“My first thought was, ‘What have the kids done?’” Erickson said, according to ABC News, seeing a squad car outside his house. “The police officer approached me in the driveway and said it was a call about an accidental shooting. According to the 911 call, the person claimed I had killed my wife.”
Just days before, Erickson had written about another alleged case of swatting involving Patrick Frey, another conservative blogger and deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles.
During that 2011 episode, a swarm of law enforcement officers appeared at his residence to respond to a call, apparently from Frey's house, reporting that he'd killed his wife. He hadn't, and the call hadn't actually come from within his home.
Conservative bloggers have identified a suspect, ABC News reports:
Several conservative bloggers have been vocal about who they believe is responsible for the SWAT-tings and other forms of harassment -- Brett Kimberlin, a man who was convicted of a series of bombings in Speedway, Indiana in the 1980s and made headlines in 1988 when he claimed to have once sold marijuana to then-vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle.
The group of conservative bloggers organized “Everybody Blog About Brett Kimberlin Day” on May 25, during which they urged the blogging community to write about the actions of Kimberlin.
Kimberlin has denied having anything to do with the incidents.
“I had never even heard of Erick Erickson until a couple of days ago,” he told Fox News. “I have nothing to do with the swatting of anybody.”