Joe Miller’s “Security Guards” Were Active Duty Military

The story about the private security guards who "arrested" a journalist at a Joe Miller campaign event just keeps getting stranger by the day.

An interesting update to the story about the confrontation between an Alaska journalist and security guards working for Joe Miller’s Senate campaign that Steven Taylor has been covering. It turns out that several of the “guards” were active-duty members of the U.S. military:

Meanwhile, the Army says that two of the guards who assisted in the arrest of the journalist and who tried to prevent two other reporters from filming the detention were active-duty soldiers moonlighting for Miller’s security contractor, the Drop Zone, a Spenard surplus store and protection service.

The soldiers, Spc. Tyler Ellingboe, 22, and Sgt. Alexander Valdez, 31, are assigned to the 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade at Fort Richardson. Maj. Bill Coppernoll, the public affairs officer for the Army in Alaska, said the two soldiers did not have permission from their current chain of command to work for the Drop Zone, but the Army was still researching whether previous company or brigade commanders authorized their employment.

The Army allows off-duty soldiers to take outside employment if the job doesn’t interfere with their readiness, doesn’t risk their own injury and doesn’t negatively affect the “good order” and discipline of their unit, Coppernoll said.

“They’ve got to be up front with the chain of command,” Coppernoll said. “The chain of command needs to agree they can do that without affecting the readiness and the whole slew of things that are part of being a soldier that they need to do first.”

Even if the soldiers’ employment was authorized, however, I agree with Glenn Greenwald that it’s disturbing nonetheless:

If it’s not completely intolerable to have active-duty soldiers handcuffing American journalists on U.S. soil while acting as private “guards” for Senate candidates, what would be?  This is the sort of thing that the U.S. State Department would readily condemn if it happened in Egypt or Iran or Venezuela or Cuba:  active-duty soliders detaining journalists while they’re paid by politican candidates?

(…)

the fact that these guards are active-duty U.S. soldiers makes this entire incident far more disturbing.  Shouldn’t American journalists of every stripe be vehemently protesting this incident?

Not just journalists either, as Steven noted in his post this morning the idea that a journalist, even one who is hostile to a candidate, can be detained by a private security force merely because the candidate doesn’t want to answer questions is incredibly disturbing. It is the Palin/Angle/O’Donnell “avoid the media” strategy taken to an entirely different level, and it’s something that everyone should be condemning regardless of political party.

I’ve been somewhat positive about Joe Miller in the past. He strikes me as different from the simplistic sloganeering of a Christine O’Donnell, and his clear refusal to emphatically state that Sarah Palin is qualified to be President indicated to me that he’s got more of an independent mind than most of Palin’s other acolytes. He went to West Point, and Yale Law School, so he’s clearly an intelligent guy.  However, he needs to apologize for this rather than trying to justify it, and he needs to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that it never happens again.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2010, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Andy says:

    It seems to me that handcuffing citizens in a public place by persons without the legal authority to do so, is illegal, no? That these guys were military shows, to me at least, that they had no such authority so I would think they could be brought up on criminal charges.

  2. Muffler says:

    Speechless! US military moonlighting as guards for a political candidate. Left or Right it’s wrong and clearly in violation of good judgment and probably military and civilian law.

  3. mantis says:

    However, he needs to apologize for this rather than trying to justify it, and he needs to take whatever steps are necessary to make sure that it never happens again.

    You’re assuming Miller might agree, or can be persuaded, that it’s the wrong thing to do. I think it’s more likely that he believes it is exactly the right thing to do. He’s already said he won’t answer any questions about his past. Apparently he believes they shouldn’t even be asked, and that anyone who does ask deserves whatever his soldier thugs dish out.

  4. Herb says:

    “…so I would think they could be brought up on criminal charges.”

    This does seem like a pretty good case of “false imprisonment.” But who gets charged? The guards, the company, or the candidate?

  5. mantis says:

    On a related note, Allen West sicced a biker gang on a Democratic staffer attending his rally in a public park.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvoU71ltZYw

    Gotta love those freedom loving, military Republicans. If we don’t like you, we’ll send soldiers and biker gangs to harass, assault, and perhaps hold you against your will (we call that kidnapping, folks) just for being a reporter or Democrat, or just because we don’t like the looks of you. Letting people like this have any power is a huge mistake.

  6. ponce says:

    There’s now a fair chance that not a single Tea Party candidate will win a Senate seat (unless they lay claim to some new ones quickly).

  7. Wayne says:

    Re “can be detained by a private security force merely because the candidate doesn’t want to answer questions”

    Still repeating the same old lies I see. Maybe you think if you repeat it another thousand times it will become true.

  8. mantis says:

    In other words, Wayne would like everyone to stop talking about this.

  9. ponce says:

    “In other words, Wayne would like everyone to stop talking about this.”

    I remember back when the Tea Partiers claimed to be for “freedom.”

  10. @Wayne: you are free to whatever opinion you would like on this subject, it won’t change the bottom line–this was about a candidate who doesn’t want to be asked certain questions with the ultimate result of that fact being that his private security team ended up handcuffing said journalist.

    Greenwald is utterly correct: “This is the sort of thing that the U.S. State Department would readily condemn if it happened in Egypt or Iran or Venezuela or Cuba: active-duty soliders detaining journalists while they’re paid by politican candidates?”

    I am not sure how this can’t be obvious on its face. But again, you are certainly entitled to your views.

  11. legion says:

    Wow. I’m not sure what the Army regs are, but as a former AF officer, if someone wanted to moonlight they had to have specific permission from their leadership to do so – and it had to be based on the details of the job sought, not just a blanket “yeah, he can moonlight” kind of permission. If that’s not documented, well, E-4 and E-5 might be Article 15’d, or maybe just “non-retained” i.e., not allowed to reenlist. Doubt they’d be court martial’d. But of course, if false imprisonment charges come in, they could just be handed over to the local judicial system for prosecution. Either way, Lucy got some ‘splainin’ to do…

  12. legion says:

    Steven (and others),
    I’m assuming Wayne is talking about the countercharges that the reporter was “aggressive”, followed Miller farther than reporters normally do, and shoved one of the guards. What he fails to note is that _even if all that is true_, the guards still didn’t have the power to act the way they did, either towards that reporter, or in the threats they made to other journos in the area.

  13. Steve Verdon says:

    I don’t care who it is the incident appears to have taken place on public property with a public figure running for public office. The person should not have been arrested/detained at all. These soldiers are a disgrace to the uniform they have donned and apparently have forgotten the oath they swore when they joined the military.

    IANAL, but this part sounds very much like tampering with evidence,

    The security detail also seized Hopfinger’s camera and allegedly erased the portion that contained video of the handcuffing.

    Also,

    I’m assuming Wayne is talking about the countercharges that the reporter was “aggressive”, followed Miller farther than reporters normally do, and shoved one of the guards

    That is typical of police and security. Police or security shoves the person they want to detain, person instinctively reaches for the officer due to being off balance and that becomes assault/resisting arrest etc. Its right up there with public disturbance. Basically its contempt of cop and a bogus charge, the erasing the video is also par for the course as well. Can’t have evidence lying around that contradicts the claims of resisting arrest or whatever.

    As for the claims of battery I find them highly implausible. Why detain the person for trespassing when you can go for battery or both?

    I’ve seen this kind of thing before. Carlos Miller who runs Photography Is Not A Crime blog had such an incident with a security guard at a subway station. He went in the station while a television crew was outside shooting video. Immediately a guard walked up and took his camera, so Miller took out his iphone and kept shooting video. The security guard kept going after him and at one point smacked Miller’s hand in an attempt to knock the iPhone out of his hand. Miller belted the guard in the face. Cops showed up, looked at the television footage and gave the security guard a “you’re a f—ing idiot” look and left. And to top it off there is nothing to prevent video or photography of a subway station in Miami unless you are trying to do something pervy (upskirt shots, etc.).

    I know people think this blogger/journalist was probably being a jerk, but I invite all the conservatives who think this way and who live within a reasonable distance of Los Angeles to go to the Arco towers and start taking pictures or shooting video. It is entirely legal but you’ll be harassed and threatened by the security there.

  14. Wayne says:

    Legion what is true is saying “detained by a private security force merely because the candidate doesn’t want to answer questions” is a lie.

    One can disagree if what the so call reporter did justified detaining him. However to claim he was “merely asking questions” is a lie. Even the reporter has admitted to doing more.

    Next time any of you are at a bar, concert, airport, or campaign event go up and shove some security personnel and see what happens. Please don’t claim an “I bump into one” as the same as a shove.

  15. john personna says:

    The guy was on Chris Matthews. He seemed a very low key guy and experienced journalist. Not excitable. Not even when Chris was trying to excite him. That leads me to believe he was just being an experienced journalist and these bodyguards too “no questions” too seriously.

  16. john personna says:

    too[k] “no questions”

  17. tom p says:

    “I don’t care who it is the incident appears to have taken place on public property with a public figure running for public office.”

    Thank you Steve, I said this yesterday.

    “I know people think this blogger/journalist was probably being a jerk,”

    How did we get to P Geller and A Breitbart?????????????

    Reality is, who’s ox is being gored?

  18. Davebo says:

    Please, don’t feed the Wayne.

    I’m all for idiots like Wayne proving the fact on a public forum, but let’s not pretend his diatribe is worthy of debate.

  19. anjin-san says:

    This is a disturbing development in an already disturbing story. Whoever the CO is, he has a lot of explaining to do. Miller has already made it clear he does not feel he answers to anyone.

  20. jwest says:

    It’s fortunate that Miller had the foresight to have security people on hand to restrain violent liberals before anyone was injured. Although I respect their right to roam freely about, their propensity for physical confrontation makes precautions necessary.

  21. Wayne says:

    Davebo and his typical liberal tactic. He can’t win the debate so he calls names and ignore anything you don’t like or fit your agenda..

    Tom P you statements yesterday were knocked down yesterday.

  22. Steve Verdon says:

    Thank you Steve, I said this yesterday.

    Well Tom, after having been harassed and intimidated by security and police for taking pictures I’ve become alot more radical in my views on this. If the person has no expectation of privacy, and a public figure running for public office, at a public event at a public school absolutely has not expectation of privacy, then asking questions and video taping is totally legit.

    The security guards are liars and thugs. That two of them were in the military makes them also despicable or stupid…or even both, because they’ve taken and oath to uphold our Constitution. The “I was just following orders” thing simply wont wash here. And after watching the video where the security tried the trick of getting really really close to a reporter, then when the report tries to stop them by putting a hand out and claiming battery or assault i a typical Bravo Sierra technique.

    Frankly I hope they get the book thrown at them. They deserve every ounce of trouble they get from this.