Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

Secret Service Interrogates Child Without Parental Consent

If there’s any doubt whatsoever in your mind that Big Brother really is watching you, consider the case of 13-year-old Vito LaPinta. He’s a seventh grader at a Tacoma, Washington middle school who received some very scary visitors after posting a Facebook status update in reaction to the assassination of Osama bin Laden.

According to KCPQ-TV, Timi Robertson, Vito’s mother, was finishing lunch with a friend when she received a call from his school. “I answered it, and it’s the school security guard who’s giving me a heads up that the Secret Service is here with the Tacoma Police Department and they have Vito and they’re talking to him,” she said.

Apparently a Facebook status update regarding the death of Osama bin Laden was the reason why.

“I was saying how Osama was dead and for Obama to be careful because there could be suicide bombers,” the teenager explained to KCPQ.

Vito described the frightening experience of being called into the principal’s office to discover a Secret Service agent waiting there to question him: “A man walked in with a suit and glasses and he said he was part of the Secret Service. He told me it was because of a post I mad that indicated I was a threat toward the President.”

A threat? A 13-year-old boy who lives 2,763 miles (4,447 km) from Washington, DC and who cannot even drive a car or fly on an airplane without parental permission? A child who was trying to warn and not threaten the President?

Robertson told KCPQ that she rushed to her son’s school to find he’d already been interrogated for half an hour. She was livid.

“I just about lost it,” she said. “My 13-year-old son is supposed to be safe and secure in his classroom and he’s being interrogated without my knowledge or consent privately.”

By the time Robertson showed up, the agent was nearly through grilling Vito. He informed the youth that he wasn’t in any trouble and let him go.

The location and manner of the Secret Service “visit” seems to prove that the agent intended to question Vito without obtaining parental consent. It would have been just as easy for the agent to visit him at home, where there was a much better chance that his mother would be present.

Robertson considered taking legal action against the Secret Service but said she cannot afford to. She hopes, however, that her family’s ordeal will raise awareness that such things do occur, even in the land of the free.

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