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21 October 2010 @ 10:16 pm
So, what exactly are two active duty members of the U.S. Army doing arresting a reporter and putting him in handcuffs at a public political rally? That's exactly what happened in Anchorage, Alaska where Ft. Richardson soldiers, 22-year-old Spc. Tyler Ellingboe and 31-year-old Sgt. Alexander Valdez were involved in the "arrest and handcuffing" of Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger. The Army is reviewing whether they had followed proper protocol in getting authorization for outside employment on their off time, said Maj. Bill Coppernoll, the public affairs officer for the Army in Alaska. He said he didn't know if the Army would go so far as to review whether the men did anything wrong in detaining Hopfinger, only whether they had authorization to be employed by the security company.

The Army is not the only agency looking into the controversial "arrest." The firm Drop Zone Security is apparently being investigated by the state Department of Public Safety. The DPS case comes as public attention remains focused on questions surrounding the incident, including why Miller employed private security guards, some of whom were active-duty military, and what led to the physical confrontation that ended with Hopfinger's arrest. Al Patterson, chief Anchorage municipal prosecutor, decided no charges should be filed against anyone involved.

DPS spokeswoman Megan Peters says DPS is conducting an investigation based on numerous inquiries from reporters. She declined to say who or what DPS is investigating, just that "we deemed it appropriate to look into the matter."

U.S. Senate Candidate Joe Miller (R-left) is a friend of Alaska Citizens Militia commander Norm Olson (right). Miller's security guards handcuffed and arrested a reporter at a public rally.

Alaska Dispatch had called DPS Monday to find out whether Drop Zone was licensed as a security company by the state and whether Fulton, its owner, has a valid security guard license as would be required by the state. Early Tuesday morning, Peters left a voicemail on a Dispatch reporter's phone saying the company did not have a security guard license. A couple hours later, however, she said she couldn't say anything more about the company or the case because DPS had started an investigation based on numerous questions from reporters. And again, she won't say specifically that Drop Zone is the subject of the investigation.

Alaska State law requires any person employed as a security guard or a security guard agency to be licensed by the state. Applicants must fill out an extensive form with detailed background information and undergo a criminal background check. The guard or guard agency has to post a bond or insurance "to protect the state and its residents from damages arising out of the acts of the licensee," the statute says. Armed security guards must have firearms training acceptable to the commissioner of DPS. And anyone who hires armed bodyguards must have written permission from the commissioner or could be charged with a misdemeanor.

The arrest of reporters was common in Soviet block nations like East Germany. Joe Miller recently said "if East Germany could do it, we could do it." Was he talking about arresting reporters?

On Tuesday, Fulton told Alaska Dispatch he is not a security guard and that Drop Zone is not a security guard agency, which is why neither he nor his employees are licensed by the state. He said the company is instead a "contract agency" and that he and his people are considered "security agents," not guards. Fulton said he discussed his business with the state two years ago and is comfortable that he is operating lawfully.

Alaska can sort out the and if and where of surrounding the "arrest and handcuffing" heard across the nation but it is clear, at least to me, that the Army should investigate this incident thoroughly and discipline anyone involved should regulations have been violated. I, for one, have a problem with active duty military personnel arresting anyone and putting them in handcuffs in the course of private business. Seeing that military commitment is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week obligation, these military members participated in the "arrest and handcuffing" of a journalist in the name of the United States Army. Does anyone else see a problem with this?