The arrests of thousands of people took place over the weekend as the FBI and various police departments rounded up scores of “birthers” on charges of conspiracy and for having alleged ties with the al Qaeda terrorist group.
Robert S. Mueller, FBI director, said the bureau had been working on this case for months and that this was just the start of a series of arrests. He declined to indicate exactly how many were or will be arrested. The FBI was acting on a tip sent to one of its field offices.
“One of our field agents received an email from his uncle stating that these birthers were linked to al Qaeda and were working closely with followers of Osama bin Laden,” Mueller said. “Rather than verifying any of the information or doing a quick Google search, this agent assumed the information must be real. He immediately forwarded it to everyone he knows. They sent it to everyone they know and so on. The fact that so many people have seen this email means it must be right.”
Mueller said political coverage last week by MSNBC convinced his agents that the emails must be right and that it was time to act. On MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” the host closed his Thursday show with a special comment that alluded to possible links between birthers and terrorists.
“The fact is these birthers haven’t proven they don’t have links to al Qaeda. Why is that? Why don’t they just prove these connections aren’t real and put the rumors to rest?” Matthews said on Thursday. “There are even websites out there that make this claim. It could be true if it’s on a website.”
MSNBC’s coverage of this issue extended to the rest its shows and on Friday as well, as hosts Cenk Uygur, Lawrence O’Donnell and Rachel Maddow all discussed the email amid an echo chamber of those who agreed with them. Under the standards of the Patriot Act and the birthers themselves, Mueller said this was enough evidence to have them arrested.
“For an entire network to ‘raise questions’ about someone, that must mean these allegations are legitimate. Otherwise, why would they run this information without verifying or debunking it? That would be irresponsible,” Mueller said. “It’s not up to the FBI to prove them guilty, it’s up to the birthers to prove themselves innocent. That’s the standard now, they set it for themselves.”
So-called birthers believe that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. and isn’t a legitimate president, even though Obama releasing his state-issued birth certificate in 2008 and it was verified by Hawaii’s then-Republican governor. Obama recently released his “long form” certificate to put the birthers’ claims to rest.
While the FBI refused to identify those who were or would be taken into custody, “birther king” Donald Trump reportedly boarded his personal plane and fled to Europe Friday night.
“Birther queen” Orly Taitz was reportedly arrested Saturday by the FBI and local police as she left a Los Angeles restaurant. Her eldest son, Isaac Taitz, told the Los Angeles Times that even though his mother used forged documents to challenge Obama’s citizenship and her numerous lawsuits have been thrown out of court, he could not prove she had no links to terrorism.
“I think some people are going to believe a conspiracy email as long as it fits their political agenda, no matter how absurd it sounds.” Isaac Taitz said. “It’s mighty dangerous for people to make such an accusation against someone based on a bogus email campaign.”