Friday, August 27, 2010

How to Handle a Threatening Email

Christine Brim of the Center for Security Policy has another post up at Big Peace. This one is only tangentially related to her dedicated efforts to research and publish the truth about the backers of the Ground Zero mosque. As a consequence of her work at CSP, Daily Kos discovered the existence of Ms. Brim, and took public note of her part in the coalition opposing the mosque. As a result, on August 23 a Kossack sent her a threatening email.

Ms. Brim handled the incident promptly, appropriately, and effectively. Her approach is a useful one, so I’m posting it here for the benefit of others who may be in a similar situation.

Note: The advice given below applies only to people in the United States who have received threatening emails covered by relevant American laws.

How to Handle a Threatening Email

by Christine Brim

I received a threatening email Monday, August 23 at 10:04 p.m., apparently inspired by this Daily Kos post. The post criticized the Center for having helped the Coalition to Honor Ground Zero (at the website address gttp:// by registering the Coalition’s domain name,, at Our reason for suggesting a possible connection to the Daily Kos post is the email’s subject line:

Subject: stop the 9-11 mosque, Center for Security Policy,, Inc. (gttp://

And also that the emailer posted a comment in the Daily Kos thread stating his intentions. Let me emphasize that it is his acting on those intentions that is of concern:

This is the information I need (4+ / 0-)
This is why I come here.
I want the names and addresses of the bigots with money.
The bigots who are trying to stop the healing.
The bigots spew hate and lies.
I want their names and their addresses so I can email them and let them know I see them.
I want them to feel exposed.
I want them to be exposed for what they are.
Thanks TBTM Julie for the great diary
”Nearly everything you do is of no importance, but it is important that you do it” Mohandas Gandhi

by CMikkelson on Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 07:17:57 PM PDT

You can review Mr. Mikkelson’s other comments at Daily Kos here.

Threatening emails have an objective: to silence, to bully, to harass. Just as House Speaker Pelosi’s demand for investigation of funding for mosque opponents aims to discourage investigation of the Ground Zero Mosque, posted earlier at Big Peace. There’s a lot of this happening now, and not just on the Ground Zero Mosque issue: the Tea Party group Freedomworks reportedly receives several threatening emails and phone calls a day, enough that they’re moving to a more secure building. Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, founders of SIOA and organizers of a 9-11 rally to protest the Ground Zero Mosque, have been getting death threats constantly, including a very specific one on August 27 from facebook from an “ Abdulaziz Sudani.”

In our case, the person who sent the email apparently sent it from his office account, complete with his automatic signature. We appreciate your attention to detail, “Christopher Mikkelson” of “K C Pacific Enterprise Co. Ltd.” I’ve included the technical header info at the end of this post for reference.

So we thought this provided a useful opportunity to give Big Peace readers a quick tutorial on “How to handle a threatening email,” based on what we learned. The Center for Security Policy’s legal counsel David Yerushalmi sent Mr. Mikkelson a letter that can also serve as a template for your own use (usual caveats, consult your own attorney, this is not official legal advice, your threatening email might not even be from Mr. Mikkelson, etc.). And we reported it to the FBI, learning in the process how they approach a report of a threatening email.

The threat in our case was judged by the FBI not to be imminent based on the information in the email itself, so it is not representative of the imminent-threat emails others may receive. Those are also often anonymous and hard to track back to the sender, this one was signed.

First here’s the email in entirety, complete with sender and signature:
- - - - - - - - -
From: Christopher Mikkelson []
Sent: Mon 8/23/2010 10:04 PM
To: Christine Brim
Subject: stop the 9-11 mosque, Center for Security Policy,, Inc. (gttp://

We know you are bigots with money.
We know you are the Lowest of the Low.
We know you are afraid.
You should be.
We know who you are.

Best Regards,

Christopher Mikkelson
K C Pacific Enterprise Co. Ltd

And here you can download the reply from the Center’s legal counsel [pdf], which, for your convenience, I am also posting below:

August 24, 2010

Christopher Mikkelson
K C Pacific Enterprise Co. Ltd

Re: Formal Response to Threatening Email and Criminal Complaint

Dear Mr. Mikkelson:

I write to you in my capacity as general counsel to the Center for Security Policy.

Attached is a copy of your email in which you apparently have taken upon yourself to respond to a false and irrational DailyKos blog entry by emailing the Center’s Chief Operating Officer and quite evidently issuing what can only be termed a poorly-veiled physical threat.

Animated political discourse in our society is of course a cherished liberty and indeed a sine qua non for a vigorous representative government of a concerned and engaged people. Communication, however, may not be used to threaten others into silence. Specifically, the use of email correspondence to issue threats to a political adversary’s physical safety is neither political nor civil discourse but a criminal means to destroy that liberty through fear and intimidation.

Your email below is a threat to instill fear and intimidation. As such, your email represents a violation of federal criminal law. I direct your attention to Title 18, United States Code, Section 875(c), which states:

Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

Informing the Center’s Chief Operating Officer that you “know [she] is afraid” and that this fear is prudent (“You should be”) because “We know who you are,” is manifestly an effort to use an interstate communication to threaten her by putting her in fear of imminent harm.

As such, I hereby put you on notice. One, your email represents a poorly veiled physical threat to my client and a violation of the federal criminal law. Two, you are hereby advised that any further efforts on your part or on your behalf by any other person to communicate in any manner with my client or its employees will result in immediate legal action to restrain you. Finally, my letter to you, along with your threatening email, will be forwarded to federal law enforcement officials immediately to lodge a formal criminal complaint and to open up a criminal investigation. You are advised to take this matter seriously and to retain legal counsel.


David Yerushalmi

On August 24, after the letter had been sent to Mr. Mikkelson, I called the local FBI office for Washington, DC. I spoke first to “Operator at Console #2? (the FBI intake staff do not provide their actual names). She asked me to read the email, but was clearly trained to screen threats that may not be imminent. On behalf of the FBI here, let me suggest this is probably reasonable; they need some kind of filter to decide what to log and what to dismiss. She suggested that since the emailer was not specifically threatening “to blow you up or shoot you” that it was not specific enough in mentioning “doing harm.” However, she consulted with an agent, and then asked that a copy be sent to their office. I sent them the original email, and a copy of Yerushalmi’s letter to Mr. Mikkelson.

A few hours later I received a phone call from a Duty Agent For The Day (again, no names used). He politely explained that the email did not have a specific threat (the blow-you-up-shoot-you requirement), nor was the threat specific as to the place and/or time of the intended harm (the I’m-coming-over-to-the-office-next-Tuesday-can-you-check-your-calendar requirement). He did agree to log the threat for future reference. A nice young man who sensibly suggested that if I thought the threat really was imminent, I should call my local police and not the FBI. Good advice.

So, here’s the point: no one should accept being threatened because we oppose the Ground Zero Mosque. And the reverse is true — no threats against those who support the mosque. This is a struggle for the norm, and for one law and one set of standards for all. If you receive a threatening email, that is outside the norm, and you have every right to act to protect yourself and not to accept being threatened.

Even if the email does not meet the imminent harm requirement — the “Let’s meet at Starbucks next Thursday, I’ll be the one with the Smith & Wesson Model 29 Revolver” test — a threatening email like the one from Mr. Mikkelson is still outside the norm.

People who send threatening emails want you to experience fear and anger. Both are great time wasters. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

Call the police if the threat is imminent, send them a letter and report them to the FBI whether it is imminent or not, and get back to your life and your work.

I’ve left off the appendix with the email header, which won’t be of interest to most readers. For those who wish to see it, visit the post at Big Peace.


Gryffilion said...

(The following link is safe for work but contains profanity.) This kind of thing is referred to in the comic strip Penny Arcade as the Greater Internet F***wad Theory. What perplexes me is that Mr. Chump Change in the article above didn't even bother to address the anonymity part of the equation.

I'm reminded of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story shaking his head and saying, "You are a sad, strange little man, and you have my pity."

Fröken Sverige said...

Sweden Democrats election film 2010:

It´s in swedish. But you don´t need to understand swedish, to get the message.

All the best to all freedom fighters!


1389 said...

Now what kind of fleabrain would be that specific when making a threat? After all, what's scarier: something that amounts to "meet me at Starbuck's next Thursday for a duel" - or "I am going to ambush you when you are not expecting it and cannot defend yourself, with unspecified weapons at an unspecified time and place"?

Dymphna said...

That cartoon showed it all in three panels. Good work!

We are fortunate in having only rare occurrences of those transformed "normal people" showing up here.

Got to admit, though, that my sheltered life makes most of the episodes of that series opaque. The wigger guy was obvious as was the Craigslist references. The rest? Not so much...

Zenster said...

As Christopher Mikkelson's employer, I'm confident that K C Pacific Enterprise Co. Ltd would take a very serious interest in an employee's abuse of their company's email system for the purpose of expressing hostile intentions that most likely fall well outside of corporate communication guidelines.

It would not be at all surprising if Mr. Mikkelson needed to find another source of earnings in short order once his employer was given detailed notification of said unprofessionalism.

It's fairly certain that I am not alone in anticipating the foregoing scenario and let's all hope that it comes to pass.

In short, a moron who is so blindingly stupid as to use company email for the purpose of harrassing a stranger of differing opinion represents a serious liability to any employer and is more than capable of committing even more idiotic acts of incompetence at some future point in time.

In short, Christopher Mikkelson had damn well better hope that he is the owner's son or son-in-law or he is likely going to be out on his arse in a New York minute.

goethechosemercy said...

The writing of Christopher Mikkelson is the best argument against "net neutrality" and anonymity online ever advanced.
His rhetoric is indistinguishable from Muslim rhetoric.
His message is simple:
submit or die.
The globalist, Islamist and Muslim MANTRA.
Damn them all to hell.
And no, I don't mind being connected with that statement. I am deeply suspicious of multiculturalism. I have seen the blood in the streets elsewhere, and I know damn well it's coming here.