The Persecution of Ricky Vaughn

The US federal government is shattering the Constitution and inadvertently revealing the existence of the surveillance state in its persecution of a memelord.

Last month, Revolver profiled the Biden Administration’s persecution of former Twitter anon Doug Mackey, who was a famous pro-Trump voice back in 2016 under the moniker of Ricky Vaughn…

In its latest filings, the DOJ reveals that one of the group chats it is currently using as evidence against Mackey contained a person who is now working with the FBI as a federal informant. According to the government, the “Confidential Witness” (or CW) was a pro-Trump, “alt right” leader who pleaded guilty to the same conspiracy to deprive civil rights charges that Mackey faces, and is now collaborating with the government.

In its filings, the government declines to say what CW’s current role with the government is, except that he is “presently engaged in proactive investigations, working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and may engage in additional investigations in the future.” Based on that statement, the government is asking that CW’s identity be kept secret, and that Mackey’s defense team be barred from asking any questions about CW’s current work.

This is a much bolder request than it might seem to the legally uninitiated. The Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights guarantees the right of any criminal defendant to “be confronted with the witnesses against him.” Like most constitutional rights, this law is not absolute, but limitations to it have historically been very limited. Courts have long disallowed anonymous witnesses due to the Sixth Amendment, except in extreme circumstances involving violent, organized criminal organizations with the capacity to retaliate against witnesses and their families. And even then, courts have restricted the right to testify anonymously. For instance, in 2014, the U.S. 10th Circuit said this, about the possible danger of retaliation from the ruthless Salvadoran street gang MS-13.

“…a generalized statement about danger — such as anyone who testifies against one of [MS 13’s] members faces danger from [MS-13] — would be insufficient to show that a threat against a witness was actual and not a result of conjecture.” [United States v. Gutierrez de Lopez, 761 F.3d 1123, 1140 (10th Cir. 2014)]

But now, in the Mackey case, the Biden DOJ asserts that its witness’s identity must be hidden, because if not, he might face, wait for it… harassment on the Internet!

CW through the CW’s internet moniker(s) occupied a prominent position within the online, alt-right community. In that capacity, the CW participated in, among other things, the online harassment of individuals with whom the CW maintained political disagreements, including by encouraging the CW’s followers on Twitter and other social media to amplify the harassment. In this case, the government anticipates that the CW will provide inculpatory evidence against the defendant and other individuals who, like the CW, had engaged in such harassing behavior. As such, the government anticipates that, if the CW’s true identity were to become known, then those with whom the CW associated online would likely engage in such behavior towards the CW. Revealing the CW’s true identity would also likely lead to the public exposure of the CW’s physical whereabouts. This could in turn subject the CW to more than simply online harassment and could very easily jeopardize the CW’s safety.

Mackey has never been convicted or even accused of a single violent crime, or of threatening violence online. There is no evidence at all of any kind of organized or predictable effort by the online “alt right” to physically target witnesses. Yet now, the government claims that Mackey’s Sixth Amendment rights can be nullified because of the vague possibility a witness against him might face “harassing behavior.”

This particular federal informant is widely rumored to be none other than “Baked Alaska”. But that’s not what is interesting, at least to me. What I believe to be more significant is this observation from AC:

Notice, Ricky had an informant before he had any hint of anything prosecutors might try to charge him with, going on around him. He was just a a squeaky clean, preppy guy, posting funny memes on Twitter. With an informant sent in. Which means an FBI/intelligence agent assigned to him.

So one guy posting on Twitter had an informant sent in and an intelligence operation dedicated to him on nothing more than the basis of his rhetorically-effective memes. What this means is that literally everyone with more than 200+ followers on any social media platform is being targeted, tracked, and infiltrated.

Given my family background and my national press syndication dating back to 1994, I’ve been aware of being on the radar for at least three decades, if not four. It comes with the territory and it’s understandable; no society will tolerate its iconoclastic outliers going too far astray. But it is nevertheless a little startling to see confirmation that the surveillance state in the USA is at least as prevalent and comprehensive as it was in East Germany during the Soviet years.