April 9th, 2010
06:01 PM ET
8 years ago

Authorities report rise in threats against members of Congress


Federal officials said the spike in threats began around the debate over health care reform. (Photo Credit: Getty Images/File)

Washington (CNN) – Federal law enforcement and Congressional authorities are reporting a large increase in threats against lawmakers, a law enforcement official tells CNN. The officials said the spike in threats began around the debate over health care reform.

Since October, 50 threats against members of Congress have been reported to the FBI, said the official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. In the previous year, less than 20 were reported to federal law enforcement authorities. When threats are received by lawmakers, the U.S. Capitol Police and in some cases, the FBI, investigate.

Members of the House and Senate reported nearly three times as many threats in the first three months of this year, compared to the last three months of 2009, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer told The Washington Post. He said nearly all of the incidents appeared to have come from opponents of health care. Gainer did not respond to requests for comment from CNN.

"There has been a spike in threats against members of Congress since passage of the legislation," according to the law enforcement official, who was not authorized to speak on the record about the Congressional investigations.

The law enforcement official stressed to CNN that it's not usual to see spikes from time to time and while the level is up this year there have been previous times when it's been high but followed by a very low year.

Two people were arrested this week with making threats against lawmakers. Charles Alan Wilson is charged with making death threats against Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington. Wilson allegedly stated that Murray "had a target on her back," according to a Justice Department statement. A judge has ruled Wilson can be released with strict conditions if he posts a $20,000 bond.

Gregory Giusti is charged with making obscene, threatening or harassment phone calls to the office and home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California. During a court hearing Thursday, he was not asked to submit a plea and remained in custody pending a further hearing.

One of the lawmakers targeted was Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, who announced Friday he was not running for re-election. His office received several angry voice mails and a fax saying "We'll get you."

At a news conference Friday, Stupak and his wife acknowledged the messages, but he said they were not a major reason behind his decision.

"Those threats," he said. "The three o'clock in the morning phone calls threatening things like that. It is people outside the district. That is not my district."

His wife, Laurie, said they were deluged with messages. "Some of those calls were vulgar, cruel, profane and threatening. We were saddened and disappointed by the cruelty and hypocrisy of some of the callers."

Filed under: Congress • FBI
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Rachel

    Anarchy is coming out of the closet and being condoned with such Republican comments as "Reload." by none other than ex-gov. (quitter) S. Palin. It just shows that America is not yet ready for mature democracy.

    April 9, 2010 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  2. frank

    The Republicans don't want to close Gitmo because they want to go there. Sunshine, beaches, meals, medical care. Lock them all up down there.

    April 9, 2010 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  3. Brad

    Not very surprising considering the anger in the country. Just as long as people just verbalize it instead of acting it out we are okay.

    April 9, 2010 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  4. Michael

    If, Tea Party members and repuglican leadership do not tone the rhetoric, I believe we will see more threats and major violent acts against innocent Americans by militias, anti-government types, successionist, or modern day confederates!I see what happened in Oklahoma happening many times over by these extremist groups! My prayer and hope is that the FBI, CIA and local police will thwart every sinister planned attack! I am curious why, doesn't the government check the voting record of captured home grown terrorist or militias for their ideological party affiliation and "report the results."

    April 9, 2010 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  5. joe

    the right is sick and twisted and the people who support this BS are the lamest, weakest and gutless bunch of punks out there!!

    April 9, 2010 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  6. Annie, Atlanta

    Anybody wondering why? I blame the media. These people are being treated as a credible political force, with a lot of face time on tv. You know, ratings. That's all that matters. Add to that the lies that start out on Fox News (sic) or the Drudge report and picked up and spread as real news. Thanks, CNN, for your contribution. Keep promoting the tea party and Palin.

    April 9, 2010 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  7. mrsb

    "Nearly all?" If it were that large of a percentage higher for the threats coming from opponents vs. proponents, I would wager that they would mention the number or at least a percentage.

    April 9, 2010 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  8. Michele

    You can thank Palin, Beck and the rest of the right wing hate crowd for this. Only wealthy, well taken care of Republicans would stoop to the levels of this crowd, making the gullible believe that the very Christian act of taking care of our own people means 'socialism' while promoting gun ownership, becoming 'armed and dangerous,' and calling for the deaths of Congressmen. These are the same people unashamedly taking government money to help their own disabled children, while wanting to deny help to poor Americans. I cannot understand how Palin manages to bring so many people down to her level, while pretending she is pro-America. She is pro-Palin, period.

    April 9, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  9. Mickey, NY

    When they find out who these anti-american terrorists are, indict them under the provisions set forth by their beloved "Patriot Act"...they claim they are the "real patriots", after all...

    GOP'ers...domestic terrorists

    April 9, 2010 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  10. Indy

    Republicans must be proud that all their bold faced lies caught on with the ones that are making threats

    April 9, 2010 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  11. Kathy

    When we, on the left, were upset about the war we protested peacefully. It appears that too many on the right like to threaten, either with phone calls, pipe bombs in mailboxes, or firearms holstered to their sides (wild wild west style) when the government makes decisions they don't agree with. Too Sad!

    April 9, 2010 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  12. lara

    If we don't get our way, we'll threaten people! Do these people even understand democracy?

    April 9, 2010 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  13. West Coast Conser

    The United States of America has been victorious over all foreign invaders....and the same will happen with Hussein and the rest of his Socialist Progressives.

    April 9, 2010 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  14. Independent One

    The repubs/teabaggers are the biggest US terrorist

    April 9, 2010 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  15. LC in CA

    With the right-wing's concerted strategy of undermining the elected officials who currently have our votes, it is no wonder that the unstable fringe elements feel brave enough to make these types of domestic terrorist threats against our elected officials. Witness the current status of Palin, the right-wing's best procurer of unhappy wing nuts. Saying NO to everything is OK, you betcha.

    It's a dangerous game these political junkies are playing, putting themselves up as arbiters of "right" versus legitimate government by the people, for the people and of the people. It borders on acts of questionable patriotic intent.

    April 9, 2010 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  16. Jin

    For this state of the nation we can thank Agent Orange, Turtleman, the teabagger mob, and Rupert Murdoc.

    April 9, 2010 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  17. JonDie

    Tea Party = Terrorist Party = TimothyMcVeigh Party

    April 9, 2010 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  18. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    One of these days, something horrible will happen. And the Republicans will be facing a Nation asking why they allowed such hateful rhetoric.

    Sadly, CNN, you are not calling-out the Republicans about the hate rhetoric.

    Today once again, CNN had the leader of the TP on the Ali Velshi (sp?) show around noon. I listened to see IF Mr. Velshi would challenge the TP leader, but no he did not.

    CNN, you are losing the Liberals, because you are pandering to the Conservatives.

    April 9, 2010 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  19. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    I hope the Secret Service is keeping an eye on these neanderthals!!!!!

    April 9, 2010 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  20. Meka

    More 'Scare Mongering' from the FAR RIGHT!

    Education would solve a few of their problems!

    April 9, 2010 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  21. so rich even obama couldn't hurt me but you middle class folk should worry

    man its like the 60s all over again! only they are the ones being threatened now lol cry babies, how's the race card your playing working out for you???? any takers yet on that 100Gs yet???? lol didn't think so! keep trying guys keep trying!

    April 9, 2010 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  22. On the sidelines

    50 threats is pretty generic. On the one hand they're saying there has been a "large increase in threats" and then they say these threats "have been reported." The demos are really playing this to the hilt. If someone looks cross-eyed at them, the report it as a threat; if someone calls them a name, its a threat; if someone even gestures at them in some manner they report a threat. What its called is "disagreeing" with you. Everyone knows the democrats are experts and flinging mud and playing dirty, but simply cannot take criticism.
    The whole ombambacare mess was/is a prime example of why they're having to deal with disgruntled and angry Americans.

    April 9, 2010 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  23. ConstitutionalistPatriot

    Stop using the constitution for toilet paper and we the people won't be so angry with you idiots in congress! In november FIRE EM ALL KEEP RON PAUL!

    April 9, 2010 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  24. RAG

    Can we start arresting Tea Baggers for treason yet?

    April 9, 2010 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  25. Pkm

    When you catch the crooks put them in marion il at the federal prision for a nice touch put the biggest croojs away care rove and newt g

    April 9, 2010 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
1 2