Conspiracy theories regarding the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are nothing new. Whether it’s keeping alien anecdotes (ala X-Files) hidden, or consulting with secret political forces, the FBI has often been named the alleged purveyor of many things clandestine by many conspiracy theorists. Thankfully, most of these stories have been found to be untrue.
However, a new conspiracy story about the FBI has begun to make its rounds on the internet, renewing a few American’s mistrust in the agency. According to a number of emails recently collected by Snopes, some citizens are expressing concern about the unconfirmed arrests conducted by the FBI on people posting anti-Obama statuses on Facebook. A few have dubbed it “Operation Vigilant Eagle,” a reportedly secret program by the FBI and other government agencies designed to track down people writing social media posts criticizing the U.S. president and his government.
There has actually been a real incident of an arrest in 2012 involving a former Marine and a series of anti-government Facebook posts he wrote prior his detainment. According to the Guardian, Brandon Raub of Chesterfield, Virginia, was involuntary taken into custody and was subjected to psychological evaluation after allegedly writing a series of posts and comments against the U.S. government, some of which were reportedly conspiratorial and violent in nature.
According to the local police, Raub’s Facebook friends have expressed distress over many of the ex-Marine’s Facebook posts, prompting local authorities to speak with Raub upon the recommendation of the Chesterfield Mental Health Crisis Intervention.
“After speaking to Raub, officers believed him to be in need of further evaluation. Chesterfield officers at the scene contacted Chesterfield Mental Health Crisis Intervention. Crisis workers recommended that police take Raub into custody and bring him in for evaluation.
“Raub was placed in handcuffs after he resisted officers’ attempts to take him into custody. Raub was evaluated by a Chesterfield mental health official, who determined that he should be held under a temporary detention order and transported to John Randolph Medical Center for additional evaluation.”
The FBI confirmed later that its agents questioned Raub about his Facebook posts, but denied arresting or detaining him for his anti-government Facebook statuses. Local authorities and even people close to Raub have revealed their suspicions regarding the ex-Marines’ allegedly unstable mental health.
However, despite the arrest being made two years ago, stories of “Operation Vigilant Eagle” continue to spread online, with conspiracy theorists warning people of potential arrests if they dare express their discontentment with the Obama government on social media.
However, these illegal arrests have yet to be proven. Firstly, it is worth noting that Raub’s statuses in 2012, although conspiratorial in nature, didn’t particularly name Obama in his posts. Secondly, in addition to his Facebook critique of the U.S. government, Raub has also been found posting violent hip-hop lyrics on his feed, with one saying, “Sharpen up my axe: I’m here to sever heads,” something that may have been perceived as a threat by one of his Facebook friends. Lastly, although Operation Vigilant Eagle is a real law enforcement program, it does not have anything to do with anti-government Facebook statuses. The Operation Vigilant Eagle was created to keep an eye on white supremacists and other civilian-formed extremist groups.
Fact-checking website Snopes says rumors of the FBI arresting people over anti-Obama posts are “mostly false”.