[ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 5/2/03
GBI agent appeals
transfer over case
Agent disciplined over
By BILL TORPY
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Jimmy Wynn fears the
United Nations, a New World Order and government-implanted tracking
Wynn, the commanding
officer of the Militia of Georgia and a Lawrenceville resident, asks
supporters to report to him specifics of large police activities such as
roadblocks "or house-to-house search and seizures."
So when the leader of
the paramilitary group started working last spring as a retail clerk at
Southeastern Guns in Norcross, his position worried Gwinnett County
police and set in motion a chain of events that shed a glimmer of light
on the highly secretive state Department of Homeland Security.
The case illustrates
the dilemmas that investigators wrestle with as the nation wages an
ongoing war on terror: Who should police keep tabs on? What should they
do with the intelligence they gather? And what is "imminent"
The case started when
a Gwinnett detective issued a classified "intelligence release"
warning police of Wynn's new job, that he has "insinuat[ed] the use
of violence against law enforcement officers" and often carries guns
in his car. The report said the job would allow Wynn "to collect
intelligence" on police, getting officers' home addresses when they
complete federal paperwork when buying guns.
Wynn, 45, was not
wanted on any criminal charges, the report advised -- just keep an eye on
Georgia Bureau of
Investigation special agent John Lang, who was assigned as a threat
analyst to the Department of Homeland Security, saw the memo and decided
making note of the information was not enough. He called the gun shop
owner and told him about the memo concerning his employee. Wynn was
Wynn, who has been
mostly unemployed since he was laid off from Lucent Technologies in late
2001, did not know why he lost his job until last week when he was told
by a reporter. He said he has never advocated violence against the police
or government officials.
He was angry when he
learned why he was fired. He said he "was done plain dirty and the
system is still trying to set me up in order to make their blunders look
as though they have some semblance of truth."
Wynn's former boss,
David Simons, said Wynn was a probationary employee and set to be fired
anyway because of job performance.
About a month later,
Lang, a veteran and highly decorated agent who investigated the murders
of Buckhead socialite Lita Sullivan and DeKalb County Sheriff Derwin
Brown, was reprimanded and transferred to another job.
Superiors said Lang
violated agency policy by sharing the information with a civilian.
Furthermore, Lang "more than likely contributed to, if not caused,
the termination of a subject's job because of his association with a
particular group with no evidence of a crime being planned or committed,
and without consulting a superior, might well be more than society is
willing to accept," GBI legal director Mark Jackson wrote in a
Lang sees the issue
very differently and is appealing the decision.
Lang did not want to
comment for this article. But, in a letter appealing his reprimand, he
pointed to the FBI's inaction before the Sept. 11 attacks as his
"This delay and
sitting on information is precisely why incidents like Sept. 11
occurred," Lang wrote. "What good is intelligence if it is not
used to alert innocent victims and prevent violent behavior or incidents?
The reprimand could
set a precedent, Lang said, that "will likely dampen other agents'
aggressiveness in making decisions in a timely manner when time is of the
essence to prevent an act of terrorism."
Lang also stated that
affording intelligence to nonpolice is common: "Traditionally, we
have had no qualms about sharing intelligence information with private
security departments such as Georgia Power, Delta Air Lines and the
Anti-Defamation League regarding employees or others suspected of
Wynn, who has been
with the militia since 1987, said police have investigated him in the
past and he goes out of his way to avoid any appearance of illegality.
"I do not
discuss acts of sedition, violence, or any kind of activity which may be
deemed to be illegal -- not even in joking," he said. "Am I
concerned about roadblocks? You're damn right I am. So, do I advocate
attacking [police] at checkpoints? No. As a matter of fact, I don't even
carry a firearm in my automobile because I fear it would give the
overzealous [police] an excuse to shoot me."
Don English, attorney
for the Police Benevolent Association of Georgia, said the organization
is helping Lang fight the case because of its broad implications.
something important for law enforcement in general," said English.
"This could be a sign of the time to come -- any officer who is
proactive and effective is subject to have things placed under a
The key to the case,
now before a DeKalb County Superior Court judge, is the meaning of
"By failing to
define the word 'imminent' within policy, the Bureau clearly left this
determination to the individual agent's discretion," wrote Steven
Wisebram, Lang's attorney.
The GBI acknowledged
"imminent" is not defined in GBI protocol, but wrote the
American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "about to occur or
impending, about to take place."
Laurie Levenson, a
former federal prosecutor and criminal law professor at Loyola Law School
in Los Angeles, said the terms "imminent and inevitable often get
irrational for this officer to do what he did," she said. "He
interpreted this information like the president did on the war in
She said police must
make a showing in court to get a wire tap or a search warrant. But they
are free to collect intelligence on people.
"In this country
you don't need any showing to put someone under a microscope,"
Levenson said. "Because of people's fear and the need to make a
difference in protecting them, [police] may be stepping over
Robert Friedmann, a
Georgia State University criminal justice professor who studies terrorism
and security issues, said law enforcement agencies, most of whom are
stretched for staffing, won't spend time collecting intelligence for the
sake of doing it.
"You want to
focus on leads that produce results," he said. "You don't want
to be East Germany but you don't want to be fish bait waiting for the
terrorists to strike. That's the dilemma of a democratic society."
About the question of
how that information should be used or shared, Friedmann said: "My
hunch is we're in virgin territory.
"It's not an
easy call to make," he said. "It's not just a professional
judgment. It's an art."