Monday, February 04, 2008

Why journalism matters, Jerry Bledsoe

Via Ed Cone, Jerry Bledsoe's chilling account of what it is like to live under a death threat, I was particularly struck by the part about the database:
Barrett and Gardner were not big on small talk. They got right down to business. The threat against me had arisen during the course of an investigation, I was told.

"A drug case?" I asked.

It was.

"Well, I probably can tell you who's involved," I said. I gave them names of three people who have been known as long-time drug bosses in Greensboro.

They looked at each other.

"How do you know that?" Gardner asked. "Do you talk to officers, or what?"

I said that I did talk to officers among other things. As it turned out I was right on one of the three people I'd named, but I wouldn't know that for a while.

I was offered no details about the investigation. Nobody said that somebody wanted me dead. That was understood.

Instead, I was told what to look for. If they came, the killers likely would be young black males. I should be watchful for cars with out-of-state tags, particularly from New York.

"I assume it will be a home invasion or a drive-by," I said, and they agreed.

I asked if Rhinoceros Times Editor John Hammer or former Police Chief David Wray were considered to be in danger. Not that Barrett and Gardner were aware of, I was told.

"Is there any connection to Greensboro police officers?" I asked. None that they knew about was the answer.

They had flagged my name in databases so that no law enforcement officers could access information such as my home address, vehicles that were registered in my name or my driver's license bearing my age, height and weight, along with my photo. All of that would be helpful to killers.

I asked Barrett and Gardner if they knew whether anybody already had retrieved information about me, particularly anybody from the Greensboro Police Department. They would check, Barrett said, and let me know

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