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National news outlets pick up story about blogger from Ozark MO questioned by FBI

Rep. Long's office cannot comment on FBI interview

January 14, 2011|by Chad Plein, KY3 News | cplein@ky3.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A KY3 News story on Thursday about an FBI agent interviewing a political blogger from Ozark mushroomed across the country on Friday, from Glenn Beck's radio show to the internet's Drudge Report.  On Friday, the office of Congressman Billy Long, R-Springfield, released a statement on the issue.  Long's press secretary said his office can’t comment on this case per a request of Capitol Police, the agency charged with protecting members of Congress.

"We will continue to work with the Capitol Hill Police and will follow their advice at every turn, as we have thus far," the statement from Rep. Long's office read.

The FBI agent, accompanied by Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, questioned Clay Bowler at his home in Christian County to see whether he was any threat to Rep. Long.  Bowler created a website called "Long is Wrong."  He was critical of Long during Billy’s campaign for U.S. Representative last summer, and even confronted him with a camera after some campaign events to try to get Long to answer some pointed questions about his positions.  Bowler closed his "Long is Wrong" website when Rep. Long won the Congressional seat.

Many news outlets across the nation picked up the story about Bowler.  Some who read or heard the story commented that Bowler was singled out solely because of his blog; they complain it's a violation of his right to free speech.

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"That's the great thing about America, I can speak out about something," Bowler said, "and as long as I'm not threatening that man's life, I don't deserve an FBI agent coming to my house.  Violence is no way to participate in the American, political-process."

Sheriff Arnott says the interview had nothing to do with Bowler's blog.  Arnott said Friday he initiated contact with the FBI after being contacted by Rep. Long's office.  Arnott said he does not believe Rep. Long even knew his office staff sent out any concerns regarding Bowler.

The agent brought a folder with Bowler's history to the interview.  The folder included Bowler's military record and a municipal violation in Ozark.  Bowler first served in the U.S. Army then enlisted with the Navy.  He admitted he asked to leave the Navy saying, it was not for him.  The FBI agent said his files concluded Bowler left for personality reasons - Bowler denied the claim and said the report had false information that was not corrected.  The agent was okay with Bowler's reasoning and added he found  Bowler's Army record to be clean.

The City of Ozark's prosecuting attorney, David Collignon, tells KY3, Bowler pled guilty with a form of resisting arrest in 2009; the charge Collignon says was not a "big thing" saying it was a lesser charge than a misdemeanor.  Bowler received an suspended execution of sentence.  Bowler was on probation for six-months; Collignon says his records show Bowler completed his probation requirements.

The FBI agent took the concerns from Sheriff Arnott's contact, the information in Bowler's personal file, and the critical blog and believed an interview was appropriate saying, "there's two sides to every story."

The FBI's office in Kansas City said it often assesses claims and allegations that its agents receive to determine if there is a threat.  In this case, the agent said it appears Bowler is of no personal threat to Long.

Bowler made an agreement to record the visit with the FBI agent prior to the interview.  Bowler was allowed to record with his cell phone as long as he didn't publish the video to anyone or post it online.  KY3 was able to view the interview and confirm the visit.

This is not an isolated incident.  News organizations across the country are reporting activity relating to elected officials safety.  Newsmax.com is reporting many investigations, interrogations and arrests have happened since the Tucson shooting.

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