In the Wake of Fort Hood Shooting, Can a Rap Song Be a Threat?

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    Jan 21, 2010 9:56 AM GMT
    In the Wake of Fort Hood Shooting, Can a Rap Song Be a Threat?
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010 11:23 AM
    By Krista Gesaman

    Pentagon officials may have overlooked a serious threat against members of the military by a fellow soldier before the Fort Hood shooting rampage. Army Specialist Marc A. Hall has been in pretrial confinement since Dec. 17 for writing a rap song in which he talks about plans to shoot and kill fellow soldiers in his unit. Hall allegedly sent a package to the Pentagon in July that contained a CD with threatening rap lyrics for a song called “Stop Lossed,” says Kevin Larson, spokesperson for Fort Stewart, the Georgia military base where Hall was stationed.

    “There are express threats that are contained within that song,” Larson says. “Even though no names are mentioned in the song lyrics, it’s very easy to identify who Hall is talking about because of the positions they hold.” Hall allegedly followed up the threats contained in the song lyrics with similar verbal threats made to multiple soldiers in his unit, Larson adds.

    No one knows exactly what happened to the CD immediately after it was received by the Pentagon, Larson says. But Pentagon officials sent the disk to Hall’s military unit in September after holding onto it for several months. Hall wasn’t confronted about the rap until a few months later, after the shooting on the Fort Hood military base.

    Five charges have been filed against Hall under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, a catchall military-law provision that allows soldiers to be charged for conduct that brings discredit to the armed forces. Two of the charges involve threatening violence against fellow soldiers and threatening to shoot commanders. The remaining charges include wrongfully communicating to go on a rampage, wrongfully communicating to hurt someone if deployed, and distributing a song as the communication of a threat.

    Declassified contacted Hall’s military attorney, Capt. Anthony Schiavetti, to comment on these charges, but Schiavetti did not respond before publication.

    Hall apparently wrote the song to express his anger over the Army’s stop-loss policy. Stop-loss is a program authorizing the military to temporarily halt soldiers’ separations and retirements during times of war and national emergency. Soldiers whose enlistment termination or retirement dates occur during a stop-loss window have extended involuntary commitments with the military. Hall had already served one tour in Iraq and was required to return again in December under stop-loss. In January 2010, the Army decided not to deploy units with stop-lossed soldiers; however, Hall’s deployment in late 2009 meant he was still subject to the program, says George Wright, Army spokesperson at the Pentagon. The Army has not officially eliminated stop-loss, but it’s not actively using the program either, Wright adds.

    Iraq Veterans Against the War says Hall’s lyrics should be considered protected free speech, and it has sought to raise money to pay for his legal fees. “If he was that much of a threat, why didn’t anyone act sooner?” says David L. Hudson, an expert at the First Amendment Center, a nonpartisan organization that examines First Amendment issues.

    Others claim the song should be treated as a serious threat, regardless of the amount of time that passed between its release and official military charges. “The fact that he allegedly sent the song to the Pentagon is a bit alarming to me. That’s different than sending it to a record company. It doesn’t sound like it's being sent for entertainment purposes, but as a warning,” says Rodney Smolla, dean of Washington and Lee School of Law and a First Amendment expert.

    Members of the military don’t have the same free-speech rights as the average citizen, Smolla explains. “Because of the importance of protecting the safety of his fellow troops and the stresses of combat and redeployment, the military has greater latitude to deal with these types of threats,” he says.

    Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center, says it’s important to protect free speech even when it’s speech that some find offensive, but he admits the current state of national security has made it difficult to balance the First Amendment and public safety. “It’s complicated today. No one wants to be the person that didn’t take action and some violent thing happened,” Policinski says.

    Hall has 140 days from his initial date of confinement to appear before a military judge and enter his plea. He’s currently incarcerated at Liberty County Jail near Fort Stewart. Here are the lyrics that have gotten him into so much trouble, which military officials provided to Declassified:

    "Stop Lossed" by SPC Marc Hall

    Now this is real days
    When s--t hit the airwaves
    Somebody gotta say
    F--k you colonels, captains, E-7s and above Think you're so much bigger than I am I've been too good of an American Stop-lossed, Stop movement, Got me chasing If I do drugs, I'll get kicked out But if my time is out I can't get out So the good die young I heard it out your mouth So f--k the Army And everything you're all about

    Like Obama says "Somebody be held responsible"
    But some of y'all gonna be held in the hospitals whenever possible To pursue my own journeys in life, through my own main obstacles Since I can't pinpoint the culpable. They want me cause misery loves company I'm gonna round them all up Eventually, easily, walk right up peacefully And surprise them all Yes, yes ya'll up against the wall Turn around, I gotta a motherf--king magazine with thirty rounds On a three round burst, ready to fire down Still against the wall I grab my M-4 Spray and watch all the bodies hit the floor I bet your never stop loss nobody no more In your next lifetime of course, no remorse Yeah You don't stop till the Army is the only military branch That still got the stop loss in effect So the only thing I got to say Is prepare for the consequences When people want to get out, let them get out.
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    Jan 21, 2010 10:02 AM GMT
    I am not against our military defending us from terrorists and I don't believe our military can just walk off the job over there without an increase in more terrorist attacks here, but I do agree with what this guy says:

    Posted By: GirouxRA (January 21, 2010 at 4:28 AM)

    First off I want to say that I served in the military for 8 years in a combat zone. I was a machine gunner in the Marine Corps, and I myself am against this war and feel that ALL the troops should be brought home, we're not wanted over there anyway.

    That being said, what some people here seem to be not understanding is that when you volunteer for military service you give up your constitutional rights and agree to be goverened under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). I was informed of this when I enlisted, and I am sure everyone that joins the military is informed of this as well. So the whole "Freedom of Speech" argument has no berring at all, regardless off whether you feel that this right should be given to everyone and not just non-military personel.

    As far as the whole Stop-Loss program goes, I think it's wrong and the military should do away with it entirely. However, it is currently something they use and you are informed about it. This has been around for years and is not something new, it is also not something that you don't find out about until later. You have to initial and agree to it on your enlistment papers, then you have to sign your enlistment papers. When I enlisted during Desert Storm, I was told that if I was caught sleeping on watch during a time of war that my commanding officer had the right to execute me on the spot, I don't know if that is something that is still mentioned, or even if it could happen. My point is that he knew about the Stop-Loss program, initialed next to it, and signed his papers. From reading the lyrics I am guessing that this is not an uneducated individual so I am certain he understood what he was signing up for.

    Concerning the rap in general, had he not sent it to the pentagon I would be more likely to believe that he was just venting. Since he did send it to the pentagon, it is something that has to be taken seriously as a threat and not just because of the shooting in Fort Hood or because of any other events. The lyrics alone is enough to be concerned. Everyone that has posted a comment saying that it was just the result of stress and someone expressing their anger over their situation, ask yourself this: If this was a high school student that wrote this, threating to go on a shooting rampage at the school where you children go, would you be willing to let your children go to school if everyone said that, "Oh, he's just venting, it's no big deal, freedom of speech you know."? What it comes down to is being proactive and keeping people safe.

    As far as what to do with him, he definately needs a psychological evaluation, it needs to be determined if this person has deeper issues that could prove harmful to others outside of the military. Should be done by someone not asociated with the military though. The military should charge him under Article 134 of the UCMJ, discharge him, either a dishonorable or general under other than honarable conditions, then release him to a civilian facility where he can be evealuated and helped if needed.

    The military should have acted on this sooner, but more importantly they need to look at how they are treating troops that are deployed. Granted, this isn't the Boy Scouts and you have a duty to do and stress is going to be a large part of it but the military as a whole needs to find a way to keep troop morale up while still being mission ready. I think that they also need to better train their officers and senior enlisted personel to better spot potential problems such as this and get that person help if they need it. Their are, unfortunately, individuals who will try and do anything just to get out and try and get a section 8 discharge for being insane, (Klinger from MASH), I have seen people try and do this. However, their are also individuals who need help and cannot handle the stress of combat, I have seen this as well. I personally would rather be one man short on my machine gun team then to have that extra man but not be able to count on him to cover your back, or have to worry about trying to protect him because he just froze, or worse have to worry about whether or not he's gonna just crack in the middle of a fire fight and start shooting everyone in the base camp.

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    Jan 21, 2010 2:22 PM GMT
    If those are the lyrics in their entirety, then, the people who took it as a threat are real dopes. There's nothing in there but woe for himself over his plight and I can't say I blame him entirely, given the bullshit that is stop-loss.
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    Jan 21, 2010 4:32 PM GMT
    The larger threat is the false belief systems. That's what we have to address. We need to work to remove the brainwashing at its source.
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    Jan 21, 2010 4:43 PM GMT
    The real failure in the Ft. Hood shooting was the action taken by the military. Much like the Catholic priest scandal, the problem was passed along and not actually dealt with because of lazy and incompetent leadership and/or policy.
  • coolarmydude

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    Jan 21, 2010 5:16 PM GMT
    I've read this story in the Army Times. Two wrongs don't make a right. He can be mad and speak his mind all he wants, but he doesn't have the right to communicate a threat. That is not protected speech.
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    Jan 21, 2010 5:49 PM GMT
    The threat was serious enough, but his attitude toward the army and his fellow soldiers is very rude and disrespectful. Nobody should have to put up with that kind of trashy talk. Can you imagine someone talking like that to his employer or fellow employees? The work of our military is serious business and he ought to be more respectful to his fellow soldiers and those in authority over him. If you don't like the way our military operates, then don't enlist . It's that simple. But you don't make death threats to them. The work of our miliitary is to stop these kinds of threats from the terrorists and here he is one of them. He gives the entire military a bad name with this kind of crap. He has all those criminal charges coming and more.
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    Jan 21, 2010 5:59 PM GMT
    Which part of his lyric is the threat?
  • coolarmydude

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    Jan 21, 2010 6:01 PM GMT
    McGay saidWhich part of his lyric is the threat?

    F--k you colonels, captains, E-7s and above...I gotta a motherf--king magazine with thirty rounds On a three round burst, ready to fire down Still against the wall I grab my M-4 Spray and watch all the bodies hit the floor I bet your never stop loss nobody no more In your next lifetime of course, no remorse Yeah

    I and Red Vespa are in that grouping. I don't support stop loss, but his general threat is enough to warrant punishment. If he were to act on that threat, then you and everyone else would question why nothing was done to prevent the attack.