Conservative bloggers taking precautions over ‘SWAT-ing’ attacks

Conservative bloggers are on heightened alert following a string of so-called "SWAT-ing" incidents and are taking precautionary measures to ensure they don't fall victim to the potentially dangerous prank as the political blogosphere prepares for a heated election season.

"SWAT-ing" refers to a hoax in which an anonymous prankster falsely reports a violent crime at an unsuspecting person's home, prompting a police team to respond to the location believing a dangerous situation is at hand.

The illegal practice has in recent months targeted well-known conservative writers and commentators, including Erick Erickson, founder of the blog -- who claims he was eating dinner with his family in May when a SWAT team surrounded his home following such a false 911 call.

The growing trend, which some say could one day prove deadly, had conservatives on edge at the annual RightOnline conference of right-wing bloggers and activists in Las Vegas this weekend.

"What they're clearly trying to do is dampen down free speech, but it goes beyond that -- it's putting people's physical safety in jeopardy," said Ali Akbar, who heads a group called the National Bloggers Club made up of conservative online writers.

More On This...

Akbar told that he believes he is a target after he claims his mother's home address in Texas was posted on various Internet sites to "incite someone crazy on the fringe left to do something absolutely awful to one of us for what we're talking about."

Akbar and others are urging troops of conservative bloggers to protect themselves by contacting their local law enforcement before they post about a "controversial" topic.

"Notify law enforcement," he said. "It's uncomfortable to talk to your local police about this, but it's absolutely important because getting SWAT-ted is not a joking matter. They come to your house with their guns drawn. They'll kick in your door."

Such was the case for conservative Patrick Frey of Patterico's Pontifications, who reportedly had a SWAT team --with guns drawn -- descend on his California home in July 2011 and handcuff him.

Those orchestrating the hoax make the calls appear as though they are originating from the victim's home by using sophisticated methods, like "voiceover IP" on a computer that makes it untraceable.

There is now a growing call to track down those responsible for the calls.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who headlined the two-day RightOnline conference, declared that "those responsible for this SWAT-ing must be held accountable by the law."

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., as well as 85 other members of Congress, is calling on the Justice Department to a launch a federal probe into the matter.

"The emerging pattern is both disturbing and dangerous," Chambliss wrote in a June 5 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. "Any potentially criminal action that incites fear, seeks to silence a dissenting opinion, and collaterally wastes the resources of law enforcement should be given close scrutiny at all levels."

The advances of the Internet -- like the birth of social media -- have enabled everyday "citizen journalists" to spread their messages like never before, but they have also created a potentially dangerous world for a political blogger, Akbar warned.

"We're writing in digital ink," he said, "So there's enough room these days for everybody to talk about everything."