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Another MySpace Crackdown

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Upset by the war in Iraq, Julia Wilson vented her frustrations with President Bush last spring on her Web page on MySpace.com. She posted a picture of the president, scrawled “Kill Bush” across the top and drew a dagger stabbing his outstretched hand. She later replaced her page on the social-networking site after learning in her eighth-grade history class that such threats are a federal offense.

It was too late.

Federal authorities had found the page and placed Wilson on their checklist. They finally reached her this week in her molecular biology class.

The 14-year-old freshman was taken out of class Wednesday and questioned for about 15 minutes by two Secret Service agents. The incident has upset her parents, who said the agents should have included them when they questioned their daughter. On Friday, the teenager said the agents’ questioning led her to tears.

“I wasn’t dangerous. I mean, look at what’s (stenciled) on my backpack – it’s a heart. I’m a very peace-loving person,” said Wilson, an honor student who describes herself as politically passionate. “I’m against the war in Iraq. I’m not going to kill the president.”

Her mother, Kirstie Wilson, said two agents showed up at the family’s home Wednesday afternoon, questioned her and promised to return once her daughter was home from school.

After they left, Kirstie Wilson sent a text message to her daughter’s cell phone, telling her to come straight home: “There are two men from the secret service that want to talk with you. Apparently you made some death threats against president bush.” “Are you serious!?!? Am I in a lot of trouble?” her daughter responded.

Moments later, Kirstie Wilson received another text message from her daughter saying agents had pulled her out of class.

Julia Wilson said the agents threatened her by saying she could be sent to juvenile hall for making the threat.

“They yelled at me a lot,” she said. “They were unnecessarily mean.”

Spokesmen for the Secret Service in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., said they could not comment on the case.

Wilson and her parents said the agents were justified in questioning her over her MySpace.com posting. But they said they believe agents went too far by not waiting until she was out of school.

They also said the agents should have more quickly figured out they weren’t dealing with a real danger. Ultimately, the agents told the teen they would delete her investigation file.

Assistant Principal Paul Belluomini said the agents gave him the impression the girl’s mother knew they were planning to question her daughter at school. There is no legal requirement that parents be notified.

“This has been an ongoing problem,” said Ann Brick, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in San Francisco.

Former Govs. Pete Wilson and Gray Davis vetoed bills that would have required that parents give consent or be present when their children are questioned at school by law enforcement officers. A similar bill this year cleared the state Senate but died in the Assembly.

Julia Wilson plans to post a new MySpace.com page, this one devoted to organizing other students to protest the Iraq war.

“I decided today I think I will because it (the questioning) went too far,” she said.

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