An open letter to the FBI

Ladies and gentlemen:

I respect and appreciate all that you do to keep our country safe. But regarding your investigation of Kent State history professor Julio Assad Pino, it’s time to file charges or announce to the world why you will not. It’s time to end this media circus, now in its 4th day. Only the FBI can do this.

You arrived on campus last Monday asking a lot of questions about Professor Pino and his political statements. You directed some of those questions to our student journalists, as they have reported on Pino’s activities and the controversies that have followed him for the past 15 years. (And when it comes to Professor Pino, there’s no shortage of controversy.)

But I have a question: Was it necessary to tell these student journalists that your investigation involves possible connections between Pino and ISIS? And if so, what did you hope to accomplish with this revelation? You had to know they would report it, right? They’re journalists.

Here is what you did accomplish:

Your mention of ISIS launched a national media frenzy. It offered news outlets the one thing they treasure: low hanging fruit. No real news has has emerged since Tuesday, with the possible exception of Pino’s statement denying the allegations. (Let me add my compliments to the KentWired staff. They’ve done a fine job covering this story and, if nothing else, they’ve earned a lot of positive publicity for the J-School.)

Much of the national coverage about Pino is overblown and a good bit of it misleading. The publicity surge — none of which the university deserves — has inflicted significant damage to its reputation. In addition, by suggesting that Pino may have ties to ISIS, you created potential danger to the professor and his family. Come on, you guys monitor social media, so you know all about the threats and the anti-Islamic hatred that’s circulating out there. You’ve assured us there’s no threat to the safety of our community, and I hope you’re right. But a quick review of tweets and posts in social media tell a different story.

So here’s all I’m asking: If Professor Pino broke the law, then file the charges. If not, then close the book on this investigation, announce your findings, and let the Kent State community get back the work of learning and innovating.

To the critics who call for Pino’s dismissal from the university – or even his arrest on charges of treason – it’s time to put up or shut up. You claim Pino preaches his radical politics in the classroom. Present your evidence. You claim Pino is recruiting for terrorist groups. Show us the proof.

My purpose here isn’t to defend any of Pino’s political ideas, and I certainly don’t condone his incendiary rhetoric of the past. But like it or not, he’s entitled to those opinions until such time they’re deemed a “clear and present danger” to the nation. And if Pino eventually is charged with a crime, he’s also entitled to the presumption of innocence. That’s how the system works.

So please, FBI, help put an end to this hysteria. It’s not helping anyone.

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Opinions expressed are my own and don’t necessarily reflect the thinking of organizations with which I’m affiliated. 

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