As I previously reported, someone began anonymously forwarding to me e-mail exchanges between Abdul Hakim-Shabazz and Ike Randolph. The first such e-mail I received was actually an e-mail Randolph sent to close supporters announcing his intention to seek the GOP nomination for mayor. I assumed the e-mail was forwarded to me by the recipient to get the word out about his campaign. I quickly posted the news on my blog. The Star's Matt Tully had already been in communication with Randolph and noted a couple of days later that my post had pre-empted his planned column that week about Randolph's candidacy. I became suspicious about the source of the e-mail later, however, when I was anonymously sent an e-mail exchange between Shabazz and Randolph, which Ruth Holladay recently inquired of me. She has posted that e-mail in her post today on this subject. The e-mail purported to be a message from Shabazz to Randolph as follows:
check indyuncover when you get home. i've got the draft for the (unveling). i also found out how to change the time of the postings, that could come in handy later.
The unveiling referenced in the e-mail appeared to relate to the planned uncovering of the identity of the person behind IndyUndercover. As we later learned, that turned out to be a post announcing that Indianapolis' law enforcement officers, collectively, were the persons behind IndyUndercover. I chose not to divulge the contents of the e-mail on my blog and, instead, questioned both Randolph and Shabazz about it. I believed the e-mail was either spoofed, or someone was illegally accessing one of the two men's private e-mail accounts. Shabazz denied he authored the blog, although he freely admitted he knew a group of law enforcement officers who were behind it. He laughed off the e-mail I showed him as I recall. He said the e-mail account identity shown for him was not one he used. I met with Randolph, at his request, after I met with Shabazz. He, too, denied any involvement. He had already viewed the e-mail I showed to Shabazz when I met with him. He noted that he was on vacation in Mexico at the time the e-mail in question was sent, and he didn't have access to his e-mail at that time.
Shabazz has subsequently acknowledged a more direct role in the blog. He has said he inspired a group of law enforcement officers to start up the blog as an outlet to vent their misgivings about the Peterson administration and Sheriff Frank Anderson. He has also acknowledged exchanging information with them on occasion, but he insists he didn't author any of the blog's posts. In an interview with Ruth Holladay earlier today, Randolph admits he knows at least one police officer behind the blog, but he denied any direct involvement. Randolph actually goes further than Shabazz and admits he received the e-mail in question from Shabazz, but he says Shabazz sent out the e-mail as a ruse to smoke out whoever Shabazz believed was gaining unauthorized access to his e-mail. Holladay writes:
I talked to Randolph today about that email, which I've seen. He acknowledged he received it from Abdul, but he denied being connected to Indy Undercover.
"No. Period," he said. "I do know a police officer who is part of the group that started it. I never pressured him. I don't think he did it all. There may have been as many as 12 (officers) involved."
As for the email, Randolph said Abdul called him a year and a half or so ago. "He said, 'Someone is jacking around with my computer. Here is what I want you to do. I'm gonna email you that I've got a new posting.'"
The ruse, according to Randolph, was that Abdul would use the words "indy undercover" as "a bait," to see "if the cops are monitoring me (Abdul)."
"I said, 'yeah, send it to me," said Randolph. "He (Abdul) believed his computer was being bugged. It was a test. It was just a passing thing."
Randolph said he was at the firehouse when Abdul contacted him. "I sent it online, I got on the Internet. We used the word 'indy undercover' in the email, just to see what would happen."
When I read Randolph's exchange with Holladay, I was a bit taken back by it. As I stated earlier, Randolph told me he was in Mexico on vacation with his family at the time the e-mail in question had been sent and did not have access to his e-mail account. Now, he says he was at the firehouse when Shabazz contacted him about sending the e-mail and the word "indyundercover" was intentionally included in the e-mail's subject heading. Call me cynical, but someone isn't getting his story straight on this one.
Does it really matter who is behind IndyUndercover? From a personal standpoint, it matters a lot to me because I have twice in the past been falsely accused of authoring the blog. The second time I was fingered by Jacob Perry after the IndyUndercover blog outed him as the Scribe who authored Circle City Pundit blog. Perry lashed out at me and blamed me for outing him on IndyUndercover in a defamatory screed on his blog. I really don't have any sympathy for Perry, but if the blog's authors thought it was okay to out Perry, then the bloggers at IndyUndercover shouldn't be heard to complain when they are outed by others. And lest we forget that it was Shabazz himself who publicly tied himself to the blog when he announced on his other blog, Indiana Barrister, police were attempting to serve a search warrant on him. After Russ McQuaid's report, additional questions were raised about whether Shabazz had been entirely candid on this matter.
In the larger sense, IndyUndercover has become the face of Indianapolis' law enforcement community, good or bad. At times, some of the blog's postings earned it a reputation as being racist, sexist and anti-gay. The negative aspects of the blog arguably damaged law enforcement's reputation in some corners. Many people would be shocked to learn that two, prominent African-Americans were behind the blog, one a journalist and the other a public employee and elected official.
There are other implications if Shabazz and Randolph are the persons behind the blog. Randolph is an elected official and a full-time firefighter, allowing him to draw two public salaries. It raises serious questions about whether he was using a city-furnished computer and Internet access to perform work on the blog on the taxpayer's dime, which I assume violates the city's computer use policy for its employees. Journalistic integrity comes to mind in Shabazz's case, but it also raises questions about the involvement of one of his employer's, a law firm at which the Marion County GOP Chairman is a partner, which could also indirectly implicate the county party. I hasten to add that IndyUndercover existed before Tom John became the county's elected chairman.
Let me be clear that on the whole I believe the IndyUndercover blog played an important role in helping bring matters to public light which needed the light shined on them. As someone who has operated my blog in full public view, I have no problem with the IndyUndercover's authors identity being revealed for all to see. Let the chips fall where they may.