Loose Lips

Gray Crank Call Allegation Still A Mystery

Shooting, Columbia Heights

Last night, I posted a short blog item on the allegation from the Vincent Gray camp that someone had been adopting the Gray campaign number and mass-crank-calling residents. The crank calls amounted to silence, then hanging up.

I made the mistake of not writing that the Gray camp "claims" or "alleges" that this was the work of a nefarious crank yanker and not, say, a problem with its phone system. It was a rookie mistake. (Unfortunately, I'm not a rookie; the headline has since been changed.)

Spurred on by the comments from Downtown Rez and Co., I followed up on my piece last night with calls and e-mails to the Metropolitan Police Department, Gray's phone service provider (Verizon), and the Gray campaign.

MPD would only say that its investigation is ongoing. They aren't sure what caused the mass hang-ups. Verizon put me into customer service hell. The Verizon staff in Dallas—which was where the number the Gray campaign posted sent me—had no idea what I was talking about. I left a message with Verizon's media people. I haven't heard back.

Meanwhile, Traci Hughes, Gray's campaign spokeswoman, says they wouldn't have sent out the press release if they thought it was a system failure. She adds that since the release went out, the number of crank-call complaints have decreased.

Hughes says she will alert the media as soon as the investigation concludes. In the interim, I like one reader's theory of the case:

"Seriously, they say it is a 'Prank Call' but no one says anything. That isn’t a crank call.

It is called a GIANT BUTT DIAL.."

File photo by Darrow Montgomery

  • downtown rez

    Thanks, Jason.
    This post far exceeded my expectations.
    Not to be a pain, but please ask Ms Hughs to update you on:
    What their (and her friends at MPD's) investigation turns up,
    What evidence the Gray campaign had that made them discount "system failure" and assume the campaign was under some form of electronic attack, and
    Why she called MPD and not the FBI. I ask this last question because I'm sure any MPD (and any politician...) would know the crime alleged crime is a federal one.
    My overall point is that, without some sort of clarifying statement from the Gray campaign, this whole thing stinks of either Gray campaign paranoia, or the Gray campaign pulling very dirty tricks they allege.
    To quote the Council Chair as printed in CP: “I don’t know...but I don’t put aside any possibility to tell you the truth.”

  • lacairaine

    @downtown rez...grow some (brains); you allow your local juridiction law enforcement to investigate a local matter and if it is determined by MPD that it needs to be escalated to another law enforcement agency then that is the protocol to follow.

    Again, until YOU know differently then let law enforcement handle this situation and remember they don't owe YOU any explanation.

  • downtown rez

    ThAnX fuR tHe GrAy-StYLe EduCAtioN.

  • Ward8forreal

    OMG what the poppycock. This is a pathetic cry for attention and a subtly way to make Fenty look back. Nobody jacked his phones lines.....

  • Ward8forreal

    bad that is ....

  • John

    I'd just like to join Rez in giving you credit where credit is due. Not fun to have to post something like this. I'd also like to join him in requesting follow up on this. If you send a press release and drop an insinuation, you deserve serious follow up and being called out if it proves bogus, or coverage if it proves true.

    Also, as an explanation to why I shoved...this (possibly) is a trivial version of the same "gaming of the media" politics is increasingly doing. In a nutshell, they've figured out how you folks work (group think "narratives", new cycle, etc...) and know how to play all of you like a fiddle. And as I believe that a free press is critical to a functioning republic, seeing it become a joke played by political operatives grates.

    As I said, Joe Lieberman playing the media for "web site hacking".

    The Bush admin faking "vandalism. Or feeding WMD BS on Iraq.

    The right wind nutjobs and the "World Trade Center Mosque"...down the street for a 20 y/o Mosque.

    Politicos know full well they can toss garbage out there, and it will get reported...so they get a 24 hr news cycle to propagandize the public. And they know you folks _hate_ corrections, so most will bury them. No one will cover that they got played, or investigate how they got played.

    Look at Shirley Sherod...Breitbart publishes a fakey video, which justifies Faux news going 24/7, which then justifies everyone else. CBS didn't report a video of uncertain origin...they reported "Faux" had a video. Not our fault! In that case the BS was so egregious it actually got attention, but most doesn't. As I said, "Screaming Howard" was completely faked by removing ambient crowd noise...but he'll never be taken seriously again.

    So watch people get away with this crap really, really, grates.

  • DCGuy

    OMG! Jesus Christ Superstar!

    What is all of this about. I didn't think this could get any more ridiculous. And here we go again with this lunatic STILL pressing Jason to do more investigative work. Is this an investigative journal or simply news stories. Geez! Let it Go Dude.

    I really could somewhat understand if your angle truly was out of concern for the lack of purity and responsibility for the journalistic process. But it's not.

    This is SOLELY about your rather strange desire to paint Jason as a stooge for Vincent Gray. Frankly, I could see if you were leveling this complaint against the Wpost. But to look at this dude's articles on both Fenty and Gray
    and conclude he's a stooge seems - no is, way off base.

    This is about your nonsupport of Gray. This is not about integrity in journalism nor concern of what happened in Gray's office.

    And that my friends, puts you squarely in the camp of the birthers - just looneyfornoreason.

  • lacairaine

    It is called Caller ID Spoofing and it is done quite regularly...Reading, once again, is FUNDAMENTAL!!!


    WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) -- One issue that has occupied Gray's campaign headquarters is not policy making, but has to do with receiving angry calls from voters saying they've been prank called by Gray's office.

    Gray responds and says his campaign phone numbers have been 'hijacked' by someone who has masked their telephone number and replaced it with the campaign's number.
    It's called Caller ID Spoofing.

    Gray says, "There's somebody who is behind that, we've asked Metropolitan Police, we've asked Verizon to look at it. Our campaign would not do that....call someone and hang up. That would be the last thing we would do."

    Whether politically motivated or a mere prank, Gray's opponent knows nothing about it.
    Fenty says, "I never even heard the story and I don't know the details."

    Dave Marcus is Mcafee's security research director and he says, "It is ridiculously easy to spoof a number. It only took me a few minutes to download an app and I can be anyone's number."

    He says even though the prankster hung up on voters, they could have easily given up sensitive information.

    Caller ID Spoofing is not illegal. But this past spring, Congress passed the "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2010."
    President Obama is expected to sign it into law by the end of the year.

    Vincent Gray's campaign spokesperson says the first thing we checked was to make sure that their office wasn't being sabotaged by someone internally.

    They also want to stress voters to please answer the phone because it could be a legitimate volunteer calling.

    Written by Surae Chinn
    9NEWS NOW & wusa9.com

  • downtown rez

    It's about ethics, and nothing more.
    Jason has shown his ethics. I'm very interested in how the Gray campaign demonstrates theirs.
    Strike one: VG to WCP “I don’t know who did this this, but I don’t put aside any possibility to tell you the truth.”
    Strike two: VG to World “The Vince Gray For Mayor telephone numbers have been hijacked by someone…”
    Strike three: The Tom Sherwood ad they were forced to pull from the air.

  • Mr. Bigglesworth

    More Crank Yankers photos, please.

  • DCGuy

    I'll explain why I don't believe you.

    Fenty has been accused of:
    - Playing footsy with the contracts given to his apparent unqualified, unlicensed Frat Brothers.
    - Violating policy with the whole FireTruckGate
    - Squandering an elderly man's money.

    Yet, I don't see any posts from you, (since "ethics" is where you claim you concerns lies), regarding any of that. While you're making a mountain out of a rodent's turd about Grays' eithics, I find it hard to fathom how you can conveniently ignore Fenty's alleged political indiscretions. Does vagueness about who's being this CallGate really compare to an actual record of contracts being doled out to frat brothers?

    I think not.

    That's why I find your specious arguments depicting ethics as your raison d'etre, quite suspect and rather unbelievable.

  • Charlie

    I am fairly sure the Gray campaign is not setting it's phone system to call people and hang up so they can a Fenty supporter is doing it in order to smear them. The suggestion that their system is flawed and making phone calls they know nothing about is interesting. What I would like to know is if the phone company can answer the question of where the calls actually originate. If they can then they could identify who is doing the caller ID spoofing or if the Gray campaign is using a system with defective software. If they can't we will probably never know what this is about. (And how would the terrorists use this.)

    So please get on that story.

  • downtown rez

    DC Guy-
    I'm sorry you feel that way, but my points about the VG's record of using the media in an attempt to propagate unsupported insinuation stand.
    In general I agree with you, but I do think you are more trusting than I.

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  • foldingtime

    All phone calls can eventually be traced. There is no such thing as an untraceable phone call. Of course, you need a wiretap warrant. To get a warrant, you need to demonstrate that the call was either obscene or threatening.

  • DCGuy

    @Drez, now I'm confused. So is it that you have an issue with poor journalism, Gray's lack of ethics, or a political campaign using the media to their benefit. Or shucks, is it all of the above?

    I'm asking because there is no hard evidence which shows that Gray is "responsible" for the failures of DHS back in the 90's. In fact, it seems that he, like Obama, was handed a bowl of crap that HE had to correct. Suggesting that the responsibility for its failure lies solely at the feet of Gray is misleading adn also unsupported by the facts. Yet, the media has consistently brought up Gray's role because of Fenty's playtime with the truth.

    Personally, I'm not that concerned about Fenty's antics and misappropriation of the truth. I have other reasons for my nonsupport. That's why I don't chase straw men which unfortunately, is what you are for some reason doing here.

    Fenty lies in campaign pamphlets.
    Gray leads the media to believe there were prank calls.

    One is proven. The other, as of yet, is not.

    I think you are being disingenous about your intentions here. It's fine to criticize. But please be consistent.

  • John

    DCGuy: Again, if you can't understand the difference between campaign operative ethics (Cluetrain, they don't have many) and journalistic ethics, can't help you.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com try2staysanendc

    Fenty @ it again

  • downtown rez

    It might otherwise be interesting to bet whether this "mystery" will be cleared up, or whether the "independent" council probe of contracts will be released first.
    But that would miss the point.
    I'll bet that neither will happen before the election. And I believe that will suit the Gray camp just fine, and that the unsupported insinuation of criminal wrongdoing is all they ever intended in the first place.

  • SuperS

    Downtown rez, FYI- Vincent Gray is up by 8 points in the latest poll.

  • downtown rez

    Here we are, Day 6 of the Great Gray Buttdialgate, and the only statement from the Gray camp is that their phones were hijacked.
    Welcome to "Unsupported Insinuation and the 24-Hour News Cycle 101".
    There are still not enough registrants to bother holding that "How to win friends in the Media 102" class I mentioned earlier.

  • downtown rez

    Day 9 of buttdialgate and... Nothing?
    Must have been a 24-hour bug.
    Oh, well, I'm sure some other Unsupported Insinuation will come along to distract us for the next 24-hour news cycle.

  • downtown rez

    One City of crickets.

  • downtown rez

    Hey, Jason.
    Tomorrow it'll be two weeks since the Gray Campaign called the cops and issued a press release claiming phone and wire fraud, a federal offence.
    Did they ever figure out what the problem actually was?
    Can we get a statement from them? Maybe a press release praising Verizon? Lord knows they could use the kudos- knowing that Verizon is competent might even help the stock market rebound!