OXFORD, N.C. — Sixteen-year-old Ashton Lundeby's bedroom in his mother's Granville County home is nothing, if not patriotic. Images of American flags are everywhere – on the bed, on the floor, on the wall.
But according to the United States government, the tenth-grade home-schooler is being held on a criminal complaint that he made a bomb threat from his home on the night of Feb. 15.
The family was at a church function that night, his mother, Annette Lundeby, said.
"Undoubtedly, they were given false information, or they would not have had 12 agents in my house with a widow and two children and three cats," Lundeby said.
Around 10 p.m. on March 5, Lundeby said, armed FBI agents along with three local law enforcement officers stormed her home looking for her son. They handcuffed him and presented her with a search warrant.
"I was terrified," Lundeby's mother said. "There were guns, and I don't allow guns around my children. I don't believe in guns."
Lundeby told the officers that someone had hacked into her son's IP address and was using it to make crank calls connected through the Internet, making it look like the calls had originated from her home when they did not.
Her argument was ignored, she said. Agents seized a computer, a cell phone, gaming console, routers, bank statements and school records, according to federal search warrants.
"There were no bomb-making materials, not even a blasting cap, not even a wire," Lundeby said.
Ashton now sits in a juvenile facility in South Bend, Ind. His mother has had little access to him since his arrest. She has gone to her state representatives as well as attorneys, seeking assistance, but, she said, there is nothing she can do.
Lundeby said the USA Patriot Act
stripped her son of his due process rights.
"We have no rights under the Patriot Act to even defend them, because the Patriot Act basically supersedes the Constitution," she said. "It wasn't intended to drag your barely 16-year-old, 120-pound son out in the middle of the night on a charge that we can't even defend."
Passed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S., the Patriot Act allows federal agents to investigate suspected cases of terrorism swiftly to better protect the country. In part, it gives the federal government more latitude to search telephone records, e-mails and other records.
"They're saying that 'We feel this individual is a terrorist or an enemy combatant against the United States, and we're going to suspend all of those due process rights because this person is an enemy of the United States," said Dan Boyce, a defense attorney and former U.S. attorney not connected to the Lundeby case.
Critics of the statute say it threatens the most basic of liberties.
"There's nothing a matter of public record," Boyce said "All those normal rights are just suspended in the air."
In a bi-partisan effort, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., last month introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives a bill
that would narrow subpoena power in a provision of the Patriot Act, called the National Security Letters, to curb what some consider to be abuse of power by federal law enforcement officers.
Boyce said the Patriot Act was written with good intentions, but he said he believes it has gone too far in some cases. Lundeby's might be one of them, he said.
"It very well could be a case of overreaction, where an agent leaped to certain conclusions or has made certain assumptions about this individual and about how serious the threat really is," Boyce said.
Because a federal judge issued a gag order in the case, the U.S. attorney in Indiana cannot comment on the case, nor can the FBI. The North Carolina Highway Patrol did confirm that officers assisted with the FBI operation at the Lundeby home on March 5.
"Never in my worst nightmare did I ever think that it would be my own government that I would have to protect my children from," Lundeby said. "This is the United States, and I feel like I live in a third world country now."
Lundeby said she does not think this type of case is what the Patriot Act was intended for. Boyce agrees.
"It was to protect the public, but what we need to do is to make sure there are checks and balances to make sure those new laws are not abused," he said.