After more than 24 hours of being slaughtered on social media for giving the FBI an access code to one of its safes, Liberty Safe announced changes to its policies regarding storage of access codes and cooperation with law enforcement.
The manufacturer admitted Tuesday that it had provided an access code to the FBI on August 30, 2023 for a gun safe after “receiving proof of [a] valid warrant.” While Liberty Safe did not provide the name of the owner or the location of the safe, it’s generally believed that it was the safe of Nathan Hughes, an Arkansas man who attended protests at the U.S. Capitol and whose home and business were raided on August 30. The Hodgetwins, who say they are friends of Hughes, tweeted Monday that Hughes had been raided and arrested, and that Liberty Safe provided the FBI with an access code to his gun safe during the raid.
As video provided by the Hodgetwins shows, Hughes was at his business when the FBI rolled up. The gun safe was at his home, where the feds turned off his surveillance cameras and internet before handcuffing his girlfriend (who’d recently suffered a miscarriage) and holding her at gunpoint. While the feds had a search warrant, the specifics of the warrant aren’t known, and the available information shows that there wasn’t anyone else at the home who could possibly access the contents of the safe and harm the agents.
From Liberty’s first statement and what was known from social media postings, the type of code provided to the FBI wasn’t clear – whether it was Hughes’ actual code that Liberty had on file, or a master access code, or a one-time access code. And, though Liberty referenced procedures around cooperation with law enforcement, it didn’t specify what that procedure is and how its customers’ rights are protected in that procedure.
Liberty’s newest statement gives some answers, but raises more questions and concerns. Their new tweet included the original statement with a banner labeling it as page one, then added two more graphics. For reference, here’s the original tweet:
— Liberty Safe (@libertysafeinc) September 6, 2023
Then, Liberty informed its customers that they can go to the company’s website and fill out a form “to have records of their access codes expunged” and that “in the coming weeks, we will be releasing a feature that gives every new customer this option when registering their safe.” They did not mention any steps they would be taking to perform outreach to their customers who do not read X/Twitter and who don’t even go online much. As one commenter observed, especially with an item such as a gun safe, the default should be for Liberty Safe to not keep records of any access code to a safe; customers should have to opt in.
Liberty Safe then warns customers that “those who opt out of our data storage process will have limited recourse in case of a lost combination” while allowing that “we understand that many of our customers are willing to assume the responsibility of safeguarding their own combination.” With all due respect to the woke venture capital group that bought Liberty Safe in 2021, law-abiding gun owners are the most responsible demographic around. Some have what Upper East Side types would call an “arsenal” at their disposal, and keep their guns safely stored and out of the hands of those who would use them irresponsibly. The responsibility of safeguarding their own combination is an easy task.
It shouldn’t take someone getting raided by the feds over J6 for safe companies to change their policies and finally protect customer information.
They should’ve never given a back door to peoples safes without a subpoena.
— Hodgetwins (@hodgetwins) September 7, 2023
On the next page, Liberty stepped in a big pile again, tacitly admitting that they did not have to just hand the code to Hughes’ safe over.
Going forward we will require a subpoena that legally compels Liberty Safe to supply access codes but can only do so if these codes still exist in our system.
That can be read at least two ways – one way being that they are wink-and-nod telling customers to request deletion of their access codes so in case they are raided there won’t be access codes to give to law enforcement, and the other being that they have not required subpoenas in the past to supply access codes to law enforcement (only a valid warrant for the premises upon which the safe is located) and that if law enforcement wants to keep getting those codes, there will need to be some kind of law that requires safe manufacturers to retain access codes or provide some type of backdoor for law enforcement.
In addition, this revised policy about cooperation with law enforcement clarifies that Liberty did not have to immediately comply with a request and basically did so as a favor because there was a valid warrant for the premises. It shows their first statement to be completely disingenuous as they made it seem that their hands were tied. From their first statement, emphasis mine:
Our company protocol is to provide access codes to law enforcement if a warrant grants them access to a property. After receiving the request, we received proof of the valid warrant, and only then did we provide them with an access code.
Liberty Safe is devoted to protecting the personal property and 2nd amendment rights of our customers and has repeatedly denied requests for access codes without a warrant in the past. We do not give out combinations without proper legal documentation being provided by authorities.
We regularly update our policies to ensure both compliance with federal and state law and reasonable consumer privacy protections within the law.
One defense of Liberty’s actions was the argument that they were saving their customer’s property by not forcing the FBI to bust into the safe and damage it. Hughes’ attorney Bill Shipley, a/k/a former RedState writer Shipwrecked Crew, had more information about that:
I’m going to guess they didn’t know that the Government reimburses for destruction of property during execution of a search warrant. It’s a process, but if FBI cracks your safe, they pay you for it. They only have PC [probable cause] there is evidence in there — you’re not guilty of anything. And the evidence they are looking for might not have anything to do with the safe’s owner. Liberty Safe simply didn’t know what they were doing, they allowed themselves to be bullied by fact there was a warrant.
Shipley, who is representing numerous January 6 defendants, also wrote that there are “some very troubling features” regarding the Government’s approach in Hughes’ case, particularly that Hughes was present at the Capitol on January 6 as a member of the press.
Proud to announce I will be representing Nathan Hughes
Some very troubling features re the Govt approach here. Expect to mount an aggressive defense, including forcing DOJ to confront their own policies as well as the law on prosecuting members of the press. Nathan has attended many protests of all types as part of his reporting. His presence at the Capitol on 1/6 was not any different in that respect. Anxious to get started.
As referenced above, Liberty Safe is now owned by an investment firm, Monomoy Capital Partners. Salem talk radio host Charlie Kirk looked up some of the firm’s political donations, and they’re not surprising considering what’s happened.
Liberty Safe was sold to Monomoy Capital Partners in 2021, a liberal East Coast investment firm. I pulled the FEC reports on the company and found approximately $400,000 over the last 10 cycles of max donations to Democrats like:
Raphael Warnock in GA
John Fetterman in PA… pic.twitter.com/WqnlQpPnrA
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) September 7, 2023
The tweet cuts off a few names, but Kirk found that they’d maxed out to Raphael Warnock, John Fetterman, Mandela Barnes, and Mark Kelly. It doesn’t seem like a smart tactic to max out to politicians who want to destroy your business, and it’s likely that Liberty Safe customers do not want their dollars ultimately funding gun grabbers.
Kirk also found some receipts from the company’s current CEO:
Liberty Safe’s current CEO, Justin Hillenbrand, was a founding partner of Monomoy and donated $4,600 to Obama for America.
And we’re supposed to be surprised they betrayed their customers to the FBI as quickly as humanly possible?
Boycott Liberty Safe.
Will this save Liberty Safe from a fate worse than Bud Light? Only time will tell, but it’s not looking hopeful at the moment.
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