Targetting the Wrong People for the Wrong Reasons

I know I beat this drum often, but once again, we learn that our surveillance apparatus is directed at non-violent political opposition (boldface mine):

Other centers distributed information about the [Occupy] protests, sometimes describing arrests or disruptive tactics, but often listing apparently lawful, even routine activities.

A center in Nevada regularly sent out reports from more than a dozen cities that included descriptions of uneventful demonstrations and a “rally for jobs and justice” with the Rev. Al Sharpton. Officials circulated descriptions of plans in Seattle for an anti-consumerist flash mob to dance to the rock anthem “Invincible.” Others monitored Facebook pages, noting events like a meditation led by Buddhist monks or a student march with participants dressed as “zombie bankers.”

The Boston Regional Intelligence Center, one of the most active centers, issued scores of bulletins listing hundreds of events including a protest of “irresponsible lending practices,” a food drive and multiple “yoga, faith & spirituality” classes.

The reports also listed appearances by people including a professor at the Harvard Divinity School, the linguist Noam Chomsky and an official at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, who was to discuss the Patriot Act. Some reports noted that a man scheduled to join in a teach-in at Dewey Square had written a film about Sacco and Vanzetti and wondered whether he was “a known/respected figure within the anarchist movement.” Others described Bill McKibben, an environmentalist and scholar at Middlebury College, stating, “McKibben organized a sit-in near the White House in August of this year to protest construction of a pipeline,” and was arrested but not charged.

As we’ve noted before, some fusion centers appear to be nothing more than extensions of corporate security (boldface mine):

At times, fusion center officials shared information produced by what Homeland Security calls “private sector partners.” For instance, the head of the Washington police department’s intelligence fusion division sent an email to colleagues before Thanksgiving 2011 with an order to develop a “one-page product” to acquaint commanders with “the potential threat” described in a 31-page report prepared by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

The report examined protesters’ “attitude towards retail,” suggested that business could be disrupted on the day after Thanksgiving and listed several “specific known threats.” They included credit card detractors equipped with scissors at malls and posters offering “help for people who want to put an end to mounting debt and extortionate interest rates with one simple cut” and a group of people who had declared on a website that they would “intentionally forgo the shopping frenzy.”

This is not what most people thought they were getting: counterterrorism. How does trying to limit people’s credit card debt rise to a clear and present danger? Worse, it distracts from the real threats at hand (boldface mine):

There’s another critical difference that doesn’t get as much attention: the extreme left is, generally speaking, harmless. That’s their nature. They’re more likely to meditate and form committees than hurt anyone. It’s been almost half a century since there were any leftists plotting bombings, and other than the occasional eco-vandal keying an SUV, the left isn’t going to be creating much in the way of crime and mayhem.

Extreme conservatives, on the other hand, are much more likely to be armed and dangerous. And we have plenty of examples of right-wing terrorism in our recent history, from the Oklahoma City bombing, to the Atlanta Olympic bombing, to the neo-Nazi who murdered six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012, to the murders this April in Kansas at a Jewish community center and retirement home, and dozens more. So you would think that law enforcement authorities would be particularly concerned about violent extremism on the right, while not wasting precious resources monitoring, infiltrating, and harassing leftists who are doing things like protesting U.S. foreign policy or opposing income inequality….

Anti-war groups were infiltrated with undercover officers posing as protesters, the most innocuous groups imaginable were spied on (you can rest easy knowing the threat from Quaker peace activists was closely monitored by anti-terrorism officials), and wherever a bunch of liberals got together to raise their voices, mass arrests often followed.

If you can’t recall any Tea Party protests in 2009 and 2010 being broken up by baton-wielding, pepper-spraying cops in riot gear, that’s because it didn’t happen. Just like the anti-war protesters of the Bush years, the Tea Partiers were unhappy with the government, and saying so loudly. But for some reason, law enforcement didn’t view them as a threat.

Calling these efforts ‘counterterrorism’ is ridiculous–they focus on everything but clear physical threats. Worse, it’s clear that our many of those in our ‘intelligence’ organizations are completely out of touch with what passes for the moderate left, and have no instinctual understanding of these groups–of course, the fact that some view themselves as corporate security adjuncts doesn’t help.

It’s also worth noting that treating people like violent radicals when they are not gives them an incentive to become violent. Do we want groups like Occupy to think their only mistake was to be unarmed?

End the fusion centers now.

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2 Responses to Targetting the Wrong People for the Wrong Reasons

  1. Paul Lemmen says:

    Reblogged this on Dead Citizen's Rights Society.

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