Published on July 5, 2011 by The Boston Herald
By Dan K. Thomasson
WASHINGTON — In the near future the noise you hear in your outside trash container might not be that pesky raccoon or the neighbor’s dog, but the FBI, looking for evidence to link you to some criminal or terrorist activity. That would be particularly true if you have had any contact knowingly or unknowingly, socially or otherwise with someone the bureau finds suspicious. If past experience is any guide, that could be nearly anyone.
According to recent news reports, officials of the national police force are preparing for another assault on our civil liberties. They are planning to give their agents more leeway to intrude into the lives of those they decide need further looking into by amending the domestic operations manual that sets out guidelines for conducting investigations. They would have enhanced ability to search not only household trash but also databases and could assign surveillance teams to scrutinize every aspect of American lives — shades of J. Edgar Hoover and his infamous Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO).
At the risk of overstating the case, that’s just plain scary.
Link that with reports of a mysterious FBI investigation into the activities of peace advocates and politically active labor organizers, and the past is not only prologue, it never went away. The Washington Post reported that the probe involving raids on seven homes and the issuance of subpoenas for 23 people last fall has triggered a major protest at the Justice Department. The investigation apparently is examining possible material support for Colombian and Palestinian groups designated as terrorists, the newspaper said.
There is no question that the bureau’s efforts to refocus its mission to counterterrorism have been largely successful. So much so that President Barack Obama has called off his search for a new FBI director and plans to seek a two-year extension of Robert Mueller’s 10-year term, which expires in September, despite the fact that the bureau’s surveillance tactics of advocacy groups and mosques have been severely criticized. An inspector general’s report four years ago said that the FBI had frequently misused so called national security letters that permit agents to obtain phone and other records without first receiving court permission.
Why the FBI would need an expansion of warrantless authority is unclear. There is enough existing machinery that allows agents and their supervisors to obtain expedited court permission for searches, especially in intelligence and national security cases where a special panel has been set up for that purpose.
During the Nixon administration when anti-Vietnam protest was at its height, a proposal by a minor White House functionary just out of college that would have suspended many of our civil liberties almost came to fruition. The plan was shelved only for the lack of a single signature. In one of that tumultuous period’s more ironic incidents, Hoover refused to sign off, relegating this dangerous undemocratic plan to a footnote in history.
Perhaps the same fate should be given this latest proposal.
Published on July 1, 2011 by AlterNet
By Bill Berkowitz
A new report from New York University’s The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice focuses on “three high-profile terrorism prosecutions” where “government informants played a critical role in instigating and constructing the plots that were then prosecuted”
Government infiltration of political organizations perceived as potential threats to national security, is as American as Twinkies, Elvis ripping off Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog,” and Newt Gingrich’s million-dollar line of credit at Tiffany’s.
The use of informants and agent provocateurs was perfected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), during the 1960s and 70s, when COINTELPRO (a program aimed at destabilizing New Left groups, and the Black and women‘s liberation movements) became a household word – at least in movement households.
According to a report by the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, also known as the Church Committee, the FBI relied on “secret informants . . . wiretaps, microphone ‘bugs,’ surreptitious mail opening, and break ins, [which gathered] vast amounts of information about the personal lives, views and associations of American citizens” and “conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.”
(For the record, it is not only an American phenomena; regimes all over the world regularly use similar tactics.)
Often, as is seen now across the political spectrum, and was repeatedly evidenced during the Civil Rights and the anti-Vietnam War movements, undercover law enforcement officials infiltrate organizations in an attempt to undermine them, convince members of these groups to take either unproductive actions that could result in public scorn, and/or to pursue militant actions, often involving illegal and violent activities. Many infiltrators become provocateurs and actually provide the expertise and tools/weapons necessary to carry out violent actions including sabotage and bombing. Agents run amok carried out illegal actions sanctioned by far away government officers.
After 9/11, the re-ignition and ramping up of the so-called “War on Terrorism” has brought about an escalation of these methods by government agencies. While the tentacles of entrapment have stretched across political, religious and ethnic lines, they have been primarily focused on Muslim communities and organizations.
“Since September 11, 2001, the U.S. government has targeted Muslims in the United States by sending paid, untrained informants into mosques and Muslim communities,” reads the first sentence of the Executive Summary from a chilling new report about the misuse of government informants to manufacture a crisis. “This practice has led to the prosecution of more than 200 individuals in terrorism-related cases. The government has touted these cases as successes in the so-called war against terrorism. However, in recent years, former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, local lawmakers, the media, the public, and community-based groups have begun questioning the legitimacy and efficacy of this practice, alleging that – in many instances – this type of policing, and the resulting prosecutions, constitute entrapment.”
The report titled “
“Terror and Entrapment” focuses on “three high-profile [New York-area] terrorism prosecutions” — the “Newburgh Four” with a focus on defendant David Williams; the “Fort Dix Five” with a focus on defendants Eljvir, Dritan, and Shain Duka; and the case of Shahawar Matin Siraj – “in which government informants played a critical role in instigating and constructing the plots that were then prosecuted.” (All of the cases are discussed in detail in the report.)
According to the report, the FBI and/or the New York City Police Department, “sent paid informants into Muslim communities or families without any particularized suspicion of criminal activity.” As the report points out, the use of informants has always been a dicey proposition since they are often working in areas of law enforcement for which they have no particular training. Equally problematic is that informants receive personal benefits for their work; the reduction of charges in a pending case, the lessening of a pre-existing prison sentence, a “change in immigration status,” or payment in exchange for “providing useful information,” which creates “a dangerous incentive structure.”
In the cases examined by “Terror and Entrapment,” “the government’s informants held themselves out as Muslims and looked in particular to incite other Muslims to commit acts of violence. The government’s informants introduced and aggressively pushed ideas about violent jihad and, moreover, actually encouraged the defendants to believe it was their duty to take action against the United States.”
Government agents preyed upon the “defendants’ vulnerabilities – youth and poverty,” in its methods. The government appears to have also taken full advantage of the lack of sophistication and street smarts of many of those lured into participating in the “concocted plots.”
During an interview with the authors of “Terror and Entrapment,” Alicia McWilliams, the aunt of David Williams, one of the “Newburgh Four,” raised another important concern: “Newburgh is an extremely impoverished town. How much money did they spend on this whole production? They need to be investing in our communities for the future, not spending millions of dollars on a fake case that makes nobody safer.”
The report’s authors found that ‘”In all three cases, the government selected or encouraged the proposed locations that the defendants would later be accused of targeting. In all three cases, the government also provided the defendants with, or encouraged the defendants to acquire, material evidence, such as weaponry or violent videos, which would later be used to convict them.”
The report points out that those convicted, “are facing prison sentences of 25 years to life.”
The report maintains that “Counterterrorism law-enforcement policies and practices are undermining U.S. human rights obligations to guarantee the rights to nondiscrimination; a fair trial; freedom of religion expression and opinion; as well as the right to an effective remedy when rights violations take place.”
Since 9/11, it has been documented that “there have been more instances of politically-motivated violence in the U.S. committed by non-Muslims than there have been by individuals claiming to be motivated by Islam.”
In an recent email exchange, a conservative friend pointed out that he thought that the Department of Homeland Security’s report on the right-wing threat was an example of the DHS seeking to, “manufacture a crisis and crimes where there were none, to, in essence, use the document itself as the provocateur, provoker, and twister-of-facts.” The Report is, he noted, “in and of itself, an ‘informant’ that twists the truth for its own purposes.”
Regardless of how much one believes that there is a palpable threat of terrorism from homegrown Muslims, white supremacists and/or Christian patriots, the government’s methodology used to uncover real, or manufactured plots, needs to be thoroughly examined. In order to justify escalating and profligate spending on anti-terror projects, the government understands that it must show results. The use of agent provocateurs and informants almost guarantees a steady stream of pyrrhic anti-terrorist victories.
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.
© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
What do organizations associated with the civil rights movement, socialist, communist and “new left” organizations, anti-war movement, the American Indian Movement, the women’s rights movement, and movements for independence in Puerto Rico have in common? They have all been surveilled and violently disrupted by FBI’s illegal and covert Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). COINTELPRO represents the government’s strategy to prevent movements and communities from overturning white supremacy and creating social justice. COINTELPRO is both a formal program of the FBI and a term frequently used to describe a conspiracy among government agencies—local, state, and federal—to destroy movements for self-determination and liberation for Black, Brown, Asian, and Indigenous struggles, as well as to mount an institutionalized attack against allies of these movements and socialist and communist organizations and other progressive organizations. This educational film will open the door to understanding this history. Don’t miss this opportunity to watch this unreleased documentary about a part of US’ history that rarely gets talked about. The documentary is produced by the Freedom Archives, presented by the Cultural House and sponsored by the Department of Multicultural Life, and Sociology, Media&Cultural Studies and History Departments.
For questions or directions, please contact Hanna Backman,firstname.lastname@example.org / 651-332-9743
In November 2009 Dhoruba Bin-Wahad, a former US political prisoner, leader the Black Panther Party, and member of the Black Liberation Army, was detained and deported from the West Bank of occupied Palestine by Israeli authorities. He had been invited to attend a conference on political detention by the Palestinian Authority. Dhoruba spent 19 years of a life sentence in jail for a crime he did not commit. He was a target of the FBI’s COINTELPRO, was arrested in 1971 and had his conviction overturned in 1990. He will discuss historic and current struggles again social injustice and state violence in the US and in Palestine, with a specific focus on political prisoners and institutions that repress social movement mobilization within communities fighting oppression.
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