It is truly astonishing. I cannot for the life of me understand how — in the name of a ridiculous, counterproductive, never-ending “War on Terror” — citizens of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave meekly acquiesce to our government eviscerating the civil rights of their fellow U.S. citizens, and yet somehow never consider for one second that those powers will inevitably be turned on themselves, purely for political purposes. It’s all good as long as those being denied their rights are Those Other People: you know, black, brown and/or Muslim. And I’d expect it from authoritarian followers of Bushco. But for all that Democratic blather about “OMFG! Shredding the constitution!” under Bush/Cheney, the Democratic silence is eerie when Obama does exactly the same things (or worse). The collective pants-wetting after 9/11 when the citizenry went scared, stupid and irrational made this story from the AP inevitable:
Documents show NYPD infiltrated liberal groups
NEW YORK (AP) – Undercover NYPD officers attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the country, according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counterterrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities.
The infiltration echoes the tactics the NYPD used in the run-up to New York’s 2004 Republican National Convention, when police monitored church groups, anti-war organizations and environmental advocates nationwide. That effort was revealed by The New York Times in 2007 and in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit over how the NYPD treated convention protesters.
Police said the pre-convention spying was necessary to prepare for the huge, raucous crowds that were headed to the city. But documents obtained by The Associated Press show that the police department’s intelligence unit continued to keep close watch on political groups in 2008, long after the convention had passed.
So what scary terrorists and threats to public order were being monitored after the convention?
In April 2008, an undercover NYPD officer traveled to New Orleans to attend the People’s Summit, a gathering of liberal groups organized around their shared opposition to U.S. economic policy and the effect of trade agreements between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
When the undercover effort was summarized for supervisors, it identified groups opposed to U.S. immigration policy, labor laws and racial profiling. Two activists – Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, and Marisa Franco, a labor organizer for housekeepers and nannies – were mentioned by name in one of the police intelligence reports obtained by the AP.
“One workshop was led by Jordan Flaherty, former member of the International Solidarity Movement Chapter in New York City,” officers wrote in an April 25, 2008, memo to David Cohen, the NYPD’s top intelligence officer. “Mr. Flaherty is an editor and journalist of the Left Turn Magazine and was one of the main organizers of the conference. Mr. Flaherty held a discussion calling for the increase of the divestment campaign of Israel and mentioned two events related to Palestine.“
Oh no! Not unions! Immigrant rights! Anti-racism! All of that is dangerous and un-American enough. But not towing the party line on Israel and the Palestinians?! Well, we will need to make a note about that in your file.
The document provides the latest example of how, in the name of fighting terrorism, law enforcement agencies around the country have scrutinized groups that legally oppose government policies. The FBI, for instance, has collected information on anti-war demonstrators. The Maryland state police infiltrated meetings of anti-death penalty groups. Missouri counterterrorism analysts suggested that support for Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, might indicate support for violent militias – an assertion for which state officials later apologized. And Texas officials urged authorities to monitor lobbying efforts by pro Muslim-groups.
What the fuck did people think would happen when we enabled and even cheered for a massive, unaccountable surveillance state — one with bipartisan blessing? Seriously, no one ever heard of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI?
Flaherty said he recalls introducing a film about Palestinians but spoke only briefly and does not understand why that landed him a reference in police files.
Another activist quoted in the article nails it:
Eugene Puryear, 26, an activist who attended the New Orleans summit, said he was not surprised to learn that police were monitoring it. He said it was entirely peaceful, a way to connect community organizers around the issues of racism and the rights of the poor. But he described it as a challenge to corporate power and said the NYPD probably felt threatened by it.
“From their perspective, they need to spy on peaceful groups so they’re not effective at putting out their peaceful message,” he said. “They are threatened by anything challenging the status quo.”
Yep. And among other things, the status quo requires that all U.S. citizens pledge unconditional, patriotic support. Not for the U.S., silly. For Israel.
“The only threat was the threat of ideas,” [Flaherty] said. “I think this idea of secret police following you around is terrifying. It really has an effect of spreading fear and squashing dissent.”
Not at this blog, it doesn’t. While it lasts, anyway.
Remember after Obama was elected president all the wingnuts’ fevered delusions about the Top Secret federal government plans to lock up Teabaggers and conservatives in FEMA camps? It would behoove us to recognize that this particular fear was projection on their part: it is precisely what they would do to liberals if they could.
And really, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Last week, two Democratic Senators wrote a letter to the attorney general complaining of the FISA court’s secret laws and interpretation of the surveillance powers vested in the government under the Patriot Act.
“When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act,” Colorado Sen. Mark Udall said, “they will be stunned and they will be angry.”
They will? [Citation needed.]