Monday, September 27, 2010

Angry, depressed - and a bit scared

Just a little. But it's there.

Thuggish police tactics to suppress dissent still generate outrage but no longer shock. At the same time, it's wise to recall that police violence against demonstrators is hardly new - and neither is spying on peace and justice movements.

Still, that doesn't take away the tingle of another '60s flashback, this one being raids on the homes of peace activists coupled with grand jury investigations into vague charges of some sort of associations with "terrorists" - or, as it was back then, "known radicals."
The FBI said it searched eight locations in Minneapolis and Chicago as part of a terrorism investigation Friday. Warrants suggest agents were looking for connections between local anti-war activists and terrorist groups in Colombia and the Middle East.
An FBI mouthpiece said the raids were "seeking evidence relating to activities concerning the material support of terrorism." Although there were no arrests, those raided in Minneapolis, along with those in Chicago, were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.

Ted Dooley, the attorney for one of those whose home was searched in Minneapolis, said
It seems like they're casting a huge seine or net into the political sea and see what they can drag up on shore and dry out. There's no rhyme or reason to it in a free society.
"Casting a huge net." Yup. Or, as it's otherwise known, a fishing expedition. Just keep groping around, see if by chance you can come up with something that can be used to attack or better yet discredit protestors and their causes. Same as it ever was; only the proximate claims have changed.

The claim this time revolves around, again, "material support of terrorism," banned by federal law and a phrase which survived a court challenge this past June even though it's so vague that it could not only be used to arrest people who donated food or clothing to a legal charity allegedly connected to a "terrorist group" (Hamas, for example, has such charitable arms) on the grounds that such a donation "frees up other resources" but could even make talking to a "terrorist group" about nonviolent alternatives a cause for imprisonment.

What makes this especially disturbing is that this comes right about the same time that a DOJ Inspector General report
blasted the Federal Bureau of Investigation for lying and spying on anti-war activists, animal-rights groups, and environmentalists, calling the improper “terror” investigations "unreasonable and inconsistent with FBI policy."

Among those targeted were the anti-war Thomas Merton Center, the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers), the Catholic Worker, Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and an individual Quaker peace activist. According to the Inspector General, there was "little or no basis" for the investigations.

The phony probes resulted in innocent people being placed on the infamous “terror watch list” and in FBI boss Robert Muller providing "inaccurate and misleading information" to Congress, the report stated.
A Boston Globe editorial called the FBI's actions "shameful red-baiting at its worst" involving "serious abuses," including (beyond those mentioned above) extending investigations without good cause, improperly retaining information on the groups, and classifying anti-war protests and the like under the category "terrorism."

One part of the report covered a case in Pittsburgh where a rookie agent was sent on a make-work assignment to identify "terrorism suspects" at a rally organized by the Merton Center - but when that story started to come out, the local Bureau tried to avoid being embarrassed by creating fake "routing slips" intended to create - out of thin air - a "counter-terrorism"-related cause for the agent to attend the rally. While at first blush that may seem like just some bureaucratic CYA, it demonstrates beyond doubt that offices of the FBI are entirely willing to lie, to create false records, and thus brand a targeted group as connected to terrorism - maybe even, one could easily think, to branding it as offering "material support."

Damn. There's that tingle again.

Footnote: Still, filed under "Every dark cloud and all that" comes a report from The Uptake, an independent online news site based in Minneapolis, that by 5:30pm Friday, the same day as the house raids, a public meeting was organized to which "several hundred concerned citizens" turned out to hear about what had happened and that there will a rally today, Monday, at the Minneapolis FBI office.

A lesson from the '60s apparently well-learned by some: In the face of these sort of official pressures and tactics and threats (both real and implied), the best thing to do is just keep going. Just keep doing what you were doing. And now I'm frustrated because I know there is an old folky-type song that has a line something like "don't get turned aside" and I wanted to find a link to it or the lyrics and I can't think of the song or find it by any search I can think of. Damn. Help?

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