Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Surveillance of dissent

COINTELPRO, the Counter Intelligence Program, was a covert intelligence operation in the 1960s, implemented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation  that targeted organizations and individuals in American society it deemed in its own words to be "subversive" to the agenda of the U.S. government. Its tactics included espionage and assassination by secret agents, propaganda, smear campaigns, disinformation, police brutality, perversion of justice, and agent provocateurs trained to incite violent during peaceful demonstrations. Those known to be "subversive", and were accordingly suppressed included: Dr. Martin Luther King and the churches and activist groups of the African-American civil rights, and women's rights movements, the Black Panther Party, student and civilian organizations opposed to the Vietnam War, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Muhammad Ali, Abbie Hoffman, and numerous socialist and communist political parties (groups such as the Klu Klux Klan, American Nazi Party and the John Birch Society were given marginal amounts of attention).  The efforts and movements of "subversives" such as these, in opposing racism and segregation, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and standing for free expression with direct action and civil disobedience, was an unprecedented democratic empowerment and advance of modern society opposed to the authoritarian hierarchy that systematically persecuted them.  COINTELPRO was only a specifically targeted conspiracy in a particular era of resistance, indignation and strife, but its intentions and maneuvers are not unexceptional nor absent today in the slightest.  Concerns over dissidents and classified discussions on state action against their subversiveness has been institutionalized in western countries since then, and remains so. The now public domain FBI file of historian Howard Zinn comprises 400 pages of details on his anti-war activism, documented by five secret agents over a 25 year period, which on observing illustrates the extent of Zinn's intimidation. He warned that voting "is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens.

The modern COINTELPRO in the United States is the PATRIOT act, a chilling acronym for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001," which was renewed by the U.S. congress in May. These "appropriate tools" permit the wiretapping of communications without a warrant and access to private records by the authorities, juryless and indefinite imprisonment of civilians, and deportation without trial, including to military bases where torture, referred to by the sickening and Orwellian euphemism "enhanced interrogation techniques" has been inflicted. The PATRIOT alongside the Transport Security Administration molesting, humiliating, traumatizing, and scanning the bodies of plane passengers and their children, have been justified by the threat of Islamist terrorism and the identical forms of crimes against humanity committed by it. Essentially, the terrorists have won. Fundamentalist purveyors of atrocity have conveniently served the agenda of the authoritarian corporate state. There is no doubt it will use its conveniently bestowed totalitarian powers, and will seek to make them as overarching as possible to the same and greatest extent.

Exactly like Howard Zinn, an anarchist anti-corporatist activist in Austin, Texas named Scott Crow, was targeted with surveillance by the FBI, excused under the conditions of the PATRIOT act, his peaceful organizing and protest being somehow possibly relating to al-Qaeda, with the preconditioned propaganda of "antiterrorism" therefore making this contempt of basic civil liberties justified.

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