In a series of raids last year, the FBI raided the homes and offices of antiwar activists in Minneapolis, North Carolina, Chicago, and California. They seized boxes of materials, cell phones, documents, and other private property, and issued subpoenas to a number of individuals, 24 at last count, demanding their appearance before a federal grand jury. The focus of this fishing expedition is ostensibly the “solidarity work” engaged in by the Antiwar Committee of Minneapolis, and sympathizing organizations, in Palestine and Columbia, but the history of police repression against these groups and individuals goes back years, specifically involving their work in organizing a march on the Republican and Democratic national conventions: in the Twin Cities, the “RNC Welcoming Committee,” which planned the protest, was of particular interest to the authorities. The local cops, working with the FBI, actively worked to recruit informants, and – using information gleaned from these infiltrators – conducted a weekend-long reign of terror in early September 2008, breaking down doors, manhandling protesters – including journalists – and rounding up dissidents in anticipation of violence they claim “might” have occurred had the authorities not acted.
In reality, of course, the RNC Welcoming Committee was engaged in perfectly legal activities protected by the First Amendment, and there was no evidence presented that violence was forthcoming – but, under the terms of the post-9/11 legislative assault on the Constitution that culminated in the “Patriot” Act and subsequent acts of Congress, the First Amendment is no longer operative in this country.
If you’re an Influential Person, however, you can get away with almost anything. Let’s say you’re Michael Mukasey, Bush’s former Attorney General, who recently traveled to Paris with Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security chieftain, Fran Townsend, President Bush’s former chief adviser on Homeland Security and counter-terrorism, and former New York City mayor and spectacularly failed presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, to endorse the continuing effort by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), or People’s Mujahideen, to get off the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.
MEK is an Iranian Marxist-turned-neocon Iranian exile group, with a weirdly cultish orientation, that has murdered US diplomatic personnel and was instrumental in the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran. They lost out in the power struggle following the overthrow of the Shah, and fled to Iraq, where they were succored by Saddam Hussein: MEK brigades fought on the Iraqi side during the Iraq-Iran war, and carried out terrorist acts against civilian targets – a strategy they would very much like to carry out with US assistance today.
Over one-hundred members of Congress, who recently signed an appeal to the State Department to take MEK off the terrorist list, are angling for this, and the prominence of the US delegation to the Paris confab is part of the continuing campaign by the War Party to legalize these somewhat nutty cultists – whose unquestioned leader, Maryam Rajavi, has already declared herself the “President” of Iran – and get the group funding. The idea is to use them, as the Bush team used the Iraqi National Congress, to get “intelligence” – of similar quality – to gin up another war, this time against Tehran.
Can you imagine the outcry in official Washington if the FBI invaded the offices of Mukasey, Giuliani, Ridge, and Townsend, searching for evidence of “material support” to a foreign terrorist organization – the same crime the Minneapolis defendants are potentially facing? Such laws, however, aren’t written in order to target such people: it’s only those without power who suffer such a fate. If you’re in any way associated with WikiLeaks, government agents are quick to stop you at the airport, question you, and seize your laptop, but if you’re Rudy the Lout, on the way back from a tête-à-tête with terrorists – the good kind, rest assured – you’re escorted to the VIP line and whisked through security.
Civil libertarians may cavil that this disparate treatment is evidence of selective prosecution, but selectivity is what the post-9/11 assault on the Bill of Rights is all about. Of course the government has the legal “right,” these days, to read everyone’s email, break into our private property, and collect information about our constitutionally protected activities – but you can bet they’re not intercepting Senor Mukasey’s email. Unless some political figure is being set up for blackmail, the Washington insiders and their friends are exempt from the depredations of the surveillance state. When it comes to the Antiwar Committee of Minneapolis, however – well, that’s a horse of a different color, as they say in the land of Oz.
In the wake of 9/11, the neocons were strategically enough placed to launch a two-front war: one at home, and one abroad. The post-9/11 coup, in which a handful of neocons seized control of the machinery of the state and lied us into war, also involved waging a war on the home front –against the Constitution. And while the Iraq campaign ended in failure, an outcome currently being replicated in Afghanistan, their domestic campaign to destroy the legacy of the Founders and create the basis for a police state was much more successful. Indeed, I would venture to call it a near total victory.
With the support of both political parties, an extensive network of “anti-terrorist” “fusion centers” was created, in which local, state, and national law enforcement agencies cooperated in a “fused” effort to gather intelligence on and take action against targets deemed potential nodes of terrorist activity. Acting under a very broad mandate, and with billions of our tax dollars at their disposal, these agencies were also under considerable pressure to produce results. This led, according to the Office of the Inspector General [.pdf], to spying on perfectly legal and even pacifist organizations, whose only “crime” was to oppose the foreign and military policies pursued by Washington.
A key part of this gigantic intelligence-gathering operation is the infiltration and disruption of suspect groups, such as the “RNC Welcoming Committee,” and the less publicized “welcoming committee” planned for the Democratic national conventioneers. I would note in passing that the unusual interest taken by law enforcement in these various “welcoming committees” is perfectly logical, albeit unconstitutional and intolerable in a free society, because the two “major” political parties are, after all, mere extensions of the State. With their legally privileged status, encoded in highly restrictive ballot access laws, and their regular receipt of government funds – the national conventions of both parties are given millions of taxpayer dollars to fund their partisan extravaganzas – the Democrats and Republicans are just as much wards of the government as are such “quasi-private” agencies as the National Endowment for Democracy, the Federal Reserve, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, or Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Any actions that challenge the power or legitimacy of these quasi-agencies are bound to be met by the State with brutal force. The fate of those who defy our two-headed official ruling party is no different from those who challenge the single-headed ruling parties that dominate what we call “totalitarian” or “authoritarian” states: hence the raids on the Minneapolis Antiwar group and their sympathizers nationally, and the subsequent grand jury fishing expedition.
In gathering evidence to justify these raids, and give what is simply an act of naked repression the color of “law,” the feds in cooperation with the local cops sent in infiltrators, including one “Karen Sullivan,” whose modus operandi is described here. After being recruited to the Antiwar Committee in 2008, Sullivan – whose lesbian orientation and hints of having been abused by a former husband made her a sympathetic figure to her fellow activists – proceeded to make herself indispensable. She joined the core group – the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Fight Back), a Marxist group which came out of the radical movements of the 1960s – and acted as a public spokeswoman for them, making speeches, and even traveling to Israel with other members in order to make contact with a Palestinian women’s organization.
This went on for two and a half years, as agent Sullivan collected information on the Freedom Roaders and reported it to her superiors – until the raids, in which the cops used a key provided no doubt by their snitch to break into the Antiwar Committee’s Minneapolis office. Whereupon she disappeared as quickly and mysteriously as she had first come on the scene.
The implications for the antiwar movement, and for any group that dares oppose government policy, are ominous: what this means is that any and all such groups must assume the presence of infiltrators, and take measures to guard against it. That this has a chilling effect on the public expression of dissent is an understatement: such assumed surveillance is certain to have the effect of weakening and marginalizing the targets, making it impossible to engage in constitutionally protected political organizing.
The pursuit of the Freedom Road organization is not intended to stop “terrorism” – unless one defines “terrorism” as any and all opposition to our foreign policy of global intervention. What it is designed to do is make an example out of the targets, and send a message: anyone who challenges our rulers in any significant way is going to be brought down using the full powers of the State to crush them, and jail them, if they persist. The campaign starts with a small group of Marxists, with no influence and virtually no allies, and ends with – well, then, how does it end? Where does it end?
It ends with you.
If the government can criminalize the peaceful political activities of the Freedom Roaders, and give the enablers of the violent MEK cultists a pass, then it’s open season on anyone and everyone. It isn’t just left-wing groups that are in the government’s crosshairs, either; if I were a Tea Party type – and I am – I’d be worried about the prospect of government infiltration and the potential trouble for the movement posed by agent provocateurs, especially in light of the Gifford shooting in Tucson. There was a nationally-coordinated campaign to blame the tea partiers before the smoke from that horrific incident had even cleared, and it isn’t hard to imagine the Obama administration being very interested in having the “far right” infiltrated as well as the “far left.”
What is happening in these United States that we are now saddled with a political police, which routinely spies on and intervenes in the peaceful, legal, and constitutionally protected activities of American citizens?
I’ll tell you what’s happening, and has already happened: we’ve reached a turning point, a bend in the road, and every day we go a little farther down it. To paraphrase Garet Garrett:
We have crossed the boundary that lies between liberty and dictatorship. If you ask when, the answer is that you cannot make a single stroke between day and night. The precise moment does not matter. There was no painted sign to say, “You now are entering Despotism.” Yet it was a very old road and the voice of history was saying: “Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing may be irreversible.” And now, not far ahead, is a sign that reads: “No U Turns.”
Whether we will listen to the Voice of History – indeed, whether we’re even capable of hearing it at this point – or else continue on our present course, deaf, dumb, and blind to what we must face at the inevitable end point of our journey, is not knowable. What I do know is this: if we don’t raise our voices, we are lost. This country is rapidly approaching the point when such activities as we are engaged in on this web site, and beyond it, are the target of government harassment, disruption, and outright repression. Our task now is to fight this trend with all our might – and prepare for the day of its final triumph.
What we are facing is the prospect of a regime such as has not been seen since the days of the Alien and Sedition Acts, or the Palmer raids of World War I: a new era of repression enhanced by modern technology. What is needed is a broad coalition of those on the right as well as the left who see the danger and are ready to unite in defense of basic constitutional liberties. Unless and until we build such a movement, the war on the Constitution will end in the unconditional surrender of our liberties by those who had neither the heart nor the nerve to fight.