Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Governmental spying/snooping

Let's note that Wally, Rebecca, Mike and Elaine are posting to their sites and note also that they are covering the issue of the government spying on domestic groups and individuals with no known links to terrorism.

What we know currently is that the NSA and the Pentagon have been spying on an assortments of groups. Since freedom of information requests by the ACLU are still being fought, it's a good guess (and then some) that there's quite a bit more.

From the ACLU's "ACLU Demands Records About Warrantless Spying by National Security Agency:"

NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union today submitted records requests under the Freedom of Information Act to the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Justice and the Central Intelligence Agency for information about the NSA's program of warrantless spying on Americans, which was authorized by President Bush."Requiring a judge to approve a wiretap is not a nicety that can be avoided by presidential decree - it is a fundamental rule of American democracy," said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU. The requests submitted today seek all records about "the policies, procedures and/or practices of the National Security Agency for gathering information through warrantless electronic surveillance and/or warrantless physical searches in the United States ..." Information received by the organization will be made public on its Web site. In response to the public outcry over widespread political surveillance during the 1970s, Congress enacted legislation known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to prevent the President from engaging in precisely this kind of warrantless domestic surveillance, said the ACLU."Even FISA wiretaps and secret searches require limited judicial review," added Beeson. "The government ignored the system authorized by Congress in favor of limitless power to spy on Americans." The New York Times has reported that at least one judge on the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court questioned whether the information obtained under the N.S.A. program was being improperly used by the Administration for unlimited spying.
The FOIAs are the latest phase of a broader ACLU campaign to reveal and limit unchecked government spying on Americans in the name of national security. To expose FBI monitoring of political and religious groups in the United States, the ACLU filed FOIAs in 20 states on behalf of over 150 organizations and individuals. Today the ACLU made public the latest documents obtained in the project which confirm that the FBI is using counterterrorism resources to monitor and infiltrate advocacy groups including PETA, Greenpeace, the American Arab Anti Defamation Committee the ACLU itself.


In his McCarthyism Watch (at The Progressive), Matthew Rothschild has charted disturbing incidents for several years now. For tonight's entry, we're utilizing Ruth Rosen's The World Split Open (pp. 241 - 243 unless otherwise noted) which was published in 2000. Rosen's detailing an earlier dark period, the period that led to the creation of the FISA courts, when earlier bullies were out of control and violating the rights of Americans.

This period led to the Church and Pike Committees. Though sometimes referred to (the Church Committee more often than the Pike Committee) in contemporary articles, there's little attempt to offer any perspective or summary. If that's out of some belief that "everyone" knows of this period, the belief's mistaken. For over a year now both committees have popped up in entries here and everytime that's happened, there have been e-mails asking what the committees were about.

We're extracting from Rosen's book (which is a book worth reading so if you enjoy the excerpts, please consider checking your local libaries or bookstores -- and, at least as far as I know, there's no Homeland Security watchlist for this book -- as of yet) to focus on the actions of the government in spying on the women's movement and narrowing down the focus to Rosen's section on the Church Committee. The Church Committe was chaired by Frank Church and its official name was United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. The Committee investigated numerous abuses but our focus tonight is the spying on citizens. (Background on the Church Committee can be found at Wikipedia.)

From Ruth Rosen's The World Split Open:

Surveillance of the women's movement began as part of the Cointelpro program, an FBI domestic surveillance program begun in 1956. In 1968, J. Edgar Hoover redefined the Cointelpro mission: "It was to 'neutralize' the effectiveness of civil rights, New Left, antiwar, and black liberation groups." Between 1968- and 1971, Cointelpro infiltrated both the New Left and the women's movement. Although the FBI did not officially employ women agents until after Hoover's death in 1972, its regional offices paid dozens -- more likely hundreds -- of female informants to infiltrate the women's movement. FBI director Hoover remained adamant that constant surveillance of the women's movement be maintained, in his words, for the "internal security of the nation."

Women's liberation was an internal threat then and PETA is today. Or the Quakers, Greenpeace, those who check out Mao's Little Red Book, The Catholic Worker . . . and those are just some of the "internal threats" that we know of.

Back to Rosen:

Americans first heard about the Cointelpro program and learned something of its scope when a "Citizens Committee to Investigate the FBI" broke into the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, in March 1971, removed secret files, and subsequently leaked them to the press. Soon after Cointelpro was exposed, several agents resigned and blew the whistle on the agency's crimes against ordinary citizens. After Hoover's death in 1972, the agency issued a public apology and vowed to reform itself. In 1975, Senator Frank Church held congressional hearings that further exposed the program and confirmed some of the New Left's and women's movement's worst nightmares.

There was a committe prior to the Church Committee (the Pike Committee would follow the Church Committee) -- the Rockefeller Committee. Though some research from that comittee would aid the Church Committee, the Rockefeller Committee is not usually considered a serious committee. (Do your own research to determine why. It's beyond the scope of this entry.)

Back to Rosen:

The Church Committee interviewed FBI officials and agents who had orchestrated the infiltration of the women's movement -- not only in Chicago, New York, and Berkeley, but in Kansas City, Columbus, Lawrence, Cleveland, Seattle, Gainesville, Florida, and dozens of other small towns and cities all over the country. Here is an excerpt of Senator Church's interrogation of James B. Adams, associate director of the FBI Intelligence Division, about the infiltration of the women's movement.

Does it all seem strangely familiar? If you've followed Matthew Rothschild's McCarthyism Watch it probably does. Back to Rosen's book:

The Chairman: Now, the last few questions I would like to put toyou, Mr. Adams, have to do with some confusion in my mind concerning the purpose of the FBI in monitoring the Women's Liberation Movement. What was the purpose of that surveillance? Why were you involved in monitoring that movement?
Mr. Adams: It was basically, as I recall, I have not reviewed the files, but from the information that I have aquired, it would indicate there were groups that were believed to be infiltrating and attempting to exert control over it.
The Chairman: But you never did find, did you, that the Women's Liberation Movement was seriously infiltrated, influenced or controlled by Communists?
Mr. Adams: No . . . It was a very independent group.
The Chairman: Well, we are trying to keep the country that way.
Mr. Adams: That's right. . . .
The Chairman: I call your attention to this ["Origins, Aims and Purposes," a description of the women's liberation movement in Baltimore, Maryland] because it seems to typify the whole problem of this generalized kind of surveillance over the activities of American citizens. Here is the report. If you read with me this paragraph:
The women's liberation movement in Baltimor Md. began during the summer of 1968. There was no structure or parent organization. There were no rules or plan to go by. It started out as a group therapy session with young women who were eithere lonely or confined to the home with small children, getting together to talk out their problems. Along with this they wanted a purpose and that was to be free women from the humdrum existence of being only a wife and mother. They wanted their husbands to share in the housework and in raising their children. They also wanted to go out and work in what kind of jobs they wanted and not be discriminated [against] as women.
Now, can you find anything in that report that in any way suggest that these women were engaged in improper or unlawful activity? . . . I think you would agree with me that women do have the right to get together to talk about humdrum existence and equal opportunities with men and equal opportunities for work in society, don't they? that is not a subversive activity.
Mr. Adams: Well, but . . . interwoven with the Women's Liberation Movement goal for equal rights for women, there was an advocacy certainly of militancy and violence in achieving their goals.
The Chairman: I am told by the staff that . . . the only other thing . . . was that those women had affiliation with an organization that had protested the war in Baltimore.
Mr. Adams: I think there were some other items.
Mr. Chairman: That is the only other association that we have been able to determine. Apparently the Women's Liberation Movement is no longer under suspicion by the FBI and the case has been closed. What happens when the case is closed? Are those women's names still left in the files? Are they forevermore contained?
Mr. Adams: Yes.
The Chairman: In the system?
Mr. Adams: Yes.

They still can be "contained" to the public. They can appear redacted when released to the public. Of course, on the other end, they aren't redacted. On the other end, a data base, a crude one, still exists. A crude one will probably exist from spying under the Bully Boy. Crude only because of the fact that the FBI still can't get their computer issues in order.

Back to Rosen:

The FBI's view of the women's movement is summarized in a 1973 report listing the national women's newspaper Off Our Backs as "ARMED AND DANGEROUS -- EXTREME."

You can use the link. The language may offend some (it doesn't me but those viewing on work computers have been warned). It isn't and wasn't "armed." Dangerous? Only to those who would attack the public's right to dissent or to gather or to be informed.

I want to close with a quote from Letty Pogrebin that Rosen notes (on page 259, from Ms.' "The FBI Was Watching You" in 1977):

The important fact is that they tailed us and invaded our privacy, both psychic and physical. They snooped. They pressed their candid camera against a one-way mirror to our private lives. It seems impossible not to feel outrage at these flagrant violations of the rights of free speech, association and assembly. The FBI conducted a criminal investigation against women who were not accused of any crimes. This activity is unthinkable in a democracy.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.