Tuesday, December 20, 2005

NYT: "F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show"

In this morning's New York Times, Eric Lichtblau's "F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show" tells you what many books and articles (outside of the paper) already have, "terrorist" is the new "communist." It's a cottage industry providing cover for a Justice Department that wants to spy on citizens. The "terrorists" include PETA, the Catholic Workers and GreenPeace.

Now how do you get an FBI investigation? As Robert Parry has pointed out, Oliver North's elves knew that five complaints could generate "interest." That was in Reagan times. Under Bully Boy, the so-called war on terrorism provides the cover.

From Lichtblau's article:

F.B.I. officials said Monday that their investigators had no interest in monitoring political or social activities and that any investigations that touched on advocacy groups were driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings.

"Driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings"? Where are the charges for this evidence? Is the Justice Dept. suggesting that they have evidence and aren't prosecuting people?

From the article:

But the documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.
One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Lloyd notes Ruth Conniff's "Bush as Nixon" (Ruth Conniff's Online Column, The Progressive) which was written before Lichtblau's story made it into print (or was available online):

President Bush is looking more and more like Richard Nixon every day--between his secret plan to win the war and his domestic spying operation. Certainly Sunday night's "mistakes were made" Oval Office speech smacked of a Nixonian combination of self-pity and stubborn pugnaciousness.
All Bush needs now is an official enemies list. And who knows, maybe he has one. There's no telling who is a target of the White House/NSA eavesdropping program. In the biggest news of the week, we learned last Thursday that the New York Times has been sitting on a story all year that the White House has a secret spying operation, authorizing the NSA to listen in on overseas phone calls placed by Americans. The program defies the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the FBI and the NSA to obtain warrants from a special court if they want to tap phones and conduct other forms of electronic surveillance of Americans. Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney have gone out of their way to insist that the warrant process is a cumbersome barrier that would prevent them from "saving lives." Had they been able to spy on Americans at will, it "might have led us to be able to prevent 9/11," the Vice President claimed. Never mind that the warrant process can be expedited to take hours or even minutes, according to the New York Times. Under especially urgent circumstances, the government can even get a warrant 72 hours AFTER the spying has already begun.
Naturally, the White House insists that it is only spying on "terrorists"--though it is unwilling to allow Congress or the courts to review any evidence that the targets of its spying have any terrorist links at all. In the same way, Bush continues to insist that withdrawing from Iraq would be a victory for "the terrorists." The term is so broad it can cover anyone the Administration deems an enemy. And this constant harangue is what is wearing down support for the Administration.

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