Truth To Tell (2011-02-28)
ANDY DRISCOLL: The FBI at War–in Minnesota:The New Gestapo?
The following – slightly edited – was the script used for the weekly hour-long program, TruthToTell for Monday, December 6, 2010 at 9:00AM titled The FBI at War – in Minnesota: The New Gestapo? – on KFAI FM in St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN. This essay version has been requested by several listeners, thus the posting here. It’s still slightly raw, but it’s what we said.
The program can be heard/downloaded from www.TruthToTell.org
By Andy Driscoll, Producer/Host, TruthToTell
It’s come to this: it has become illegal to disagree with this nation’s government, its policies, its cavalier entries into war and to say anything publicly that would thus appear threatening to those policies, no matter how unconstitutional they may be. Oh, they may not be coming to get you right away, but the stories about the overreach of the US government into the lives of other peoples is only as bad as it is in its intrusions into the lives and welfare of average American citizens dissenting from, protesting and challenging the authority of the police, the FBI, Homeland Security, the TSA, CIA and the entire alphabet soup that makes up the country’s military and law enforcement community. And it becomes increasingly apparent that the current administration, the President and his Justice Department are almost as stifling of our First and Fourth Amendment freedoms as any Fascist regime history has dealt humanity.
Extreme? Before you laugh in our faces over the very serious use of that term as it applies to much of what has been termed and institutionalized as national security, homeland security and other post-9-11 federal agencies, listen to this TTT discussion about what is actually going on at home and abroad in the land – our land – as witnessed by the raids conducted, subpoenas issued to and spying invoked on, and generally nasty treatment of – citizens and immigrants, dissenters and demonstrators, travelers and at-home residents who resist privacy invasions or challenge arrests for even minor offenses. The evidence is rapidly mounting in all of these disparate quarters – word of mouth tales, stories published by credible reporters and publications and videos appearing online of just how bad it’s getting between we the people and our federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The resemblance to the Gestapo of legendary German fame is all too clear, according to credible observers.
This program was originally going to try to dissect the raids on three of this area’s most vocal antiwar activists, including Jess Sundin, who was scheduled to be with us today, but encountered a medical emergency. Jess is known widely for her antiwar efforts, including around the RNC in 2008 and other time. She and Mick Kelly and others were subpoenaed to appear before a Chicago federal grand jury and they refused to do so.
Those demands went away, but three more subpoenas were later issued to three others – Sarah Martin, a member of Women Against Military Madness, Tracy Molm, an organizer with Students for a Democratic Society and Anh Pham, an anti-war and immigrant-rights activist. This time, US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is not backing off. Now, after a couple of weeks of research, it is clear that these subpoenas and others issued in Chicago are simply one more of the rocks in the rippling waters of encroaching law enforcement. Some of that research, for instance, has led to serious questions about the legitimacy of the troubled young Somali, Mohammed Mohamud’s plan to trigger a bomb at a crowded Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in Portland.
The well-known critic and filmmaker, Glenn Greenwald, writing in Salon Magazine, goes after media sycophants who have bought the FBI line whole, never questioning once the underlying truth of this episode, which may be a case of well-crafted entrapment, which Mohamud’s family is now loudly claiming. Greenwald’s story is well worth examining in detail we haven’t time to relate today.
But similar stories of such manufactured plots to discredit Muslim-Americans date back several years, including one related in Rolling Stone about a Rockford, Illinois, when members of the Northern Illinois district office of the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force recruited a local Muslim to rope in a hapless young and essentially homeless, video store clerk – an unhappy young jihadist who would rail on about Americans and Jews, thus attracting the attention of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
He hardly had the wherewithal to do anything about his rantings. Nevertheless, the Task Force recruit offered this kid shelter and some ideas about targeting some local folks and malls for bombing. The convoluted plot ended when the kid tried swapping his stereo speakers for some grenades and guns. In what Rolling Stone’s Guy Lawson calls the Fear Factory, this Joint Terrorism Task Force – the very same that occupied St. Paul during the RNC and conjured cases against the young antiwar protesters here, only to watch those cases dissolve into nothing, has some 100 units operating in similar fashion all around the country.
These task forces are comprised of the agencies of the Justice Department and Homeland Security – the FBI, the Secret Service, CIA, ICE, Drug Enforcement Agency – as well as the State Patrol, sheriff’s offices and local police. They’re everywhere all the time – on our streets, our telephones, and the Internet, interconnected by what are called Fusion Centers.
As we said earlier, the stories are really mounting with regard to the overreach of law enforcement – in so many ways emboldened and set free from Constitutional constraints by the Patriot Act and subsequent court rulings that seem to have unleashed a fearful rise in legal intimidation and concocted events and enemies in several of our cities, focusing, more than ever on our most vulnerable groups – those easily swayed and considered enemies in the eyes of middle-class America, thanks to media reports that fall in, lockstep, behind official pronouncements that Muslims and Latino immigrants are the enemy within.
County sheriffs and city police have become handmaidens of these joint task forces. Local citizens are finding that any arguments with any officer about the legitimacy of an arrest or stop for alleged violations can get them beaten and/or taken to jail for the slightest infraction.
The problem is that most Americans would say we’re exaggerating the fear, the danger of a police state, but others will tell you that this is a creeping phenomenon, not yet fully realized by a good share of society – yet – but not unlike – truly – the German experience of the 1930’s in many more ways than one – as we’ve been reminded by social critic Allen Roland, who quotes liberally from the classic book, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans from 1933 to 1945. He parallels Roland cites to today’s United States are startling and fearsome.
Resistance can be one of those scary maneuvers when what you’re resisting can bite back with the power and authority currently vested in our myriad law enforcement agencies at all levels. Bur resist we must even as we risk our necks if we’re to uphold the basic tenets of the Constitution – to be free – to dissent – to question authority when authority violates the law.
Andy Driscoll: We, the Ungovernable
My friend, former State Senator and Author, John Milton, penned a short piece on the ungovernability of the US, to which I found myself following up with something of rambling dissertation on how this country is ungovernable for many reasons, many of which are embodied in the current political construct and atmosphere, both structural, that is, and by the Senate Club’s design:
On Jun 28, 2010, at 10:30 AM, John Milton wrote:
In the Gulf disaster, many of us pretend immunity by blasting British Petroleum or the feds, when in fact the responsibility for perpetuating our addiction to oil is ours. Once again, when the U.S. Senate refuses to extend unemployment benefits for lack of 60 votes, we can pretend to be offended, but once again we must hold ourselves accountable. We elected the senators, and, especially those of us who celebrated a Democratic majority in that body in 2006 and 2008, we need to look in the mirror.
Why? Because the Democratic majority in the Senate has the power – and the votes – to bypass the requirement of 60 votes. The Senate majority – by just 51 votes (out of the 58 in the caucus) – can end debate on any issue and pass any bill by a simple majority, as envisioned in the Constitution.*
Some Democratic senators – notably Levin, Harkin, and Leahy – have urged the leadership to eliminate the rule of 60, but both sides of the aisle seem transfixed by the notion that this so-called “protection of the minority” is in the best interest of the American people. Obviously, it is not.
So those of us who celebrated in 2006 and 2008 must take credit for supporting a Senate Democratic leadership that would rather stumble ahead with an ungovernable system.
Small comfort: at least our country seems to be more governable than Somalia.
* See “The Constitutional Option,” by Martin B. Gold & Dimple Gupta in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 28
Driscoll here again:
Aside from the fact that we are nation of 331 million souls – an ungovernable enough number in its own right – the framers placed “democracy” as the last on a list of desirable options when they created the Constitutional presidency instead of adopting the more responsible and accountable parliamentary model. The so called “balance of power” issue was an overreaction to a monarchical model, but it has also paralyzed for 250 years the flow of innovative public policy initiatives that would define us as the compassionate society many envisioned in that weakest of all documents – the Constitution.
Allowed to run amok, capitalism makes this country ungovernable as well. Without a deeply entrenched social contract for maintaining the most fundamental rights of human beings living in a collective political enclave – far more than the ephemeral “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” or at least interpreting those words in the broadest of contexts – we have deferred to the economic power brought on through government by corporate control. As such, we now tend to believe that, despite the fact that we get the government we deserve by failing to vote or hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire – constantly – we deny or delay massive chunks of humanity the fundamental pillars of human survival: food, shelter, clothing, health care, clean air and water, and an education that fulfills the needs of both human and societal to maintain the species and provide for itself. Socialist constructs elsewhere in the world have understood these fundamentals for centuries, even when internal upheaval appears to threaten them. They would never think to abandon the basic responsibility of organized societies that their individuals members are neither denied those basics, nor become a greater burden through that denial that the cost to the organism is greater than if it had provided for all in the first place.
Such is the vaunted United States of America where poverty is at its worst and wealth has become king.
Speaking of size, the US is at least partially ungovernable because of its vast geography, where the lack of proximity to almost all of one’s fellow countrymen and women and the half dozen major regions have developed into cultures and political organisms unto themselves, many of whom, with the compliance of federal legislation and the courts, have been allowed to defy the Constitutional tenets that created them, but remain almost unreachable given their entrenched subcultures of racist, violent and corrupt local entities and elected officials.
This is where Lincoln went awry. Maintaining the union at any cost was not necessarily the best thing to do, if, in allowing defections by separate political and economic societies, there sprang up smaller nations or nation-states with a more governable and manageable geographic proximity and common approaches. Despite the risk that slavery as then practiced would continue for a time in the Confederacy, it could not, as an institution, continue for very long afterward, crushed by its own weight and the power of economic forces that would stop doing business under such conditions. One state or group of states or another would recognize that, like European countries have, the survival of a society requires cooperation and not oppression, and that, in the long run, equality of provision of those basic services best serves a nation as a whole and concedes to no one person the power to control the flow of those services by private means.
The United States is far more like the dying Rome than most of us would care to admit, but the wide disparities in the provision of those basics is pulling us down into an uncivilized muck of a country, our ability to govern ourselves completely out of control – and for many millions of us, abandoning the power that true democracy should bestow: simply…voting.
Electoral defections from such democratic means to quietly revolt against the desecration of our stated principles leaves us no alternative but to accept the national cultural deterioration as inevitable, and thus, we leave to irrational, but powerful, few the power to set the agenda for our cities, our counties and towns, our states, and, eventually, our country from behind the scenes, as they have for some decades now, slowly, but surely.
We may not be able to immediately cut this country up into more desirable and governable nation-states, but we determine for ourselves best who runs our local units of governance by ceasing to believe they are the least important entities of our live, but the most important, no matter what the media may tell you affirmatively (editorializing) or subliminally by omission of coverages of those offices so critical in determining our daily quality of life. Here is where we can and must hold our leaders accountable and responsible – and stop deferring to others our own responsibility for our own governance.
It’s been attributed to several people – Alexis de Toqueville or Karl Marx or that curmudgeonly journalist, H.L. Mencken, but, as implied by John Milton in his far shorter essay below: “We get the government we deserve.” Nothing is truer in a democracy.