As the right wing in the U.S. is in lock-step in its attempted march back in time, using twisted reasoning for public consumption, a report from The New York Times lets us know that the tactics of McCarthyism and COINTELPRO are being revisited. COINTELPRO was the name of the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program, used to hammer the Black liberation and progressive movements in the ’60s and ’70s into submission or obliteration by dirty tricks, wiretaps, slander, “legal” railroading, and outright murders by police.
“FBI Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies,” written by Eric Lichtblau in the Nov. 23 edition of the Times, tells us nothing we don’t already know, but it is now in the “newspaper of record” that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and the Bush administration are attempting to slander the exercise of First Amendment rights in antiwar protests by alluding to those protests as being possible “terrorist” threats.
The first paragraph of the article states, “The [FBI] has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to a confidential bureau memorandum.” The FBI memo, which was circulated on Oct. 15, 10 days before thousands took to the streets in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, is viewed as the first corroboration of a “coordinated nationwide effort to collect intelligence regarding demonstrations.”
The memo spoke of “training camps” used by protest organizers to prepare for demonstrations. Using the term “training camps” in the context of antiwar protests is a deliberate attempt to tie in protests with terrorism. American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero responded, “The line between terrorism and legitimate civil disobedience is [being] blurred, and I have serious concern about whether we’re going back to the days of Hoover.” Romero referred to former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who, in his tenure as director in the ’60s and ’70s, ordered his agents to spy on dissenters including Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Times reporter Lichtblau wrote, “Civil rights advocates, relying largely on anecdotal evidence, have complained for months that federal officials have surreptitiously sought to suppress the First Amendment rights of antiwar demonstrators.”
Critics of the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq have sued the federal government to find out what their names were doing on a “no fly” list. That list is used to stop suspected terrorists from boarding airplanes. Does being a critic of imperialism make one a “terrorist”? To protest against a war that is creating more terrorists is to be very anti-terrorist. To protest against a war that has seen innocent Iraqi civilians terrorized by “shock and awe” and “Operation Iron Hammer” is to protest against terrorism coming from the U.S.
IraqBodyCount.net (IBC) keeps a running tally of the dead and wounded in Iraq. As of IBC’s October tally, more than 9,000 innocent civilians had been murdered by the U.S. That’s terrorism on a massive scale.
Civil rights advocates have also complained that the federal government and local authorities in Denver and Fresno, Calif., in a replay of Hoover’s COINTELPRO, have been spying on antiwar protesters and infiltrating planning meetings.
With logic twisted into a shape reminiscent of that pretzel White House Resident Bush said he choked on, the FBI memo, in discussing demonstrators’ “innovative strategies,” including Internet usage, said strategies such as videotaping arrests were a means of “intimidation” against the police.
The facts are straightforward. We have the right to protest. We have an obligation to make our voices heard in the fight against imperialist war. No one should be intimidated by the Times report, which may have been its purpose.
The next time I’m at an antiwar meeting, I’ll be sure we save seats for the FBI. After all, most antiwar protesters, those fighting for peace in the world, know the games the right wing gets into. We won’t be swayed. We must stop the occupation of Iraq, bring the troops home, and stop the killing done for capitalist power and profit. Ain’t nobody going to turn us around. Let them scrutinize that.
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.