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|AMP Report – September 1, 2011
2001-2011: A decade of civil liberties’ erosion in America – Part Three
In the last ten years we have seen a steady erosion of the fundamental rights and civil liberties, all in the name of national security. The FBI is now investigating domestic peace activists and under the cover of studying “violent radicalization,” the already-fluid definition of “terrorism” is being broadened to encompass political activity and protest by dissident groups.
Mother Jones reports that after years of emphasizing informant recruiting as a key task for its agents, the FBI now maintains a roster of 15,000 spies — many of them tasked with infiltrating Muslim communities in the United States. Not surprisingly, the Associated Press reveals that the New York City Police Department have carried out covert surveillance on Muslims with the help of the CIA.
FBI now investigating domestic peace activists
In the early morning of Sept. 24, 2010, the FBI agents raided homes of peace activists in Chicago and Minneapolis, issued subpoenas to 14 activists, and tried to question others around the country, including prominent antiwar organizers in North Carolina and California.
The raids were conducted under the pretext of investigating potential “material support” and “terrorism” charges. The targeted individuals included leaders of the Arab American Action Network, the Colombia Action Network, and the Twin-Cities Anti-War Committee. The FBI has said no arrests have been made, and there was there no “imminent danger” to the public. Instead it has claimed it is currently looking for evidence in an ongoing investigation for possible “material support” for terrorism.
Authorities haven’t revealed the targets of the investigation or its exact nature, other than to say it involves activities concerning the material support of terrorism. However, The FBI documents were found on April 30 at the Minneapolis home of longtime anti-war activist Mick Kelly whose home was among those raided by the FBI in September. Huffington Post quoted the FBI spokesman Steve Warfield as saying that most of the papers appeared to be legitimate FBI documents and were left behind by mistake.
The documents, which are not labeled as classified, suggest that activists’ involvement with people in Colombia sparked the investigation.
“The captioned case was initially predicated on the activities of Meredith Aby and Jessica Rae Sundin in support of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a U.S. State Department designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), to include their previous travel to FARC-controlled territory,” one document says. “Since opening the original investigations, an additional 16 Subjects in six FBI Field Divisions have been identified.”
The document goes on to say that people in the Minneapolis, Chicago, Phoenix, Detroit, Los Angeles and Charlotte, N.C., divisions have “provided and/or conspired to provide material support to the FARC and/or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, also a U.S. State Department designated FTO.”
The documents given to the AP also include a strategic plan for the FBI’s raid, a subpoena, and a list of questions that agents would presumably use in an interview. The subpoena, which was made public previously, orders Kelly to appear before a grand jury and bring information relating to any trips to Colombia, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria or Israel. It also commands him to bring records relating to the Middle East and Colombia.
The documents include a list of over 100 questions. The top of the list says the questions “pertain to a terrorism investigation.” Many deal with activities of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, to which Kelly and Sundin both belong.
Former Reagan official Paul Craig Roberts believes that the US government by raiding the homes of anti-war activists is establishing in the mind of the public that anyone who criticizes the War on Terror is aligned with terrorists. He further argues that under the rubric of terror the government has stripped Americans of their civil liberties.
To borrow Kristen Boyd Johnson, there are two sides of the terror coin, after all: the people who want to kill you and the people who dislike the United States being at war all the time. Keep tabs on them both. Hell, just keep tabs on everyone. Everyone is now a terrorist.
Top Secret America
On July 19, 2010, the Washington Post published the first installment of its Top Secret America project, a two-year investigation into the national security buildup in the United States that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work” the Post’s Dana Priest and William Arkin write. “After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.”
Here are just a few of the investigation’s findings included in the online report :
* “Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.”
* “An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.”
* “In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings — about 17 million square feet of space.”
Moreover, the Post writes, “51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks,” and “Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year — a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.”
Since 9/11 no fewer than 263 intelligence and counterterrorism organizations have been “created or reorganized.”
The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act 2007
Perhaps more disturbing still is “The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007” (read Thought Control Act). The bill was passed on Oct 23, 2007 by a margin of 404-6 where as the Senate version of the bill is still awaiting action.
Under cover of studying “violent radicalization,” the bill would broaden the already-fluid definition of “terrorism” to encompass political activity and protest by dissident groups, effectively criminalizing civil disobedience and non-violent direct action by developing policies for “prevention, disruption and mitigation.”
Despite the fact that the legislation has not been signed into law, the Department of Homeland Security is moving towards implementing a provision of the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007. One of the bill’s provisions gives the Department of Homeland Security the authority to fund a University based Center of Excellence to study ways to thwart what the government believes are extremist belief systems and radical ideologies of individual Americans.
The “Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007″ creates a ten member new commission which will study how to prohibit “. . . . .the process of adopting or promoting an extremist belief system . . . . .to advance political, religious, or social change.. . . .” Spreading these beliefs to “advance political, religious, or social change” is defined as “radicalization.” If you are trying to educate your fellow countrymen, to democratically influence popular opinion, then you may find yourself accused of “facilitating ideologically-based violence.”
It also establishes a Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Radicalization and Home Grown Terrorism that will study the social, criminal, political, psychological and economic roots of the problem to provide further suggestions for action to address these dangers.
The DHS is already funding a Center of Excellence to study thought criminals in the United States at the University of Maryland.
Under cover of studying “violent radicalization,” both bills would broaden the already-fluid definition of “terrorism” to encompass political activity and protest by dissident groups, effectively criminalizing civil disobedience and non-violent direct action by developing policies for “prevention, disruption and mitigation,” Tom Burghardt argues and calls it COINTELPRO 2.0.
The bill’s language hides its true intent
The bill’s vague and open-ended language hides its true intent as to what “violent radicalization” and “homegrown terrorism” are? It will be whatever the administration says they are. Violent radicalization is defined as “adopting or promoting an extremist belief system (to facilitate) ideologically based violence to advance political, religious or social change.” 
Homegrown terrorism is used to mean “the use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based and operating primarily with the United States or any (US) possession to intimidate or coerce the (US) government, the civilian population….or any segment thereof (to further) political or social objectives.” 
Along with other repressive laws enacted after 9/11, the new law may be used against any individual or group with unpopular views – those that differ from established state policies. Prosecutors henceforth will be able to target believers in Islam, anti-war protesters, web editors, internet bloggers and radio and TV show hosts and commentators with views the bill calls “terrorist-related propaganda.” 
Many observers fear that the proposed law will be used against U.S.-based groups engaged in legal but unpopular political activism, ranging from political Islamists to animal-rights and environmental campaigners to radical right-wing organizations. There is concern, too, that the bill will undermine academic integrity and is the latest salvo in a decade-long government grab for power at the expense of civil liberties. 
American Muslims alarmed at CIA-NYPD covert surveillance
The seven-million strong Muslim American community was alarmed at the revelation that the New York City Police Department have carried out covert surveillance on Muslims with the help of the CIA. An Associated Press (AP) report recently published by the Washington Post  exposed the NYPD spy program, which is allegedly being conducted with the assistance of individuals linked to the CIA.
Following a month-long investigation, the AP reported that the NYPD is using covert surveillance techniques “that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government” and “does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying.”
The AP report follows a recent Mother Jones  revelation that after years of emphasizing informant recruiting as a key task for its agents, the FBI now maintains a roster of 15,000 spies — many of them tasked with infiltrating Muslim communities in the United States. “In addition, for every informant officially listed in the bureau’s records, there are as many as three unofficial ones, according to one former high-level FBI official, known in bureau parlance as “hip pockets.” The informants could be doctors, clerks, imams. Some might not even consider themselves informants. But the FBI regularly taps all of them as part of a domestic intelligence apparatus whose only historical peer might be COINTELPRO, the program the bureau ran from the ’50s to the ’70s to discredit and marginalize organizations ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to civil-rights and protest groups.”
The AP investigative report revealed that the NYDP has dispatched teams of undercover officers, known as ‘rakers,’ into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program. The report said: The NYDP have monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police have also used informants, known as ‘mosque crawlers,’ to monitor sermons, even when there’s no evidence of wrongdoing. The NYPD officials have scrutinized imams and gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims. Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD’s intelligence unit, the AP report added.
Indiana Supreme Court rules against Fourth Amendment
Indiana’s highest court has turned against our rights and the Constitution of the United States. The Supreme Court of Indiana decided on May 12, 2010 that the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution does not apply to the citizens of Indiana.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, vacated by the Indiana Supreme Court, says: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The Indiana Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision, ruled that cops can force their way into your home without a search warrant. Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.
Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all; a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer’s entry.
The court’s decision stems from a Vanderburgh County case in which police were called to investigate a husband and wife arguing outside their apartment. When the couple went back inside their apartment, the husband told police they were not needed and blocked the doorway so they could not enter. When an officer entered anyway, the husband shoved the officer against a wall. A second officer then used a stun gun on the husband and arrested him.
Disastrous fallout of the ruling: Radio host Mike Church has reported on his website that Newton County Sheriff Department head, Don Hartman Sr., contends the ruling means that random house to house searches are now possible. “According to Newton County Sheriff, Don Hartman Sr., random house to house searches are now possible and could be helpful following the Barnes v. STATE of INDIANA Supreme Court ruling issued on May 12th, 2011. When asked three separate times due to the astounding callousness as it relates to trampling the inherent natural rights of Americans, he emphatically indicated that he would use random house to house checks, adding he felt people will welcome random searches if it means capturing a criminal.”
In other words, the Fourth Amendment is dead, at least for the time being, in Indiana – and at least one “law officer” is ready to start searching houses at random. All he needs now is an excuse.
At the original trial, Barnes wanted the jury to be apprised of the Fourth Amendment’s limitations on police conduct regarding unlawful entry into his home. His tender instructions to the jury: “When an arrest is attempted by means of a forceful and unlawful entry into a citizen‘s home, such entry represents the use of excessive force, and the arrest cannot be considered peaceable. Therefore, a citizen has the right to reasonably resist the unlawful entry.” The court refused to allow the reading, and Barnes was convicted of battery on a police officer, resisting law enforcement, and disorderly conduct.
Justice Robert Rucker and Justice Brent Dickson, dissented from the ruling, saying the court’s decision runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” In my view the majority sweeps with far too broad a brush by essentially telling Indiana citizens that government agents may now enter their homes illegally — that is, without the necessity of a warrant, consent or exigent circumstances,” Rucker said. “I disagree.”
Conclusion: Defending Our Civil Liberties
Rights can never be taken for granted, Prof. Gary Orfield  argues by adding: In a nation that rightly proclaims its commitment to freedom across the world, our freedoms at home are our most precious asset and any threat to them undermines our credibility everywhere in an age of instant global communication. Prof. Orfield reminds us that the history of the United States is that rights are not given, they are won and they must always be defended.
The core challenge during the Obama era to civil liberties is to rollback the repressive policies of the Bush regime, while fighting any further erosion of constitutional rights. Many Americans resisted the attacks on civil liberties during the Bush administration. Over 400 local governments and several states passed resolutions supporting the Bill of Rights and objecting to parts of the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 laws, executive orders, and policy changes. Some cities passed ordinances directing police to facilitate, not impede, peaceful demonstrations.
Attacks on civil liberties are not minor infringements on the rights of a few extremists. Today they affect a vast cross-section of Americans. It will not be too much to say that the chilling effect of denials of our democratic freedoms curtails political debate within the U.S.
To borrow Paul Craig Roberts, an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration,  today Americans are unsafe, not because of terrorists and domestic extremists, but because they have lost their civil liberties and have no protection from unaccountable government power. One would think that how this came about would be worthy of public debate and congressional hearings.
 Washington Post - July 19, 2010
 The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act 2007 by Abdus Sattar Ghazali OpEd Nov 26, 2007
 Is America Already a Police State? by Nathan Coe – March 20, 2009
 With CIA help, NYPD built secret effort to monitor mosques, daily life of Muslim neighborhoods by Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman – Washington Post – August 24, 2011
 The Informants by Trevor Aaronson – Mother Jones – September/October 2011 Issue
 One Nation Indivisible, under God, with Liberty and Justice for All: Civil Rights for Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians by Prof. Gary Orfield – May 2003
 9/11 After A Decade: Have We Learned Anything? By Global Research — August 24, 2011
Read earlier parts:
A decade of civil liberties’ erosion in America – Part One
A decade of civil liberties’ erosion in America – Part Two