“Activism is not terrorism”: Rights groups call on Congress to investigate the FBI and DHS for surveillance of activists
by Ben Norton, Salon
Tuesday, Mar 8, 2016 01:13 PM EST
More than 60 legal, civil rights and activist groups sent a letter to the chairs of the Senate and House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, asking them to launch an investigation into the FBI’s and Department of Homeland Security’s surveillance and repression of political protests and social movements.
The letter, which was initiated by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Defending Dissent Foundation, expresses “concern over Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security abuse of counterterrorism resources to monitor Americans’ First Amendment protected activity.”
It notes that the FBI “has a well-documented history of abuse of First Amendment rights,” adding that in “recent years that abuse has continued.”
School of the Americas Watch, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and anti-Keystone XL Pipeline activism are all big targets of this surveillance and repression, the rights groups indicate.
Their letter thoroughly documents the evidence showing how the FBI and DHS have surveilled, infiltrated and repressed these movements, treating peaceful activists and terrorists. The FBI continues to send undercover agents and informants to infiltrate peaceful activist groups and use “counterterrorism” authorities and laws to surveil lawful political activity.
“That the FBI cannot discern between activism and terrorism shows us that they think dissent is still the enemy,” said Chip Gibbons, a legal fellow at the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Defending Dissent Foundation.
“There have been multiple attempts at reform but after each and every one we see the same thing happening again,” Gibbons explained. “The FBI claims to no longer investigate groups for their political beliefs, but look at who the FBI investigates under its counterterrorism authority — peace groups, racial justice groups, economic justice groups — the very same types of organizations that were targeted during the heyday of J. Edgar Hoover,” he said, referring to the former head of the FBI.
The groups released their letter on 45th anniversary of the break-in that exposed COINTELPRO, the secret program in which the FBI was spying on and infiltrating dissident groups, and even assassinating activist leaders like Chicago Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton. COINTELPRO infamously blackmailed civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and tried to pressure to him to kill himself.
Who are the good guys again?
45 Years After COINTELPRO, FBI Still Thinks ‘Dissent is the Enemy’
by Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams
Tuesday, March 08, 2016
Forty-five years ago on Tuesday, peace activists broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania and unearthed documents exposing the government’s expansive COINTELPRO operations, which aimed to surveil, disrupt, and “neutralize” lawful activist groups, including war protesters, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the American Indian Movement, and the National Lawyers Guild.
Though the COINTELPRO revelations stirred widespread outrage and led to the eventual passage of reform legislation, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, such abuse of activists’ First Amendment rights continues to this day.
“The FBI in particular has a well-documented history of abuse of First Amendment rights,” the letter states—referring specifically to the COINTELPRO operations—and such activities have continued, including “sending undercover agents and informants to infiltrate peaceful social justice groups, as well as surveillance of, documenting, and reporting on lawful political activity.”
Groups recently targeted by the FBI include SOAW, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and anti-Keystone XL Pipeline activists. Meanwhile DHS and local fusion centers, which operate as local sources of “counter-terrorism” intelligence gathering and sharing, monitored the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements as well.
What’s more, the groups note, “documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the FBI continuously invokes counterterrorism authorities to monitor groups it admits are peaceful and nonviolent.”
“Labeling activism as terrorism criminalizes political dissent,” the letter states. “Given the current political climate and draconian laws concerning terrorism, individuals may be deterred from participating in completely lawful speech, such as a protest march, by this stigma.”
“That the FBI cannot discern between activism and terrorism shows us that they think dissent is still the enemy,” said Chip Gibbons, legal fellow with Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Defending Dissent Foundation, which organized the letter. “There have been multiple attempts at reform but after each and every one we see the same thing happening again. The FBI claims to no longer investigate groups for their political beliefs, but look at who the FBI investigates under its counterterrorism authority—peace groups, racial justice groups, economic justice groups—the very same types of organizations that were targeted during the heyday of J. Edgar Hoover.”
And friends, somewhere in Washington enshrined in some little folder, is a study in black and white of my fingerprints. And the only reason I’m singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation, and if your in a situation like that there’s only one thing you can do and that’s walk into the shrink wherever you are, just walk in say “Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice’s restaurant.”. And walk out. You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singin’ a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an Organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may think it’s a movement.
And that’s what it is, the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it come’s around on the Guitar.
You want to end war and stuff you have to sing LOUD!.