A former decorated undercover FBI agent, Mike German, explains how the national security state, in league with local law enforcement, is secretly targeting Americans for political views and activities perceived as a threat to the political establishment.
German concentrates on the constitutional abuses of fusion centers and cites the Missouri Information Analysis Center report targeting Ron Paul and Chuck Baldwin as rightwing terrorists and the 2009 Virginia Terrorism Threat Assessment, produced by the Virginia Fusion Center, that singled out political groups as terrorist threats. Both reports were leaked to the media and covered extensively by Alex Jones and Infowars.com.
German notes that local law enforcement is now used as a weapon against anti-establishment politicians, activists and political organizations — in short, state and local law enforcement is now fully integrated into a larger political secret police apparatus. Efforts by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, military intelligence and other agencies, including the CIA, in league with private sector contractors, have produced a surveillance state culture and foundation that rivals that created by East Germany’s Stasi.
“We’ve moved away from surveillance based on individualized suspicion, the Fourth Amendment standard of probable cause and a warrant has basically evaporated,” German told Reason.tv last year. “And the government can now collect information about people it doesn’t even suspect of wrongdoing.”
For the establishment and its political elite, traditional criminal “wrongdoing” comes in a distant second to political “wrongdoing” perceived as threatening the political status quo. Fusion centers established by the Department of Homeland Security are not designed to respond to bank robbery and illegal drug trafficking, but work proactively to seek out, identify and “neutralize” (as the FBI described in the 1960s under COINTELPRO) political opposition to the state and the corporate and financial interests it serves.
Government surveillance of political activity considered aberrant by the state has reached a phenomenal level.
Earlier this year, NSA employee William Binney said the agency has a dossier on virtually every American and is currently building a mega-spy center in Bluffdale, Utah, that “will contain near-bottomless databases to store all forms of communication collected by the agency, including private emails, cellphone calls, Google searches and other personal data.” Prison Planet
The ACLU Campaign to Stop Illegal Spying
Today the government is spying on Americans in ways the founders of our country never could have imagined. The FBI, federal intelligence agencies, themilitary, state and local police, private companies, and even firemen and emergency medical technicians are gathering incredible amounts of personal information about ordinary Americans that can be used to construct vast dossiers that can be widely shared through new institutions like Joint Terrorism Task Forces, fusion centers, and public-private partnerships. And this surveillance often takes place in secret, with little or no oversight by the courts, by legislatures, or by the public. The ACLU is dedicated to uncovering this secret surveillance network so Americans can protect their rights and demand accountability from these law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and from their elected representatives.
The fear of terrorism has led to a new era of overzealous police intelligence activity directed, as so often in the past, against political activists, racial and religious minorities, and immigrants. This new surveillance activity is not directed solely at suspected terrorists and criminals. It’s directed at all of us. Increasingly, the government is engaged in suspicionless surveillance that vacuums up and tracks sensitive information about innocent people. The erosion of reasonable restrictions on government’s power to collect people’s personal information is putting the privacy and free speech rights of all Americans at risk. The American Civil Liberties Union and its affiliates across the country have uncovered and reported on many aspects of this growing domestic surveillance activity over the last several years. Our updated Spy Files website combines the information we’ve collected from Freedom of Information Act requests, ACLU lawsuits and reports, and news accounts so that members of the public can begin to get a comprehensive view of how these networked intelligence activities threaten their civil liberties.
As the nation’s predominant law enforcement agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has robust powers to peer into the lives of American citizens. But the FBI claims even broader authorities when acting in the nebulous realm of “national security,” “domestic intelligence,” where its actions are largely hidden from public view and the procedural checks and balances that apply in criminal investigations are all but non-existent.
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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established in 2003 by combining 22 separate federal agencies, several with law enforcement powers and intelligence missions. As a relatively new member of the Intelligence Community, DHS has struggled to establish a clearly defined role for its intelligence activities, leading at times to error and overreach that implicates the rights of innocent persons.
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The U.S. military is funded by American taxpayers to protect our nation and its inhabitants from foreign enemies, not to spy on Americans. The ACLU has been, and remains at the forefront of exposing U.S. military spying programs that target or otherwise sweep up Americans’ personal information in their wide intelligence-gathering programs.
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As a covert intelligence agency, the CIA may usese theft, blackmail, extortion and other dubious methods to collect information. The implications of such behavior on the civil rights and privacy of Americans are obvious if these tools are used domestically. Indeed the 2004 establishment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) all but erase the lines between foreign and domestic intelligence collection.
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Abuses of intelligence powers are not limited to federal authorities. In the past, state and local police forces were known to maintain political intelligence units (sometimes known as Anti-Subversive Squads, or Red Squads), which illegally spied upon and sabotaged numerous peaceful groups throughout the twentieth century. They often amassed detailed dossiers on political officials and engaged in “disruptive” activities targeting political activists, labor unions, and civil rights advocates, among others.
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The American Civil Liberties Union issued its first report on intelligence fusion centers, warning that these rapidly developing multi-jurisdictional spying centers lacked clear guidelines or sufficient oversight, and posed a severe risk to Americans’ civil liberties. By 2012, congressional investigators agreed, finding that fusion center personnel produced “‘intelligence’ of uneven quality – oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.”
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The FBI conducts its counterterrorism intelligence operations primarily through Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF). According to the FBI’s website, over 600 state, local and federal agencies participate in JTTFs, including the U.S. military and, at one point at least, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
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Over the last few years, federal, state and local authorities have initiated “suspicious activity reporting” (SAR) programs to encourage law enforcement officers, intelligence and homeland security officials, emergency responders, and even the public to report the “suspicious” activities of their neighbors to law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The problem is that many of the behaviors these SAR programs identify as precursors to terrorism include innocuous and commonplace activities such as using binoculars, taking pictures, drawing diagrams and taking notes. SAR programs increase the probability that innocent people will be stopped by police and have their personal information collected for inclusion in law enforcement and intelligence data bases. They also open the door to racial profiling and other improper police practices by giving police unwarranted discretion to stop people who are not reasonably suspected of wrongdoing.
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Mapping the FBI: Uncovering Abusive Surveillance and Racial Profiling
ACLU of Massachusetts’ Log and Document Resources
FOIA Response of DHS Correspondence Concerning Update to the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) Guidelines