Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Manufacturing Monsters to Mash

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Civil libertarians pitched their usual fit last week over the revelation that the NYPD is collaborating with the CIA to spy on New Yorkers — and folks living, working, or worshipping everywhere else, too. But this may be may be just the protection New Yorkers need, given another story that had emerged three days earlier: the FBI is busily recruiting and outfitting terrorists to bomb us.

The government’s excuse for both outrages is the usual one: preventing terrorism. “…[A]ny potential threat to New York City is the NYPD's business, regardless of where it occurs,” “officials” sniffed.

Indeed. “The NYPD…produced an analytical report on every mosque within 100 miles, officials said.” One hundred miles from the City puts us in the wilds of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, and upstate New York; it encompasses such large cities as Philadelphia and Newark; it includes tens of millions of people.

Nor do the rules that bar cops from investigating suspects until they’ve received "’specific information’ of criminal activity” restrict the NYPD-CIA’s Godzilla: a federal judge loosed those chains in 2002. Now Godzilla spies pretty much as it pleases — without accountability but with plenty of our taxes: “Neither [New York’s] city council, which finances the department, nor the federal government, which has given NYPD more than $1.6 billion since 9/11, is told exactly what's going on.” No matter: Godzilla’s budget last year was $62 million.

Godzilla hatched after 9/11, when the NYPD hired a “retired 35-year veteran of the CIA” as its“first civilian intelligence chief”; his ambition was that “New York … have its own version of the CIA.” Most would say he’s achieved that goal. The NYPD and CIA share personnel; the CIA has educated at least one of the NYPD’s detectives at its “spy school in Virginia”; it “sent a senior officer to work as a clandestine operative inside [NYPD] headquarters.”

The collusion has turned the NYPD into “one of the nation's most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies … The department has dispatched undercover officers ... into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program... They've 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. … Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans...”

Sure, the CIA is legendary for its ruthlessness, cruelty, and insouciance towards laws of any kind — domestic, foreign, or even those of ordinary decency. The agency experimented on unwitting subjects with LSD and other substances in the 1950s and 60s. It has several assassinations — sorry, “targeted killings” to its credit and has encouraged others. It tortures “detainees” in “black sites.” Americans with the bare minimum of humanity might argue that we ought not sic these sociopaths on anyone, even folks overseas.

But Americans without that minimum might argue the same: they’ll no doubt insist we need a bureaucracy this brutal and bloody here at home to save us from the FBI’s “terrorists.”

Yep, incredibly enough, our taxes pay undercover agents to befriend Americans, usually young Muslim men without much on the ball (a lawyer representing one of them acknowledged that his client was “not the brightest bulb in the chandelier”), and cajole them into participating in a “plot” the FBI has concocted. This requires enormous patience and persistence: the provocateurs sometimes plead and manipulate for months before their prey finally succumbs — despite offers to supply the budding “terrorist” with weapons and explosives.

Once the victim agrees, the FBI continues entrapping him until it has enough “evidence.” Then it pounces while headlines blare that the government has foiled yet another atrocity against the United States.

You probably recall many examples. “Remember the Washington Metro bombing plot?” asks Mother Jones, which reported the FBI’s skullduggery after a year of research and investigation. “The New York subway plot? The guys who planned to blow up the Sears Tower? The teenager seeking to bomb a Portland Christmas tree lighting? Each of those plots, and dozens more across the nation, was led by an FBI asset.”

Some might dismiss Mother Jones’ findings. Not only is the journal notoriously left-wing, so was its partner in this project: the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley. But the duo documents the facts and their methodology in detail so we can draw our own conclusions: MoJo says they “examined prosecutions of 508 defendants in terrorism-related cases, as defined by the Department of Justice.” A Democratic DOJ, no less, and one that has persecuted-ah, prosecuted many of those defendants.

Still, you needn’t take MoJo’s word for it. The DOJ itself brags about the government’s suborning: for example, its press release on a conviction in the “New York subway plot” noted “the outstanding work of the New York City Police Department, and in particular, the courageous work of the Intelligence Division’s undercover detective ... [The US Attorney on the case] also thanked the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Joint Terrorist Task Force for their efforts in this matter. … The jury heard hours of secretly recorded conversations between SIRAJ [the defendant] and Osama Eldawoody, an Egyptian nuclear engineer who became a paid informant for the New York City Police Department’s Intelligence Division…”

And so, while the FBI gins up terrorists, the NYPD-CIA Godzilla protects us from them.

Unfortunately, Godzilla’s tactics are worthier of the Nazis or Soviets than an allegedly free country. Officers of the appropriate ethnicity not only infiltrate our neighborhoods, pretending to patronize businesses and mosques while spying, they also cultivate snitches among residents. At one point, Godzilla even ordered the bureaucracy that controls New York’s taxis to supply it with a list of Pakistani cabbies: it hoped to “pressure” those with “fraudulent licenses” into finking on their friends.

In 2007, the Los Angeles Police Department … consider[ed] a similar program  … to map Islamic neighborhoods ... Criticism was swift, and chief William Bratton scrapped the plan. ‘A lot of these people came from countries where the police were the terrorists,’ Bratton said,” apparently without irony. "’We don't do that here. We do not want to spread fear.’”

OK, I hear you laughing hysterically out there. Stop it: the goon’s serious.

“In New York, current and former officials said, the lesson of [Los Angeles’] controversy was that such programs should be kept secret.” Way to go, Godzilla.

For a decade now, the Warriors on Terror have demanded we sacrifice one freedom after another. So it's no surprise that we languish under a police-state, with constant surveillance and suspicion, a government that pits citizens against one another, and informants.

Wouldn’t it be simpler, and safer, if the FBI quit manufacturing monsters for the NYPD and CIA to mash?

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