With a genuine grassroots movement emerging in this country today, I can’t help but think of a time when this nation was exploding with new ideas and new movements that worked to bring about much needed change.

The Free Speech movement that was born on the campus of UC Berkely, and the movements that grew out of the Free Speech movement, the Anti-war Movement to end the atrocious war in Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement to bring equality and constitutionally granted rights to all people in the United States, the Women’s Movement to allow women the same opportunities as men, the LGBT Movement to bring the same rights to gay people, that straight people enjoyed, the Black Panther movement to bring about better neighborhoods and protections from violent discrimination against Afro-Americans in the inner cities across America, were under attack by our government in a covert war to discredit and put an end to them all.

After 9/11, with a whole new set of investigative laws encompassed within The Patriot Act, the great expansion of intelligence networks that arose from the creation of Homeland Security, and the considerable loss of privacy that resulted from all of this makes me wonder what sort of chance does the Occupy Wall Street movement have of succeeding.

In the early 1960s, the FBI created a covert program entitled COINTELPRO, to disrupt, discredit, and destroy these movements from within and without. Here are tactics they used to accomplish this evil end;

When congressional investigations, political trials, and other traditional legal modes of repression failed to counter the growing movements, and even helped to fuel them, the FBI and police moved outside the law. They resorted to the secret and systematic use of fraud and force to sabotage constitutionally protected political activity. Their methods ranged far beyond surveillance, amounting to a home front version of the covert action for which the CIA has become infamous throughout the world.

FBI Headquarters secretly instructed its field offices to propose schemes to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” specific individuals and groups. Close coordination with local police and prosecutors was strongly encouraged. Other recommended collaborators included friendly news media, business and foundation executives, and university, church, and trade union officials, as well as such “patriotic” organizations as the American Legion.

Final authority rested with FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Top FBI officials pressed local field offices to step up their activity and demanded regular progress reports. Agents were directed to maintain full secrecy “such that under no circumstances should the existence of the program be made known outside the Bureau and appropriate within-office security should be afforded to sensitive operations and techniques.” A total of 2,370 officially approved COINTELPRO actions were admitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and thousands more have since been uncovered. Four main methods have been revealed:

1. Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt. Their very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential supporters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists as agents.

2. Psychological Warfare From the Outside: The FBI and police used myriad other “dirty tricks” to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists.

3. Harassment through the Legal System The FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, “investigative” inter views, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters.

4. Extralegal Force and Violence: The FBI and police threatened, instigated, and themselves conducted break-ins, vandalism, assaults, and beatings. The object was to frighten dissidents and disrupt their movements. In the case of radical Black and Puerto Rican activists (and later Native Americans), these attacks-including political assassinations-were so extensive, vicious, and calculated that they can accurately be termed a form of official “terrorism.”

Government harassment of U.S. political activists clearly exists today, violating our fundamental democratic rights and creating a climate of fear and distrust which undermines our efforts to challenge official policy. We MUST remember this past and stay on guard against such covert tactics. The present administration may not choose to use such under-handed tactics, but surely there are those in government and law enforcement that would not hesitate for a minute to use the old COINTELPRO actions against those of us that simply want what is guaranteed by the US Constituion and anti-trust laws.

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Weirdwriter
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Weirdwriter

KT, I applaud what you wrote. To paraphrase an old saying, those who forget the past will have to fight the same battles over and over.

It should be remembered that the context of the 1960s has some differences from today’s.

J. Edgar Hoover as the first director of the FBI kept an iron rein on the bureau for 50 years, extending past the 1960s, and several presidents who probably would have gotten rid of him if they could. He was an extremist conservative who had nothing but contempt for anyone who disagreed with him, and didn’t hesitate to blackmail even those in high office.

I’ll bet a lot of people can’t even name the head of the FBI today. It’s Robert Mueller, and I have no idea what his personal politics are. That’s as it should be. The director now truly serves at the will of the President.

That’s pretty much true across the board for presidentially appointed security heads. We don’t have a vicious maverick like Hoover in charge of anything that I can tell.

The threats today as I see it come from people who have a vested interest in publicly pushing back against the current administration, trying to prove this President and the Democrats are weak on internal as well as external security.

I do think that the term “counterculture” in some way fosters the perception that is represents something that is unAmerican and different, odd and destabilizing. Truth is, it’s not as distinct from current “mainstream culture” as it was in the ’60s. And I think that needs to be emphasized — the “counterculture” IS American culture, as much as any other in the U.S.

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foodchain
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foodchain

KT, where does wikileaks fit in this for you? My son said, when wikileaks was in the headlines, that it was a game changer and needed no leader, that info would just keep coming. Have they been subdued? Their info was indicting of
The ruling class

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SueInCa
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KT
Part of the problem in the 50’s and 60’s was the Director of the FBI, I called him Jedger. Hoover was obsessed with the tactics you talk about to distraction. In the years since, the FBI has had to rebuild their reputation because it was so tainted by Jedger’s activities. I am not sure the current head of the FBI is willing to go back down that road. The CIA and NSA may be willing but the FBI takes pride in their service and if there are issues with Mueller, those issues are kept underground. You have far more to worry about with Homeland Security than you do the Justice Department, IMHO. In fact Mueller’s term is up this year and another Director will be nominated by Obama. That Director will have 10 years as well.

I worry way more about Homeland Sec than I do the Justice Dept. I worked with both the FBI and the Secret Service in my investigating days and spent some considerable time with different agents over the years. I would trust one of them before anyone in Homeland Security. That name alone gives me chills. Just the fact they were created by the last administration is enough to give anyone chills. Besides if this Occupy protest is infiltrated and claims are made about terrorism, people would really start to question the Tea Party even more than now. The injustice would hit many many people across this country and the 60’s might just look like a Tea Party in comparison to the outcry. At least I would hope that would be the case.

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atdnext
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Yet during the Bush II years, we saw a resurgence in “The Top Secret National Security State”… Well, it didn’t really go away, but our Constitutional rights were definitely under siege in an unprecedented way. I definitely think it can happen again if we allow it. I find it funny that the “tea party” folk who claim to cherish our Constitution so much refused to do anything when George W. Bush was trying to destroy it.

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ADONAI
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Oh KT, we’ve had this discussion before. We don’t have rights. There is nothing to violate. It’s merely a set of suggestions.

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SueInCa
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So you are calling the Bill of Rights a set of suggestions? They are far more than that. For anyone who has been arrested, they are real(of course there are people who will get the shaft – my word against a cops word) Of course there is corruption going on in law enforcement but ultimately if your rights are violated, you have recourse. Lawsuits all over the country are won on the basis of the Bill of Rights. During the Bush administration alot of people were singled out on violations of the Patriot Act, but those who fought back won on their established rights under The Bill of Rights if their arrest/detainment violated those rights. Guantanamo was a whole different story but there is a reason it was set up in Cuba. For the Bush administration to side step the law, plain and simple.

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ADONAI
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Google Japanese American internment camps in 1942. That was indisputably American soil. Guantanamo is done in our name on our dime. We can’t push ti away. We own it.

Google Kent State, habeas corpus, Waco, Birmingham Alabama, Chavez Ravine, Patriot Act, wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, etc.

You’ll see how much your rights are worth. They can be taken away anytime it suits them. That means they are far, FAR from being rights. They are suggestions.

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SueInCa
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Chavez Ravine? I must have missed something with that one. And no Guantanamo was not done in my name. That was Bush and his administration alone, I don’t own it I condemned it. They may be taken away for a TIME but if I survive, they will see me in court. If they were not rights, you would have no recourse in the judicial system.

Anyone can abuse your rights, but it is specifically those rights that give you recourse.

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ADONAI
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Chavez Ravine. It’s where Dodger Stadium is.

In the 50’s the government dragged dozens of Mexican American families out of their homes and off their property so they could build a baseball stadium.

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SueInCa
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Norris Poulson was a republican mayor and of course he was going to do whatever it took to get a stadium in LA. He certainly could not let SF beat him. But again he was a republican and a bigot.

“Poulson, for his part, challenged Bowron’s support for public housing, in particular a project in the area known as “Elysian Park Heights” (a site on which Dodger Stadium would one day be built). With the support of the group Citizens Against Socialist Housing (CASH) and drawing on the anti-communist atmosphere of the time, Poulson promised to end support for such “un-American” housing projects and to fire city employees who were communists or who refused to answer questions about their political activities.”

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ADONAI
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Sue, I get that the developers are the real villains here but the government knew what was up. Sheriffs were sent in.

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SueInCa
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Well I knew Dodger Stadium was there.

But it is a little different than how you portray it………..Developers are hardly the government in fact they are most likely in the 1%.

Los Angeles-based author Mike Davis, in his seminal work on the city, City of Quartz, describes the process of gradually convincing Chavez Ravine homeowners to sell. With nearly all of the original Spanish-speaking homeowners initially unwilling to sell, developers resorted to offering immediate cash payments, distributed through their Spanish-speaking agents. Once the first sales had been completed, remaining homeowners were offered increasingly lesser amounts of money, to create a community panic of not receiving fair compensation, or of being left as one of the few holdouts. Many residents continued to hold out despite the pressure being placed upon them by developers, resulting in the Battle of Chavez Ravine, an unsuccessful ten-year struggle by residents of Chavez Ravine, to maintain control of their property. The controversy surrounding the construction of the Dodger Stadium provided the inspiration for singer Ry Cooder’s 2005 concept album, Chávez Ravine.

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SueInCa
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Hey I like the new avatar showing up in the side box for comments

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ADONAI
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Thanks Sue! I’m growing fond of it myself

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SueInCa
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Looks like Che to me.

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KQµårk 死神
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Absolutely KT all that has been done in the past and some of it is going on now, though I don’t think nearly to that extent.

NYC authoritarianism is a worse case than most since Giuliani really set up a small version of oppressive regime especially after 911. For example their no megaphones bullshit is a direct result of this.

No matter who is in charge you are always going to have paranoid factions inside local, state and federal agencies independent of policies.

On the other hand if it’s concerning a real hate group, especially on the right I want agents doing allot of what you worry about. The problem is who decides who’s a real threat and who’s not.

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foodchain
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foodchain

HEy KQuark; I think the “who” is very important here. The illegal use of power seems a given but left’s unabridged use of power seems, more generally, to be used in order to move forward. the right’s eels more about revenge and control. I do, hover, seem to see thIngs in left colored glasses.

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choicelady
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Hi KT-

Let me be contrarian here.

I once landed in the LAPD “terrorist file” in the 1970s for giving a talk on the unreported hazards of nuclear energy. (The undercover cop said I was neat and clean leading to friends labeling me the “tidy terrorist”). The group that was infiltrated sued along with others and WON calling for those files to be destroyed. Oh, uh huh. Sure.

I spent years on the streets helping walk women into and out of reproductive health clinics, going through massive demonstrations with police up your nose at every turn. They all knew who I was – I became the spokesperson for the movement. When a city council member called for an FBI investigation around police selective enforcement of the law, MY name was on it as the complainant charging the Commissioner with malfeasance. (The investigation worked, by the way. They started upholding the law.) They had been brutal to those who upheld the law but gentle with those barring entry to clinics. That was intolerable. But after the FBI investigation and the Spring of Life mass demonstrations, all that changed. We began to work together toward equitable law enforcement. When my own life became seriously threatened by extremists, the police were front and center on my behalf. That was all the way from the FBI to locals.

Then came 2000 and the rise of the NSA spying and voila – I was once again a suspect. I have survivor whiplash from it all. Today an enemy of the state, tomorrow a BFF. Who can keep track?

What we have today is not COINTELPRO, not the wide use of agents provocateur, not police brutality. What we have is what we should have – legally neutral enforcement of laws.

One gripe I had with “my side” is the presumption that because we were on the side of right we should be immune from everything else. Well – police orders to disperse are neutral – there IS no “right side”. If you’re obstructing traffic, endangering passersby, trespassing – your motive is not and should not matter. After years of watching people get a pass on these issues because they were perceived to be “peaceful pro-life protesters”, I WANT legal neutrality – even if that means my having to comply with orders.

I cannot speak for the NYPD – that macing of the women was horrible and illegal on all counts, a crime under color of authority – but if the police ascertained that public safety on the Brooklyn Bridge was at risk, they WILL arrest people who are causing that. Last night 19 people from our part of the demonstration were arrested in Sacramento for public sleeping in the park – as homeless people are arrested nightly for the same. I am trying to change that law – but enforcing the law was not police brutality, and due warning HAD been given this would occur if people did not keep moving. Stupid law, but evenly enforced.

This is MILES away from COINTELPRO. This is light years away from NSA hacking of my computer and spying on me. This is NOT the use of infiltrators to ‘get’ any of us (good luck finding leaders anyway) – it is upholding what would be upheld under any circumstances.

I know the idiocy of “equal enforcement” – Anatole France opined:

“La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain.

* The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

When you (I) stand on legal neutrality, we do and can risk the fact that the law itself may NOT be neutral. Then it MUST be changed.

But the enforcement of laws that do not inequitably challenge us vs. them, cannot be thwarted simply because our cause is just.

Those ARE the arguments of the religious right. Committing civil disobedience involves the principled stand against injustice, risking arrest, sentence, penalties. The religious right insists it is above the law, even of just staying out of other people’s space. That there should never BE penalties to them – they are doing God’s will.

I don’t want to be on that side. I also don’t want minor arrests to become our form of “martyrdom”.

Is it fair to be busted for not dispersing when CEOs go free? Yes – what they did, odious and heinous though it is, was not illegal. Not following police orders IS.

We need to know who is seriously a threat to civil liberties – is it NYPD, the feds, who? But what we cannot do is once again decide we really DO see this nation today as a police state, that our cause is just so we should be immune from all legal ramifications. Then we’re just like the Baggers who are waiting, as they did in the 90s, for the black helicopters and white UN buses to round them up. It’s NOT HAPPENING. To them OR to us.

Some temperate assessments here. It’s important.

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cyrano1
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cyrano1

Great post!! Your very rational legal mind and your experiences as an activist clearly express a thorough understanding of the form legislation must take to protect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their persuasions.

When Hoover broke laws in the 60’s during the protest movements, those of us on his lists and wiretaps had no idea we were only minor victims compared to the dirt he collected on all notable public figures – following up with the necessary blackmail to keep himself in power. To our great joy he was finally “outed” in every sense of the word after his death in 1972 – though his partner destroyed most of the damning evidence.

We all know the phrase, “Power Corrupts”, and I believe most who post here have never desired power, much less experienced its corrupting influence. We just want to use our vote to maintain a system that should work for all of us.

It takes huge numbers and relentless pressure to keep ’em honest, doesn’t it? So when/if Homeland Security or another agency gets to the point where a sizable majority thinks of “us” as their targets instead of “them”, we’ll take to the streets yet again. Until then, complacency. We’re a nation of short-term thinkers who don’t know our own history and don’t fix broken bridges until they collapse.

In the 60’s we realized success. Our protests worked, great legislation followed, and the rogue FBI was shortly afterwards finally neutered. Those experiences make us probably less fearful today than perhaps we might be otherwise.

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KQµårk 死神
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Exactly authorities can’t take sides.

If I was King I wold make anti-abortion protesters be no closer than a mile away from clinics. But that’s me where the authorities have to show some unbias.

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Emerald1943
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Thanks KT! I had forgotten about a lot of this. I do, however, remember the anti-Vietnam protests and how many of us kept one eye in the rear-view mirror. The only time that I can think of feeling that kind of paranoia was during the Bush years, wondering if my phone conversations were being listened to.

We would all do well to remember how powerful our government can be. It seems to me that we have all these “liberties”…but only to a point. Just don’t make too many big waves or else!

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foodchain
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foodchain

Hi KT; I remember thinking that “dossiers” were being built on anyone who was publicly active. It was a widely held belief. Let’s just say, I felt more comfortable letting the 911/Iraqi War settle before I visited al Jazeera.

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