Showing posts with label Surveillance state. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Surveillance state. Show all posts

Jan 17, 2013

Holding Prosecutors Accountable in Killing of Aaron Swartz

Corruption
Update: US Atty Ortiz issues statement. Turley: "the statement is at best misleading and at worse intentionally deceptive."

"There's a reason former Senator Russ Feingold is a college professor whereas former Senator Chris Dodd is now a multi-millionaire. There's a reason DOJ officials do not go after bankers who illegally foreclose, and then get jobs as partners in white collar criminal defense. There's a reason no one has been held accountable for decisions leading to the financial crisis, or the war in Iraq." - Matt Stoller
When prosecutors become overzelaous careerists or corrupt partisans, injustice follows. Most prosecutors are careerists or corrupt partisans.

In Wisconsin, who can forget Bush-Cheney-Rove's US Attorney Steven Biskupic and his reign of terror against innocent defendants?

Well, most everyone.

Our country buries corruption, especially in the judicial branch of govenment where ignorance pervades the American political culture.

Now, we have a moment that can shake the political system.

After being literally 'hounded' to death by the US Attorney's office, 26-year-old Aaron Swartz' suicide should spell the end of the careers of prosecutors—Masachusetts' U.S. attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant US attorney Stephen Heymann—who are guilty of killing this brilliant young man who worked for free to better our society. But let's be clear: The US government killed Aaron Swartz.

And this death ought to shine a light on what is routine: Use of the prosecutors' office for political retribution and careerism, justice be damned. "The more savage the penalties prosecutors can threaten, the more likely the defendant (guilty or innocent) is to speed things along by pleading guilty and accepting a light penalty," writes Clive Crook in The Atlantic.

Notes Scott Horton in Harper's Magazine. "A petition has now been launched requesting that President Obama remove U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz over her actions in the Swartz case."

There is in this tragic injustice a window for some manner of reflection, and some measure of reform on the what prosecutors are doing to our families.

Ortiz and assistant US attorney Heymann, for their part, should be banned from the legal profession and face disgrace.

Writes Glenn Greenwald:

 [I]t is imperative that there be serious investigations about what took place here and meaningful consequences for this prosecutorial abuse, at least including firing. It is equally crucial that there be reform of the criminal laws and practices that enable this to take place in so many other cases and contexts. ...

This is not just prosecutorial abuse. It's broader than that. It's all part and parcel of the exploitation of law and the justice system to entrench those in power and shield themselves from meaningful dissent and challenge by making everyone petrified of the consequences of doing anything other than meekly submitting to the status quo. As another of Swartz's friends, Matt Stoller, wrote in an equally compelling essay:


What killed him was corruption. Corruption isn't just people profiting from betraying the public interest. It's also people being punished for upholding the public interest. In our institutions of power, when you do the right thing and challenge abusive power, you end up destroying a job prospect, an economic opportunity, a political or social connection, or an opportunity for media. Or if you are truly dangerous and brilliantly subversive, as Aaron was, you are bankrupted and destroyed. There's a reason whistleblowers get fired. There's a reason Bradley Manning is in jail. There's a reason the only CIA official who has gone to jail for torture is the person – John Kiriakou - who told the world it was going on. There's a reason those who destroyed the financial system 'dine at the White House', as Lawrence Lessig put it.

There's a reason former Senator Russ Feingold is a college professor whereas former Senator Chris Dodd is now a multi-millionaire. There's a reason DOJ officials do not go after bankers who illegally foreclose, and then get jobs as partners in white collar criminal defense. There's a reason no one has been held accountable for decisions leading to the financial crisis, or the war in Iraq.

This reason is the modern ethic in American society that defines success as climbing up the ladder, consequences be damned. Corrupt self-interest, when it goes systemwide, demands that it protect rentiers from people like Aaron, that it intimidate, co-opt, humiliate, fire, destroy, and/or bankrupt those who stand for justice.
In most of what I've written and spoken about over the past several years, this is probably the overarching point: the abuse of state power, the systematic violation of civil liberties, is about creating a Climate of Fear, one that is geared toward entrenching the power and position of elites by intimidating the rest of society from meaningful challenges and dissent. There is a particular overzealousness when it comes to internet activism because the internet is one of the few weapons - perhaps the only one - that can be effectively harnessed to galvanize movements and challenge the prevailing order. That's why so much effort is devoted to destroying the ability to use it anonymously - the Surveillance State - and why there is so much effort to punishing as virtual Terrorists anyone like Swartz who uses it for political activism or dissent.

The law and prosecutorial power should not be abused to crush and destroy those who commit the "crime" of engaging in activism and dissent against the acts of elites. Nobody contests the propriety of charging Swartz with some crime for what he did. Civil disobedience is supposed to have consequences. The issue is that he was punished completely out of proportion to what he did, for ends that have nothing to do with the proper administration of justice. That has consequences far beyond his case, and simply cannot be tolerated.

Apr 21, 2012

Surveillance State

Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho; 1957 to 1981)
 - When the Fourth Amendment Still Mattered

"Th[e] National Security Agency's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back."

By Glenn Greenwald

That dramatic warning comes not from an individual who is typically held up as a symbol of anti-government paranoia. Rather, it was issued by one of the most admired and influential politicians among American liberals in the last several decades: Frank Church of Idaho, the four-term U.S. Senator who served from 1957 to 1981.



Justice Lewis Powell, writing for a unanimous Court in 1972, denounced the Nixon administration’s electronic surveillance, warrantless-wiretapping program not just on Fourth Amendment grounds, but as a betrayal of the sovereign rights of citizens in a democracy to criticize their own government. "History abundantly documents the tendency of Government - however benevolent and benign its motives - to view with suspicion those who most fervently dispute its policies. Fourth Amendment protections become the more necessary when the targets of official surveillance may be those suspected of unorthodoxy in their political beliefs. The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect ‘domestic security.’ Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent. ... The price of lawful public dissent must not be a dread of subjection to an unchecked surveillance power. Nor must the fear of unauthorized official eavesdropping deter vigorous citizen dissent and discussion of Government action in private conversation. For private dissent, no less than open public discourse, is essential to our free society." - Justice Lewis Powell (UNITED STATES v. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT, 407 U.S. 297 (1972)). One wonders if today's Supreme Court would vote to protect Fourth Amendment freedoms as did its predecessor of fourty years ago. We live in different times than we did during Nixon; and Bush and Obama are worse in some important civil liberties repsects. - mal contends

Sep 16, 2011

Unprecedented Surveillance in the United States

George W. Bush muttered in a press conference before the Iraq War invasion in 2003 that 9/11 proved America is now a battlefield, a ready excuse to launch a surveillance state matching that of the 10 combatant commands in the United States military. So the "homeland" is now a military-intelligence command with Americans as a target population.

Not yet repudiated by the Obama administration, the Bush-Cheney administration succeeded in consolidating an immense surveillance apparatus eviscerating the Fourth Amendment. [And let's ditch the "homeland" nonsense; we're not NAZI sympathizers.]

In 1972, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court rejected such a state-terror complex as envisioned [crudely] by the Nixon administration which targeted Americans whom Nixon didn't like. In United States v. United States Dist. Ct., 407 U.S. 297 (1972), the Court ruled in defense of liberty:
The price of lawful public dissent must not be a dread of subjection to an unchecked surveillance power. Nor must the fear of unauthorized official eavesdropping deter vigorous citizen dissent and discussion of Government action in private conversation. For private dissent, no less than open public discourse, is essential to our free society.
But Nixon was a piker compared to the neocons today. Does anyone believe we live with the same regard for liberty today as in the early 1970s?

As Dana Priest said in Frontline:
And so George Bush, for example, gave the CIA a billion dollars right off the bat, because the CIA was in the best position, not the military, to go after bin Laden and his followers in Afghanistan. And he gave them a billion dollars, and he also ordered the military to do whatever it took to support the CIA. …

They did the same thing with the NSA. Lots of money poured into the National Security Agency, which was the eavesdropper around the world. And they couldn’t grow fast enough. Not only were they asked to eavesdrop in many different places that they weren’t used to doing — not just capitals and not just leaders of countries, which is really what they were doing, mostly, prior to 9/11. They would want to know what a leader was saying or what an opposition group was saying. And they would report those conversations back.

They had to become more nimble and work at a lower level, because of course Osama bin Laden was not a leader, and the people who surrounded him did not live in palaces and didn’t visit embassies. So that agency grew very quickly as well.

And in order to grow quickly, because that’s what everyone was demanding, you couldn’t hire federal workers through this cumbersome federal-worker process. And not only that, but politically, people didn’t want to be seen as growing government. Members on the Hill, the Republican administration, nobody was in favor of growing the government.

So they actually made it much easier to hire outsiders, to hire contractors to work temporarily, than they did to hire federal workers. And that also remains a characteristic of what happens over the next 10 years, where any agency that wanted to grow quickly would go to the private sector, to corporations that saw an opportunity here to make a lot of money, to get into an area that no one was into yet, or very few players were into.

So you had this boom in the corporate intelligence world as well. Companies like CACI, big defense contractors, all of them — Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, you name them, L-3, just all the old-fashioned, industrial, “We’re building ships and submarines”-type corporations quickly moved into the intelligence and information space, because this war was not a war that required a lot of tanks, a lot of fighter jets. It required information. And information flows in a different way and is analyzed by machines rather than, again, destroyers [that] are going to fire missiles.
In reaction, Ten Years Later: Surveillance in the "Homeland" is a collaborative project with Truthout and ACLU Massachusetts, deserving of the widest dissemination.

By Jason Leopold

Editor's Note: This report was originally published on The Public Record on July 16, 2009. We're reposting it as part of our efforts to highlight a decade of surveillance in the 'homeland.'

Back in 2001, the Defense Department was briefed about a massive data mining system that officials said was aimed at identifying alleged terrorists who lived and communicated with people in the United States.

The new intelligence program granted traditional law enforcement agencies as well as the FBI and the CIA the authority to conduct what was then referred to as “suspicionless surveillance” of American citizens.

“Suspicionless Surveillance” was developed by the Pentagon’s controversial Total Information Awareness department, led by Admiral John Poindexter, the former national security adviser who secretly sold weapons to Middle Eastern terrorists in 1980s during the Iran-Contra affair and was convicted of a felony for lying to Congress and destroying evidence. The convictions were later overturned on appeal.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, had referred to Poindexter as “the architect of a program to extend surveillance of private databases.”

Rotenberg said Poindexter was involved in a 1984 policy directive criticized by civil liberties groups and lawmakers who said it would hand the National Security Agency control over privately held information. The directive was voided with the passage of the 1987 Computer Security Act.

But in October 2001, Poindexter resurrected his government operated data-mining proposals. It was then that he introduced TIA to the Department of Defense, around the time Bush had signed an executive order authorizing domestic surveillance under a program known as the President’s Surveillance Program, according to a report issued last week by government watchdogs.

In the summer of 2002, a public outcry over the revelation that JetBlue Airways turned over the names and addresses of 1.5 million passengers to the Pentagon so the agency could create a database about Americans’ travel patterns, and also authorized the agency to monitor credit card transactions, led Congress to withhold tens of millions of dollars in funding for the project in early 2003.

But the program would have been able to continue to operate if President Bush believed that dismantling it would endanger national security, which former NSA officials familiar with the program said was the case.

The “suspicionless surveillance” program was somewhat different from the warrantless wiretaps President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to conduct after 9/11. “Suspicionless surveillance” – unveiled in a Pentagon press release in 2002 – was broader in scope: it gave law enforcement the authority to mine commercial and other private data on American citizens, listening in on phone calls, monitoring emails, inspecting credit-card and bank transactions of thousands of individuals on the off-chance that one might be a terrorist – and all without any judicial oversight.

During a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee in April 2003, Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies, said, “There are two fundamentally different approaches that can be used to identify and locate dangerous individuals in the United States and their sources of financing.

“The approach, which has generated the most discussion, interest, and, apparently, resources is different forms of data-mining: the ‘suspicionless surveillance’ of large groups of people, whether through linking computerized databases, programs like Total Information Awareness, pattern analysis, the creation of a ‘terrorist profile,’ or surveillance of an entire group.”

But protests by civil liberty and privacy groups, as well as apprehension by Republican and Democratic lawmakers over what amounted to domestic spying, led Congress to shut down the surveillance program in 2003.

It now appears that shortly after Congress told the White House it was trampling on individual privacy rights with its “suspicionless surveillance,” several current and former NSA officials said in interviews, President Bush continued to secretly authorize the program.

Poindexter said in a resignation letter in September 2003 that his goal in developing the program was to identify “patterns of transactions that are indicative of terrorist planning and preparations.”

“We never contemplated spying and saving data on Americans,” Poindexter wrote in his resignation letter.

But that’s exactly what happened during the early stages of the program and, according to sources, continued after announcements were made that the program had been dismantled. The Bushadministration acknowledged that its aggressive campaign to unmask terrorists living in the US would be hindered if it were required to avoid spying on average American citizens.

Poindexter’s plan proposed to use state-of-the-art computer systems at the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, headquartered at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to secretly monitor emails, credit-card transactions, phone records and bank statements of hundreds of thousands of American citizens on the chance that they might be associated with, or sympathetic to, terrorists.

Poindexter, who was the director of the Information Awareness Office in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, came up with the idea after 9/11 and discussed it over lunch with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, news reports said at the time.

Despite assurances that the federal government would not misuse the program, the JetBlue revelation proved that the administration was willing to sacrifice individual privacy rights in the name of national security. JetBlue officials said the airline was pressured by the Pentagon to hand over its private customer data to a Pentagon contractor named Torch Concepts. The contractor then bought demographic information on nearly half of the passengers from Acxicom, a marketing company. Torch then put together a study and posted it on the Internet.

In its report, Torch said that the government would have to monitor an unknown number of passengers to “find a needle in a haystack without knowing what the needle looks like.”

At least one lawmaker had raised concerns at the time that implementing such a program could be illegal.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, told Rumsfeld during a public hearing in 2003 that the Total Information Awareness program “not only raises serious privacy concerns [but] might also be illegal and possibly unconstitutional.”

Report Critical of NSA Program

Last week, an unclassified report prepared by inspectors general of five federal agencies said George W. Bush justified his warrantless wiretapping by relying on Justice Department attorney John Yoo’s theories of unlimited presidential wartime powers, and started the spying operation even before Yoo issued a formal opinion, a government investigation discovered.

Essentially, President Bush took it upon himself to ignore the clear requirement of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that all domestic intelligence-related electronic spying must have a warrant from a secret federal court, not just presidential approval. Illegal wiretapping is a felony under federal law.

The July 10 report didn’t identify any specific terrorist attack that was thwarted by what was known as the President’s Surveillance Program (PSP), although Bush has claimed publicly that his warrantless wiretapping “helped detect and prevent terrorist attacks on our own country.”

The inspectors general ‘s report also makes clear that the full PSP was more expansive than the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the warrantless wiretapping that was revealed by the New York Times in December 2005. The TSP involved intercepting calls between the United States and overseas if one party was suspected of links to al-Qaeda or to an al-Qaeda-affiliated group.

Though the undisclosed elements of the PSP remain highly classified, the report gave some hints to its scope by noting that the program originated from a post-9/11 White House request to NSA Director Michael Hayden to consider “what he might do with more authority.”

Hayden then “put together information on what was operationally useful and technologically feasible,” the report said. “The information formed the basis for the PSP.”

In other words, the PSP stretched the limits of what the NSA could accomplish with its extraordinary capabilities to collect and analyze electronic communications around the world. Various journalistic accounts have suggested that Bush’s spying program crossed the line from zeroing in on specific surveillance targets to “data-mining” a broad spectrum of electronic communications.

Suggesting that the government gathered information on many innocent people, the inspectors general stated that “the collection activities pursued under the PSP … involved unprecedented collection activities. We believe the retention and use by IC [intelligence community] organizations of information collected under the PSP … should be carefully monitored.”

Surveillance now is everyone's business, as the line between intelligence-gathering and crimefighting rapidly fades and the public is conditioned to play its part.

The work of Deputy Police Chief Michael Downing of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) exemplifies the new surveillance paradigm. The head of the 750-strong counterterrorism force within the LAPD, he is on the hunt for "people who follow al-Qaeda's goals and objectives and mission and ideology." He says his officers collect intelligence and practice the "essence of community policing" by reaching out to Muslims and asking them to "weed out" the "hard-core radicals."

He adds that he is pleased that many Muslims have adopted the LAPD's iWatch program and are prepared, along with the general public, to call in tips about suspicious activity. With "violent Islamists" as his main target, Chief Downing is also keeping track of "black separatists, white supremacist/sovereign citizen extremists and animal rights terrorists." If threats materialize, he can draw upon the LAPD's "amazing" backup capacity - SWAT units, direct-action teams, air support, counterassault teams and squads that specialize in disrupting vehicle bombs.

Here we see several of the components of the new surveillance society. A militarized police force no longer leaves intelligence work to federal authorities. It seeks out information about anything that can be connected to "suspicious" activity and is keeping track of certain individuals and groups whether or not there is evidence that they are engaging in criminal activity. Police are expected to chase down unsubstantiated tips from the public, and not just to pursue evidence of wrongdoing. A new notion of "community policing" has emerged, where monitoring communities - with all the trust issues that this implies - has taken the place of winning community support by being accountable to residents and solving crimes.

The LAPD is one of some 3,984 federal, state and local agencies now collecting information about "suspicious activity" that could be related to terrorism. The Washington Post's "Top Secret America" series states that 854,000 people now hold "top-secret" security clearance. We estimate that's about one for every 215 working-age Americans. An additional 3 million people reportedly hold "secret" security clearance.

The federal government spends more annually on civilian and military intelligence than the rest of the world put together - $80 billion is a conservative figure, according to the October 28, 2010, Post. This is in addition to the $42-plus billion allocated to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the spending on intelligence activities by the LAPD and other state and local police forces. The homeland security industry is flourishing, with lucrative contracts being awarded to Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and other major defense contractors.

What exactly is being built with these funds?

The "Information Sharing Environment"

Essentially, the "total information awareness" assumption that the nation can be made safe by applying advanced technology to massive databases has been married to the call for a "unity of effort in sharing information" issued by the bipartisan 9/11 National Commission. The commissioners had recommended a fundamental change in how the nation's 16 intelligence agencies carried out their business. They urged that the "need to know" culture be replaced with a "need to share" imperative, with information being transmitted horizontally among agencies, not just vertically within agencies. They further recommended that the FBI be equipped to assume prime responsibility for domestic intelligence-gathering, that it incorporate a "specialized and integrated national security workforce," and that it form collaborative relationships with state and local police for this purpose.

To construct a new domestic surveillance network, theIntelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004mandated the creation of an Information Sharing Environment (ISE) under the director of national intelligence. Defined as "an interrelated set of policies, processes and systems," ISE was intended to facilitate the sharing of terrorism-related information with stakeholders at all levels of government and the private sector. Eventually, foreign governments are supposed to be brought into the ISE loop. The ISE requires the standardization of information systems and technology to provide access to the burgeoning number of databases that serve as its connective tissue, the enlistment of mission partners across federal, state, local, and tribal agencies and the private sector to keep the databases supplied with the information that is its lifeblood, and the use of "analysts, operators and investigators" from "law enforcement, public safety, homeland security, intelligence, defense and foreign affairs" to extract, analyze and disseminate timely intelligence.

Fusion Centers and Suspicious Activity Reports

The nerve centers of the ISE are the nation's 72 regional and state fusion centers, which were in part a response to the FBI's reluctance to share threat information with state and local law enforcement because of turf and security clearance issues. With considerable variation in what they do and how they do it, fusion centers were established over the past seven years with DHS funding to "fuse" and analyze information from a wide variety of sources and databases and facilitate information-sharing among themselves through the FBI's eGuardian database. The secretive fusion centers represent a significant departure from traditional law enforcement objectives and methods, with few legal limits on what they can and cannot do, little respect for long-established jurisdictional boundaries between local, state, federal, military and private entities and a notable absence of accountability mechanisms. Given the scarcity of domestic terrorism plots, it is not surprising that most fusion centers almost immediately changed the focus of their data collection from fighting terrorism to a broad "all crimes, all hazards" mission. Many now use federal counterterrorism funds to collect, store and share data that has little or no relation to terrorism and, often, no relation to actual crimes.

According to DHS head Janet Napolitano, along with fusion centers, the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiativeserves as the "heart" of the government's effort to keep Americans safe from "homegrown terrorism." The idea behind the initiative is to collect as much data about anything "suspicious" that just may (or may not) be related to criminal activity. Or, to quote the government's own alarmingly broad definition: a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) is "official documentation of observed behavior that may be indicative of intelligence gathering, or preoperational planning related to terrorism, criminal, or other illicit intention."

SARS programs, piloted by the LAPD, Boston and a handful of other cities, vary from place to place and are often in competition with one another for federal dollars. Today some 800,000 state and local law enforcement officers are encouraged to file SARs on even the most common everyday behaviors, such as looking through binoculars, taking pictures of buildings, taking notes in public and espousing "radical" beliefs.

The ISE program manager recommended that SARs are reviewed within the police department before being sent to a fusion center for further review by an intelligence analyst. If it "meets SAR criteria," it is then entered into the ISE for wide distribution and "fusion with other intelligence information." But a January 2010 evaluation of the ISE and National SAR Reporting Initiative has shown little uniformity in how SARs are being collected, vetted and shared, and how much personably identifiable information is being aggregated and disseminated through the fusion center network and sent to the FBI’seGUardian system, which is now serving as "an ISE/SAR shared space." In an effort to address criticisms voiced by civil liberties groups, ISE adopted a policy requiring that only behavior indicating some kind of connection to criminal activity or terrorism should be shared among federal intelligence agencies. But this civil rights protection does not apply to sharing by state and regional fusion centers.

A New Policing Paradigm

In addition to writing up SARS, police departments, often working directly with the FBI through its multi-agency Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs), sift "tips and leads" provided in field reports, through public tip lines, by private entities, by confidential and anonymous sources, or culled from media sources. Time that used to be spent investigating reasonable suspicion of criminal activity is now allocated to assessing randomly collected information to decide whether it is credible enough to be deposited in the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) and sent to the FBI’s eGuardian database for preliminary analysis before being sent to fusion centers for further analysis and wide distribution.

When local police work with the FBI in JTTFs, they become federal officers who are no longer under the supervision of and accountable to their local departments and communities, and instead must act in conformity with the FBI's guidelines on domestic investigations - regulations that are now so loose that they allow agents to conduct "assessments" involving monitoring of meetings and people, infiltration of groups, and personal interviews with no suspicion of wrongdoing - some 11,667 assessments were conducted just in the four-month period beginning in December 2009, with only a fraction leading to full investigations. And when local police participate with fusion centers in information collection and the building of personal files about activities that can be wholly innocent and may be constitutionally protected, they are integrated into a domestic surveillance network that is national in scope, beyond accountability, and far removed from community policing and public trust.

In the process, the line between traditional crimefighting and terrorism detection has been erased and something new has been born: a concept of policing that is no longer primarily reactive and focused on solving crimes or on collecting concrete evidence that a crime might be about to be committed. In "predictive policing,"local police officers serve as a resource for gathering information on a range of potential threats and situations on the assumption that criminal activity can be stopped before it develops. They are trained to use advanced technologies and tools, including powerful surveillance cameras provided through DHS grants, to monitor broad sections of the population, looking for indicators of future crimes before they are committed.

When the net is cast so wide, everything and anything begins to look like "terrorism-related activity," forcing police officers to waste time checking out dead-end tips. It is not surprising thatleaks from fusion centers have revealed that files compiled on individuals and groups are full of inaccurate information and focus on activities that may be both entirely innocent and constitutionally protected.

Constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein, a former associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, told Congress in 2009 that fusion centers and SARs were worthy of the Soviet Union's KGB and East Germany's Stasi, and should be abandoned: "To an intelligence agent, informant, or law enforcement officer, everything unconventional or unorthodox looks like at least a pre-embryonic terrorist danger."

What a difference a century makes.

One hundred and three years ago, then-attorney general Charles Bonaparte enlisted some private detectives and members of the Treasury Department's Secret Service (set up in the aftermath of the Civil War to ferret out counterfeiting) as special agents in his newly created Bureau of Investigation. At a time when Congress was staunchly against any federal power engaging in political surveillance, its role was initially limited to investigating interstate crime and crimes on federal property.

Those limitations did not last long. The seed had been planted of what would become a massive intelligence and homeland security bureaucracy involving 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies, according to The Washington Post's "Top Secret America" series.

How did we get from there to here?

The journey crosses a landscape of manipulated fears, as the established order confronted the "radical" ideas brought by immigrants, a series of anarchist bombings (including one on Wall Street that killed 33 people), an upsurge in trade union organizing, agitation surrounding the United States' entry into World War I, and the epidemic of strikes and race riots that followed the end of the war. The strikes of 1919 involving millions of longshoremen, stockyard workers, shoe workers, subway workers, steel workers, coal miners and members of the Boston Police were depicted in The Wall Street Journal and other newspapers as "Bolshevik" or "Soviet-inspired," or as a kind of "terror." Anti-union fever was solidly bipartisan, with the political parties stridently denouncing labor organizing as an attack on America and its way of life, and Massachusetts Secretary of State Albert P. Langtry denouncing political radicals: "If I had my way, [I would] take them out in the yard every morning and shoot them, and the next day would have a trial to see whether they were guilty."[1]

This first Red Scare opened the door to domestic surveillance by federal authorities. In 1919, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer set up the General Intelligence Division (known as the "Radical Division") within the Bureau of Investigation and put the 24-year-old J. Edgar Hoover in charge. Hoover drew up a list of "radicals" and, before long, he had an index of 200,000 names.

The list was instrumental in the massive 1919-1920 roundup of an estimated 6,000 immigrants and citizens, known as thePalmer Raids. Foreshadowing the post 9/11 roundup of "persons of interest," detainees were denied access to their families and to lawyers, and many were held for months, with no charges ever being filed against them. Hoover's list grew to 450,000 names in the aftermath of the raids, as the General Intelligence Division of the Bureau conducted wiretapping and break-ins. Red Squads formed by state and local police, along with the 250,000-strong volunteer force known as the American Protective League and its successor organizations, also engaged in the hunt for the "enemy within." George W. Bush-era attorney general John Ashcroft would later draw upon a long vigilante tradition of enlisting citizen spies when he proposed Operation Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS).

After Coolidge's attorney general, Harlan Fiske Stone, elevated Hoover to head the entire Bureau in 1924, he encouraged the new director to shift its focus from political surveillance to criminal law enforcement. But the FBI was soon back in the surveillance business. In September 1939, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a directive authorizing the FBI to investigate matters of espionage and sabotage and asked police departments to give the FBI all the information they collect about subversive activity.

FBI Director Hoover considered the directive to still be operational during the second Red Scare that followed World War II, and he greatly expanded the FBI's secret surveillance activity. In the early 1950's, the FBI and paid informants fed information to Sen. Joseph McCarthy as he carried out his televised hearings on "subversives" in the State Department and other agencies.

The FBI did not, however, have a monopoly on domestic surveillance. Other federal agencies eventually became involved in spying on the home front, among them the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - established by the National Security Act in 1947 to collect foreign intelligence and explicitly barred from exercising any "police, subpoena, law enforcement powers, or internal security functions" - the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Treasury's Secret Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the State Department's Passport Office, and the National Security Agency (NSA). The secret NSA had been created by President Harry Truman in 1952 to intercept communications from the USSR, and soon began monitoring the communications of Americans. In 1956, local and state police formed the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit, which had its own Interstate Organized Crime Index of "terrorist" individuals and groups using the computer technology of the day, and its own Red Squad intelligence units, trained by the CIA. Police departments undertaking intelligence work sometimes worked closely with the FBI, foreshadowing the Joint Terrorism Task Forces of the 21st century.

The FBI's COINTELPRO, CIA's Operation CHAOS, and NSA'sOperation SHAMROCK were some of the programs established to monitor and disrupt lawful First Amendment activity during the cold war period. In the name of keeping the country safe, infiltration, dirty tricks, psychological warfare and violence were used against political dissent, the movements for civil rights and black liberation, and protests against the Vietnam War, among other perceived threats.

Once the extent of government overreaching and abuse of power came to light through the post-Watergate investigations of the Rockefeller Commission and the Senate's Church Committee, the effort to regulate domestic spying produced the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, under which a secret court was set up to process requests for warrants for the physical and electronic collection of "foreign intelligence information" and spying on terrorist suspects within the United States. The Privacy Act of 1974 gave citizens the right to see some of the records that were held about them and to correct inaccuracies. But in the same period, the elements of a surveillance society were being assembled, as swiftly evolving computer technology gave birth to new forms of monitoring, data sharing and storage, with far-reaching implications for maintaining social control.

By the time the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1990 and 1991 and the war on Communism had been brought to a triumphant close, the intelligence bureaucracy was gearing up to engage with a new enemy, both at home and abroad. The FBI had been given primary responsibility for preventing and investigating acts of terrorism in 1986, and within a decade had created a Counterterrorism Center at FBI headquarters which was supposed to facilitate an exchange of information with the CIA, INS and other government agencies.

Who were the prime targets? Boston University law professor Susan Akram and University of California professor Kevin Johnson have described the demonization of Arabs and Muslims as terrorists in the closing decades of the 20th century in the effort to silence critics of US Middle East policy. The Congressional response to Timothy McVeigh's 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was the passage of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, whose draconian provisions to detain on secret evidence and deport "alien terrorists" were used exclusively against people of Middle Eastern descent.

"He who is not with us, absolutely and without reserve of any kind, is against us, and should be treated as an enemy alien," former president Theodore Roosevelt told the nation as the first Red Scare was getting underway.[1] In the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, this mindset commanded a global stage. "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," Bush warned the nations of the world in his September 20, 2001, address before the joint houses of Congress.

As we shall describe in the next installment, the launch of the 21st century war on terror accelerated the movement toward "Top Secret America" without fully addressing the failings of the intelligence bureaucracy that paved the way for the September 11 attacks.

1. Quoted in David M. Oshinsky, "A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy" (1983), p. 88