Vanderboegh: Comes the Stasi
Here's something real to ponder:
Pointing the US Surveillance Apparatus at the American People
New categories of individuals under the purview of state “counterterrorism” investigations
FBI’s Analytical Lexicon Lowers the Bar
Do you “pal around with terrorists”? Are you a “radical” or express views that the government considers “extremist”?
On October 28, the whistleblowing website Cryptome published the FBI Directorate of Intelligence: Counterterrorism Division’s Counterterrorism Analytical Lexicon. This eye-opening “Unclassified/For Official Use Only” (U/FOUO) document purports “to standardize terms used in the FBI analytical products dealing with counterterrorism.”
But what it does instead, in keeping with the FBI’s insatiable appetite for “actionable intelligence product,” is create new categories of individuals who might fall under the purview of state “counterterrorism” investigations. Right up front the Bureau informs us that the definitions used in the lexicon, “do not supercede those in the Department of Justice National Foreign Intelligence Program Manual (NFIPM), the Attorney General Guidelines, the National Implementation Plan for the War on Terror, or any US government statute.”
That covers a lot and ground and can hide much in the way of government mischief, particularly when new guidelines issued by U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey permit broad, intrusive investigations by FBI snoops.
As the Washington Post reported in early October, The new road map allows investigators to recruit informants, employ physical surveillance and conduct interviews in which agents disguise their identities in an effort to assess national security threats. FBI agents could pursue each of those steps without any single fact indicating a person has ties to a terrorist organization. (Carrie Johnson, “Guidelines Expand FBI’s Surveillance Powers,” The Washington Post, Saturday, October 4, 2008; A03)
In response, the American Civil Liberties Union warned that, The new guidelines reduce standards for beginning “assessments” (precursors to investigations), conducting surveillance and gathering evidence, meaning the threshold to beginning investigations across the board will be lowered. More troubling still, the guidelines allow a person’s race or ethnic background to be used as a factor in opening an investigation, a move the ACLU believes may institute racial profiling as a matter of policy. (”ACLU Condemns New FBI Guidelines,” Press Release, October 3, 2008)
In other words, an individual’s political views, racial background or ethnic origin can serve as a pretext for an investigation. The Analytical Lexicon claims that “Analysis that labels an individual with any of these terms is not sufficient predication for any investigation or technique. Nor can any investigation be conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment or the lawful exercise of other rights secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” The next sentence, couched in overly broad language subject to a great deal of latitude on the part of investigators states: “Before applying a label to an individual or his or her activity, reasonable efforts should have been made to ensure the application of that label to be accurate, complete, timely, and relevant.” (emphasis added)
Would, let’s say, the word of a paid informant or provocateur, be considered a “reasonable effort” that would then lead to labelling an individual as a member of a “terrorist cell” or “network”? Indeed, the Lexicon avers that “one or more terms from each of these categories can be used to characterize an individual and his or her background and activity. The applicability of these terms to an individual is generally a matter of degree and involves subjective judgments.”
“Subjective judgments” by whom, and for what purpose, one might reasonably ask the Directorate of Intelligence. As has been amply documented in the case of antiwar activists targeted by the Maryland State Police (MSP), once individuals have been labeled “terrorists” their personal details disappear into a myriad of federal, state and local “extremist” databases. During a 14 month period in 2005-2006 for example, the Maryland State Police and the MSP’s Homeland Security and Intelligence Division (HSID), illegally spied on death penalty opponents and antiwar organizers. Surveillance summaries, including names and personal details gathered on individuals and groups were entered into the Washington-Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) database, a federal data mining “tool” which tracks suspected terrorists and shares the results with national “counterterrorist” Fusion Centers.
The Washington Post reported that one “well-known antiwar activist from Baltimore, Max Obuszewski, was singled out in the intelligence logs released by the ACLU, which described a “primary crime” of ‘terrorism-anti-government’ and a ’secondary crime’ of ‘terrorism-anti-war protesters’.” According to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, labeled “Exhibit 2″ in the report issued by Stephen E. Sachs, “show that there was communication between the MSP and the National Security Agency (NSA) regarding surveillance,” the ACLU reported.
Alea iacta est.