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  • Sunday, February 12, 2006


    Agents of Repression

    All the recent hoopla about Bush's authorization for an undeniably illegal program of domestic "eavesdropping" led me to start reading Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement by Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall. I previously commented on The COINTELPRO Papers by the same authors here and here. Agents was the first book but they apparently wrote the second book because critics questioned their source material. Papers is filled with example reproductions of FBI documents illustrating the sources.

    Agents of Repression is a stark reminder that, for well over a hundred years, government agencies have been breaking the laws in their pursuit of dissidents in the US. The details of why any given threat is the worst enemy the Republic has changed faces but the result is the same. Excessive and illegal methods are used, many innocent bystanders are accused, and justifications for these acts are always seem to include the phrase "for the greater good."

    The following quote is prefaced by material concerning the "slacker raids" during WWI, circa 1917-18. The slackers in question were avoiding the draft. Thousands were arrested during these raids but "only one in every two hundred of them turned out to be genuine draft dodgers." If the intent was to catch draft dodgers, the arrests were remarkably inefficient. However, the intent was probably to intimidate and break the back of labor organizing, socialism and other dissidents rather than nab draft dodgers.
    Actually, the last sentence above is probably uncharitable to the BoI [Bureau of Investigation, predecessor to the FBI] insofar as there is considerable indication that Attorney General Thomas W. Gregory had seized upon the national war fever to act in concert with major financial supporters of the Democratic Part to "make American safe for industry," crushing the radical opposition once and for all. Conveniently, during the war, radicals in the U.S. could be targeted for wholesale elimination, not as threats to big business -- an approach which all but assured massive public resistance -- but as a "menace to national defense." The slacker raids and similar broadly focused gambits were designed, more than anything, to intimidate the general public to a point where there was a greatly diminished possibility of a popular radical resurgence after the war. In this sense, the BoI, rather than "getting out of control," was simply accomplishing its intended goals for the Wilson administration.
    Does any of this sound familiar? Every U.S. military action of the last century has provoked protests and dissents. And, like clockwork, the government says these protests are voiced by naive simpletons, endangering the country and giving comfort and aid to our "enemies." The less than subtle message is that any and all protest is orchestrated by foreign powers. The reality I see is that the most intense violence and conspiracy is directed against the protesters by the government and its agents.

    So now we have the PATRIOT ACT because, gee, law enforcement has its hands tied. We have the domestic spying programs because, gee, that FISA court is sooo time-consuming and difficult. What's the problem? It's just a few civil liberties, you won't miss them at all, we promise. Trust us, we're the government. Don't worry your silly little childish head about all this, just let the adults handle it, okay?

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