The Hunt for Red Menace: - 17

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The Rubric of Terrorism

In Search of the Crafty Core Cadre

Paradigm Shift

Frame established for anti-toxics movement:

Frame established for pro-pesticide industry:

Spys, Researchers or Journalists?

How Counter-Subversion Investigations are Rationalized in the 1990's

During the FBI's Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) operations from the 1950's through the early 1970's, the stated goal of the FBI was to actually "disrupt" or "neutralize," the activites of dissidents, a goal both Congress and the courts found to be unconstitutional.

Following media exposure, Congressional hearings and numerous lawsuits, the FBI attorneys carefully read the applicable case law. Today, all FBI investigations at least start out tied to a possible violation of a specific federal criminal statute. The FBI's legal justifications, however, merely serve as the current public rationalization for a decades-long policy of targeting alleged "subversives" with extra-legal tactics in an effort to derail or destroy movements for social change. . .movements with leaders perceived to be witting or unwitting tools of communist agents.

Since this ultimate ideological goal of the FBI cannot be legally (and certainly not publically) articulated, the FBI has developed an artful use of coded language to obscure and justify its actions. To understand these related phenomena, it is necessary to study the political ideology behind the current use by the FBI and its allies of the terms "national security," "subversion," and "terrorism."

The Rubric of Terrorism

Certainly no foreign agent or actual terrorist has the protection of the Constitution for his or her activities; and on a moral level all terrorism (violence directed at non-combatant civilians to spread fear and panic in an effort to achieve military or political goals), is reprehensible. . .whether carried out by individuals, political groups or nations, and regardless of the merit of the political ends. Still, it is important to listen carefuly when the term terrorism is used since it is frequently used purposefully to redirect thinking concerning acts of war, armed agression, and violence which, while they may be tragic or despicable, in fact are not accurately described as terrorism, nor carry the stigma of the term terrorism. Nonetheless, whether an act is actual terrorism, perceived to be terrorism, or called terrorism, the effect as a rhetorical device is identical.

The FBI uses popular fear of terrorism in a rhetorical sleight-of-hand to construct a seemingly-plausible reason for surveillance and infiltration of groups that the FBI readily admitted are ostensibly engaged in protected speech and associational activity.

According to the FBI theory (as laid out in repeated public statements and FBI internal documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act) lawful groups are used as covers or fronts for subversive activities of enemy agents and terrorists. The goal of these subversive terrorists is to so weaken society as to allow the takeover of the United States by the forces of global communism. Thus seemingly legitimate groups which appear on the surface to be merely exercising their First Amendment rights, are potentially subversive, can be used as a staging area for terrorism both abroad and in the U.S., and thus pose a serious threat to our national security interests.

This rationale was, in fact, put forward to an FBI oversight committee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, February 23, 1988 by Oliver B. "Buck" Revell, Executive Assistant Director of the FBI. Revell had been summoned to explain the FBI's CISPES investigation. However Revell's explanation was found to be dubious by Congressional probers. FBI Director William Sessions then went before the committee and stated that the CISPES investigation was the result of errors by a few wayward FBI agents and informants-a claim not supported by the FBI's own internal documents.

In Search of the Crafty Core Cadre

Implicit in the rationalizations and justifications for political repression is a package of right-wing paranoid beliefs with roots deep in xenophobia and nativism. Two key paranoid theories could be called the theories of the "Slippery Slope" and the "Onion Ring."

The Slippery Slope Theory of Subversion: · Global liberation movements are not prompted by a genuine response to social conditions but by outside intervention, most often by revolutionaries or communists and their proxies. · Domestic social change movements are not fueled by a genuine response to social conditions but by outside agitators, most often revolutionaries or those under the control of revolutionaries . · Liberalism is the crest of a slippery slope which leads downhill to the Welfare State, then Socialism, and inevitably to Communism or Totalitarianism. · Dissent is provoked by subversion. Subversion is a terrorist movement. Terrorism is criminal.

For the true believers who advocate this view, patriotism equals unquestioning obedience to authority and undying resistance to social change. Surveillance and infiltration are justified to stop the spread of subversion. It's all a plot. Slippery Slope theorists generally also believe in the Onion-ring theory as well.

The Onion-ring Theory of Subversion. · Subversive cadre bore into the core of all social change movements both at home and abroad. · To uncover the cadre who are engaged in subversive criminal activity, an informant must work step-by-step from the outside onion ring of non-criminal free-speech activity through several rings of hierarchy toward the center core where the criminal activity lurks. · Honest though naive activists are often unaware they are being manipulated, and therefore should welcome attempts to expose the core of crafty covert criminal cadre.

The Onion Ring theory is less extreme than the Slippery Slope theory in its concession that some members of radical and liberal political movements are sincere, and not sliding towards totalitarianism. Nonetheless, its advocates also justify surveillance and infiltration to stop the criminal activity at the core of groups exercising their free speech rights.

In fact, in order to insure that at least some agents or informants succeed in penetrating to the criminality at the core, an extraordinary level of invasion becomes not only legitimate, but essential. Onion-ringers advocate infiltrating every group, spying on every member, and keeping track of all persons even tangentially involved in all social change movements. Alas, for the domestic political activist, the end result of both the Slippery Slope and Onion Ring theories is the same: political surveillance and infiltration.

While courts have consistently ruled that passive monitoring of First Amendment activity is permissible, critics charge that passive monitoring and dossier-compiling often turn into disruption or attack, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes intentionally. As Donner explains:

Since agents are attempting to find a core of criminality that, except in rare cases, does not in fact exist, they become frustrated and redouble their efforts. This fervor is especially problematic with informants and agents provocateur who fail to find the sought-after criminals, and thus may feel compelled to inflate, provoke, or invent charges of criminality to reach their assigned goal, gain status, and continue to receive pay and bonuses. The dynamic of informant abuse is discussed in Under Cover: Police Surveillance in America.<$FMarx, Gary T. Under Cover: Police Surveillance in America. California: Twentieth Century Fund/University of California Press, 1988>

Some critics insist that without unequivocal guidelines, firm congressional oversight, and thoughtful judicial intervention, intelligence activities-whether domestic or foreign-almost inevitably turn toward undemocratic techniques. Other, more historically informed critics point out that all of these constraints have consistently failed to deter abuse.

@HEADING1 = Re-Framing Dissent as Criminal Subversion

Exactly how the repetitive repressive processes of counter- subversion interact, and which elements are causative, symptomatic, or merely anecdotal, has not been fully studied. Nevertheless, when classic patterns of political repression emerge, regardless of causation, a political or social movement would be wise to consider tactics and strategies to protect its members from the negative effects of political repression-political, emotional, and physical. Further, since dissident groups experiencing political repression often are later revealed to be victims of illegal government surveillance and harassment, members can be provided with simple, common sense techniques to prevent fears of (and actual incidents of) surveillance and infiltration from paralyzing or disrupting the group and diverting it from its goals.

Paradigm Shift

Often overlooked as a possible warning sign that a campaign of political repression is underway is "paradigm shift." Paradigm shift, in this usage, means a major negative change in the way the public perceives the political movement that is ultimately victimized. Paradigm shift frequently is associated with episodes of political repression, and frequently precedes more overt signs of attack such as assaults, break-ins and surveillance. Political repression telegraphs its punches.

For many years the major threat to "the American way of life" was popularly believed to be communism, then generalized leftist revolutionism, and now a vaguely-defined domestic terrorism. Targeted individuals are seen as not only engaged in criminality, but also attacking core cultural and political values which, if abandoned, would destroy America as we know it, and which therefore represent a threat to national security. This concept of America under attack frequently is filtered through a paranoid worldview that represents what social scientists call a "subversion myth."

The perceptual shift from dissent to criminality first goes public with unsubstantiated allegations and conclusions in the newspapers, newsletters and magazines of the reactionary and paranoid political right. These right-wing media attempts to re- frame the public's perception of the dissident group. The concept of the "frame-up" has been popularized in pulp crime novels and film noir, but few people stop to consider what it means when, with wide-eyed innocence, the person being dragged to jail proclaims, "I've been framed." The term "frame" is condensed from the original jargon, "to hang a frame" on someone, which means to select for an observer a perspective from which certain conclusions about a person, group or event seem readily apparent, logical, and even inescapable.

Eventually, right-wing re-framing of dissidents as subversives or criminals spills over into more mainstream media. A growing segment of the public begins to see the targeted political movement as fundamentally at odds with mainstream society. This antagonism is portrayed as irreconcilable. The dissidents are seen as non-rational, unstable, alien, and capable of odious crimes because of their zealous mindset. Lists of potential crimes are discussed, and finally actual crimes are blamed on the political movement. Ideas that were once merely marginalized are thus criminalized. Popular opposition to government and private attacks on the dissenting group is partially neutralized. In some cases the re-framing is so successful that there is widespread popular sentiment supporting the attacks. When this process of re-framing is successful, paradigm shift has occurred.

Often, derogatory information passes back and forth between government agencies and private right wing groups through informal back-door channels, and the actual source becomes obscure. Lawsuits and declassified documents have revealed that sometimes it is the investigative agency that leaks information to the right-wing press, and in other cases investigative agencies rationalize investigations by citing charges appearing in the right-wing press. The relationship benefits both sides. The agency is able to test public sentiment and prepare the ground for its assault, while the right-wing press furthers its political agenda and at the same time appears to be generating hard investigative journalism.

Re-framing of dissenters as criminal subversives is therefore a critical process within government law enforcement and intelligence agencies. For internal and external reasons, government institutions must provide justifications for the fact that on the surface, members of a dissident group under investigation often appear to be engaged in activity protected by the First Amendment. Agents and officers who become queasy about lapses in protecting Constitutional rights, or who object to the paranoid assumptions underlying the rationalization of the investigation, are made aware that their careers will suffer unless they become team players. Sometimes, if public political conditions are favorable, a Congressional committee will start a well-publicized investigation and hold hearings where the government and right-wing experts who started the process are called to testify. This forum ensures that the charges against the targeted group are distributed widely by the media, and hearing transcripts become the basis for a new wave of charges.

When the public is prepared to view the dissidents as a clear and present danger, the last stage of political repression is implemented. Government agents engage in intrusive investigative procedures and harass members of the targeted group. Suddenly, demonstrations or acts of civil disobedience are met with huge overreaction and displays of police power (and sometimes acts of police misconduct or brutality); and unexplained and apparently random physical assaults, arson attacks, or robberies occur with increasing frequency.

Since the occurrence of paradigm shift may serve as an early indicator for political repression it is usefule to study how the environmental movement and the movement seeking civil rights and equality for gay men and lesbians are both experiencing paradigm shifting atacks.

As Johan Carlisle pointed out in Covert Action Quarterly, "the two environmental groups under the heaviest fire are Earth First! and Greenpeace."<$FCarlisle, Johan. Bombs, Lies and Body Wires: Targetting the Environmental Movement. Covert Action Information Bulletin, Number 38 (Fall 1991). See also: Berlet, Chip. Hunting the Green Menace. The Humanist, July/August 1991. Berlet, Chip and William K. Burke. Corporate Fronts: Inside the Anti-Environmental Movement. Greenpeace, Jan./Feb./March, 1992.><M> Right-wing publications have been re-framing the environmental movement for several years and current articles in mainstream media are beginning to reflect this paradigm shift. For instance USA Today in April of 1992 ran two oppossing views on Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring published thirty years ago last April.<$F USA Today, April 14, 1992, p. 12A.> After claiming Carsons's warnings about DDT were unfounded, author Patrick Cox, "an associate policy analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute," went on to frame Carson and the anti-toxics movement as hysterical ideologues. An analysis of Cox's polemic results in the following:

Frame established for anti-toxics movement:

Persons who oppose pesticides and believe DDT is unsafe:

Reject science.

Are inflicted with "environmental hypochondria".

Circulate "apocalyptic, tabloid charges."

Have "no evidence" to back their "hysterical predictions."

Use "gross manipulation" to fool the media.

Are "unscrupulous, Luddite fundraisers."

Suffer from "knee-jerk, chemophobic rejection of pesticides."

Create "vast and needless costs" for consumers and farmers.

Frame established for pro-pesticide industry:

Pesticide supporters who believe wide use globally of DDT is safe:

Are pro-science and pro-logic.

Have support from the "real scientific community-the community of controlled studies, double blind experiments and peer review."

Are on the side of U.S. consumers and farmers and save them money.

The rhetoric attempting to frame the environmental movement is vivid. "Willing to sacrifice people to save trees,"<$F cited in Knox, Margaret. "Meet the Anti-Greens: The 'Wise Use' Movement Fronts for Industry." The Progressive, October 1991.> "We are in a war with fanatics...they will go to any extreme."<$Fcited in Goldenthal, Howard. "Polarizing the Public Debate to Subvert Ecology Activism," NOW (Toronto), July 13-19, 1989.> "Behind the Sierra Club calendars...lies a full-fledged ideology...every bit as powerful as Marxism and every bit as dangerous to individual freedom and human happiness." <$FPostrel, Virginia I. "The Green Road To Serfdom." Reason, April 1990.> "Blinded by misinformation, fear tactics, or doomesday syndromes." <$F Sikorski, Merrill. "Neo-Environmentalism: Balancing Protection and Development." American Freedom Journal, December 1988, January 1989.>. "The core of this environmental totalitarianism is anti-God." <$F Krug, Edward C. "Save the Planet, Sacrifice the People: The Environmental Party's Bid for Power." Imprimis (Hillsdale College, Michigan), July 1991.> "An ideology as pitiless and Messianic as Marxism."<$F Rockwell, Llewellyn H., Jr. "An Anti-Environmentalist Manifesto." From The Right (newsletter of Patrick J. Buchanan). Vol 1, #6, Quarterly II, 1990.> "Since communism has been thoroughly discredited, it has been repackaged and relabeled and called environmentalism."<$F Williams, Walter E. Column distributed for publication June 4, 1991, as reprinted in Summit Journal, July 1991. Citing Rockwell article above.> "The radical animal-rights wing of the environmental movement has a lot in common with Hitler's Nazis."<$F Ibid.>

There have been centuries of discrimination against persons who challenge the heterosexual majority, but the 1990's saw a wave of physical attacks on and harassment of those trying to raise awareness about AIDS, or seeking human rights for lesbians and gay men. These attacks reflected classic patterns of political repression.<$F Kaplan, Esther. "Act Up Under Seige-Phone Harassment, Death Threats, Police Violence: Is the Government Out To Destroy This Group?" Village Voice, July 16, 1991.>

Articles in the right-wing press escalated hyperbolic rhetoric concerning homosexuals starting in the late 1970's, as gay rights activists moved out of the closet. In the early 1980's Enrique Rueda of the Free Congress Research & Education Foundation was asked by Free Congress president Paul Weyrich "to research the social and political impact of the homosexual movement in America."<$F Rueda, Enrique T. The Homosexual Network: Private Lives and Public Policy. Old Greenwich, CT: The Devin Adair Company (The Free Congress Research & Education Foundation), 1982. p. 15.>

The result was a lengthy 1982 book, The Homosexual Network, in which Rueda concluded that "The homosexual movement is a subset of the spectrum of American liberal movements."<$F Ibid. p. 18.> Rueda was alarmed by "the extent to which it has infiltrated many national institutions."<$FIbid. p. 15.> One jacket blurb writer gushed that Rueda had revealed "the widening homosexual power-grab in our society." From civil rights to power-grab in one volume.

In 1987 Rueda joined with co-author Michael Schwartz to produce Gays, AIDS and You. The introduction warns "The homosexual political agenda represents a radical departure from what we as Americans believe...a terrible threat-to ourselves, our children, our communities, our country...a radical, anti-family agenda."<$F Rueda, Enrique T. and Michael Schwartz Gays, AIDS and You. Old Greenwich, CT: The Devin Adair Company, 1987. p. 7.> From power-grab to terrible threat. The authors suggest the movement for homosexual rights is different from movements involving "legitimate" minorities, and using conspiratorial phrases, write:

=== "This movement is stronger, more widespread, more skillfully structured than most Americans realize. It reaches into our media, our political institutions, our schools, even into our mainline churches....And now this movement is using the AIDS crisis to pursue its political agenda. This in turn, threatens not only our values but our lives.<$F Ibid. p. 8.>

Back cover blurbs include snippets from Senator Bill Armstrong, "An urgent warning," Beverly LaHaye, "reminds us of the necessity to reaffirm our civilization's Biblical heritage," and Congressman William E. Dannemeyer, "failure to affirm our heterosexual values not only is unhealthy, but could result in the demise of our civilization." From terrible threat to end of civilization.

An order form for Gays, AIDS and You circulated by the Free Congress Foundation includes a picture of a man at a desk, his face in shadows, and the headline: "This Man Wants His `Freedom' So Bad He's Ready To Let America Die For It." The text added, "Our civilization stands in the path of his fulfillment as a freely promiscuous homosexual."<$F Ad for Gays, AIDS and You, from Free Congress Foundation, circa 1988, as reproduced in Bellant, Russ. The Coors Connection. Boston: South End Press, 1991. p. 65.>

Dr. Ed. Rowe, author of Homosexual Politics: Road to Ruin for America, goes further in outlawing the targeted movement, stating that "Homosexual politics is a moral cancer eating at the fabric of America. It is an unholy, satanic crusade...this evil movement must be stopped.!"<$F Rowe, Dr. Ed. Homosexual Politics: Road to Ruin for America. Herndon, Virginia: Growth Book and Tape Co. (Church League of America-Washington, D.C. office), ]]]]. Back cover.> Senator Jesse Helm's introduction to Rowe's book also raises the theme of non-rational zealousness: "Homosexual politics continues in fanatical pursuit of its goal of carving out a new 'civil right' based on the sexual appetite of its adherents."<$F Ibid. P. 4.>

Neo-fascist hatemonger Lyndon LaRouche was among the first in the paranoid right to move the alarm into the political arena. LaRouchians spawned restrictive propositions placed on the California ballot that were successfully defeated only after broad-based organizing efforts reversed early polls showing passage of measures that essentially called for firings and quarantines for persons with signs of AIDS. LaRouche even obliquely suggested murder as a tactic, writing that history would not judge harshly those persons who took baseball bats and beat to death homosexuals to stop the spread of AIDS. One 1985 pamphlet published by LaRouche's National Democratic Policy Committee was titled "AIDS is more deadly than Nuclear War," which turned out to be a repackaged attack on the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve.<$F National Democratic Policy Committee. "AIDS is more deadly than Nuclear War." Pamphlet, NDPC, 1985.>

There are dozens of books and pamphlets that marginalize and frame the lesbian and gay men's movements as threats to the American way of life, and fit the pattern for paradigm shift. <$F See, for instance, Monteith, Dr. Stanley. AIDS: The Unnecessary Epidemic-America Under Seige. Sevierville, TN: Covenant House Books, 1991. LaHaye, Tim. The Unhappy Gays. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1978. Noebel, David A. The Homosexual Revolution. Tulsa, OK: American Christian College Press, 1977. See also, various pamphlets and reprints from the John Birch Society, including "The Truth About AIDS," The New American, August 31, 1987, and "What they are not telling you about AIDS, a pamphlet reprinting articles from the January 19, 1987 issue of The New American.>

Civil Liberties & Counter-subversion

Spys, Researchers or Journalists?

Like other right-wing investigators interviewed for this study, J. Michael Waller rejects the label spy, and points out what he is doing is what any good journalist would do. Waller believed he had "the goods" on CISPES: "if the FBI had access to the same information we came up with, they would have reached a different conclusion" about CISPES, Waller claimed.

He said he parts company, however, with those journalists who are too close to the FBI. "If someone is writing in a journalistic capacity they should maintain their independence by not cooperating on the side of a government agency."

Waller's position on this topic is eroded by the fact that the CIS publicly announced its assistance to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and Waller himself prepared a report for the State Department's Office of Public Diplomacy, which has been described in a Congressional staff report as essentially a domestic CIA propaganda operation.

In a 1987 interview Waller allowed that the CIS fundraising claims are a bit hyped, but said CIS did maintain the best files on Central America activists. Waller insists he "would not knowingly accept information obtained illegally," and said flatly that those involved with CIS "don't steal, don't break in, we don't do anything of that." According to Waller, "several disenchanted former CISPES members have been pretty helpful to us," but he refused to say whether that help extended to passing along internal documents.

The Constitution protects the right of right-wing groups to monitor groups and disseminate the most outlandish charges about their political enemies on the left. As long as the right-wingers are not stealing documents or tapping phones or engaging in other criminal acts against privacy rights, they are not breaking the law. "CISPES members have attended our meetings," noted Ron Robinson, President of Young Americas Foundation, "if that's infiltration then every reporter who attends a meeting and writes about it is an infiltrator." According to Robinson, the Foundation "provides information to the government," especially to those members of the Reagan Administration who had a "long history of activism in conservative youth groups."

John Rees, the dean of right-wing sleuths argues that "the Constitution protects what I do." What if the FBI launches a criminal probe based on his material? Rees responded "I'm delighted they are supplementing my effort; and when they close down an investigation I report it as being closed down." Rees added he has been repeatedly sued by his liberal critics for his activities, "and none of them prevailed."

The problem, according to Hugh Byrnes, political director of CISPES, is when Reagan's law enforcement agencies used "the false picture of CISPES portrayed by these right-wing loonies" to launch a criminal investigation which in fact was simply a pretext for crude harassment against anti-administration dissent in general, and CISPES in particular. "The fundamental issue is the right to free speech and the right to dissent," said Byrne. "Under Reagan, the government's policy, from the highest levels, has been to stifle all dissent that is in opposition to the Administration's failing policies in Central America. They learned from Vietnam it is necessary to prevent social upheaval and silence critics to be able to win their war in Central America," said Byrne. According to Byrne, Iran-Contragate showed the Administration is willing to use any method with "contempt for the law" to achieve their goals.

It is unlikely that any presidential administration in post- McCarthyist America could successfully pursue a policy of openly "stifling dissent." Government actions which can be interpreted by activists as "stifling dissent" are rationalized by government agencies as fulfilling legitimate law enforcement functions. The paranoid nativist's who pursue counter-subversion as a central issue create a body of literature and a functioning constituency which the FBI relies on to justify its political spying in terms of unravelling terrorist and criminally-subversive (actually traitorous) activity on the part of dissenters. While what the private counter-subversives do is protected by the Constitution, how the FBI uses their "research" is to engage in political surveillance and investigations which almost inevitably end up violating the constitutionally-protected rights of those who dissent from administration policies.

Revell disputed that the FBI based its investigations of CISPES on John Rees's John Birch Society reprints. Responding to a question after delivering a speech at the 1989 annual meeting of the American Society for Industrial Security, Revell described the FBI circulation of Rees's material as the work of one FBI staffer. <$F The author posed the question to Revell> According to Revell, he told the Congressional comittee that this was an isolated incident, but Revell said that he was informed by an associate that this was not technically accurate. "Then Steve Pomeranz, who was the section chief on terrorism, says, `Well B'Nai B'Rith does send us stuff and we do send it out on the activities of some of the Palestinian groups,'and I said we shouldn't do that either," explained Revell. "But I didn't get the same reaction from the congressional committee members on that one."


A murky netherworld exists among ultra-right ideologues that see conspiracies everywhere, the "Cowboys" of the private security sphere, and certain segments of the law enforcement community. They spy on activists, trade information, and inevitably end up harassing persons engaged in the type of freedom of expression our laws are supposed to protect.

As reporter Bill Moyers observed: "The apparatus of secret power remains intact. The voices that airily dismissed Watergate now ridicule the `lessons' of Contragate and continue a spirited defense of lawbreaking, arguing that the United States cannot play by the rules in a world where others are lawless."

Journalist Eve Pell, who wrote "The Big Chill: How the Reagan administration, corporate America, and religious conservatives are subverting free speech and the public's right to know," 1984, Beacon Press, worried that the situation keeps getting worse and yet most Americans seem complacent. "The Bill of Rights was designed to protect dissidents because the colonists knew from direct experience that when the rights of the unpopular are eroded without protest, the rights of the average person will soon be infringed." Pell concludes her book with a quote from Benjamin Franklin: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

According to reporter Ross Gelbspan, "Looking at the CISPES investigation in light of other political investigations dating back to the 1950's, one gets the distinct impression that the FBI sees its mandate as neutralizing or disabling every political movement that has the potential for bringing about significant changes in the American political system," argues Gelbspan.

Kit Gage, the Washington representative of the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (NCARL) agrees with Gelbspan. "We know first hand the kind of havoc the FBI can wreak on a group exercising its First Amendment rights," said Gage who has leafed through FBI files recording "38 years of surveillance on NCARL and its predecessors which produced 130,000 pages of files but not one criminal conviction." What is well documented "is an incredible amount of harassment and disruption of our organization," Gage charges. "Since the FBI seems unable to regulate itself," said Gage, "NCARL is currently seeking legal remedies in the form of legislation that would limit FBI investigations solely to criminal activity." Hundreds of law school professors have endorsed NCARL's proposed legislation.

Surveillance and disruption continues to hamstring activists. At the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, the Movement Support Network (MSN) maintains a list of suspicious incidents called in by groups around the country. According to MSN coordinator Jinsoo Kim, "since 1984 there have been over 300 suspicious incidents including 150 unexplained break-ins" where usually files are rifled but expensive office equipment not stolen. Suspicions point to an ad-hoc alliance of FBI agents and informants, other government investigators, far right vigilantes, and private security sleuths who trade information and justify their actions in the name of national security and fighting terrorism. Clearly the environmental movement is the target of some type of harassment campaign.

Although it is a needed reform, revising the Executive Orders which have unleashed the FBI is no long-term solution. The problem of chronic domestic government intelligence agency abuses is not so much that there are rogue elephants in the intelligence community, but that there are timid mice in Congress that are seldom chased into meaningful corrective action by the toothless cats in the Washington, D.C. civil liberties community. No one in congress wants to be perceived (or labelled) soft on "terrorism".

Legislative reforms to rewrite the FBI Charter, such as those proposed in a petition campaign by the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation, offer some safeguards against government intelligence abuse, but the larger problem is societal not legislative. As long as paranoid nativism, hysterical anti-communism, and counter-subversion which hunts maintain a significant grassroots constituency, the right to dissent in the U.S. will be under attack, and the basis of informed consent which undergirds pluralistic democracy will suffer.


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