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If ever there were a glaring example of why NSA-type spying programs inevitably lead to oppressive violation of minority rights, in addition to peaceful First Amendment protest, it is Ray Kelly's New York City Police Department. These guys are desperately in need of having their sails trimmed by a Justice Department federal consent decree. The only issue after that is what to do with the NSA's, FBI's, and state and local police departments overreach?

Recent pieces in the The Atlantic, "Is the NYPD Worse Than the NSA?," and New York Magazine's "The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities," outline well the extent of NYPD abuse of the Constitution.

As noted, the NYPD is where all of this has been heading for sometime now. Civil liberties have been steadily crushed and weakened since the 1990s, and particularly since 911. As the Atlanticarticle notes:

The surveillance debate triggered by Edward Snowden's leaks frequently features government spokespeople assuring Americans that the authorities aren't targeting us with their spying activities. Implicit is the notion that if Americans were being targeted, that would be an abuse of power.

In New York City, the debate is different, because there's no doubt about the NYPD's surveillance tactics: They're definitely targeting innocent Americans citizens and legal residents. And that's an ongoing abuse of power, even if comparatively fewer people have heard about it.

Based on an excellent overview of the NYPD published yesterday in New York Magazine, it's clear that the NYPD is just the bleeding edge of the trend, and certainly not the exception. The integration of federal spying and local police departments has contributed to significant oppression of minority rights of Muslims, the systematic abuse of "stop and frisk," the use of the DHS Terrorism Task Force and the Central Intelligence Agency to put down the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the rise of a police state mentality in New York -- which mirrors the militarization of policing and intelligence nationwide. This latter trend is well captured in Norm Stamper's (former police chief of Seattle, WA) Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing.

The NYPD Division of Un-American Activities

What Kelly offered was a chance to start something new, without bureaucratic hand-wringing or political meddling. Cohen eagerly accepted. Cohen didn’t come alone. To build his new program, Cohen wanted someone by his side with access to the most sensitive intelligence, someone who could play a role in day-to-day operations. With a phone call to Langley, Cohen persuaded CIA director George Tenet to lend him Larry Sanchez. Like Cohen, Sanchez was an analyst who’d come up through the ranks. Unlike Cohen, Sanchez still had a blue CIA badge and the privileges that came with it.

Putting a CIA officer inside a police department was unprecedented. The CIA, by its very charter, was prohibited from having any “police, subpoena, or law enforcement powers or internal security functions.” But 9/11 had changed the equation. Security had become the overriding priority.

J. Edgar Hoover used the FBI COINTELPRO program to disrupt anti-war and civil rights leaders and groups, and as evidence has shown, the same surveillance and disruption tactics have emerged regarding FBI targeting of peaceful First Amendment anti-Iraq war groups and environmental groups -- leading to Criminalizing Dissent.

COINTELPRO: The FBI's War on Black America

Just One of Many Case Studies: NSA Spying on Environmentalists (aka: Dangerous Terrorists)

I'm sure everyone here knows that the FBI during the Bush administration considered U.S. environmental groups the greatest domestic terrorism threat to the country. Now there is a credible theory that at least some of the massive expansion of the U.S. security state has been caused by a response to so-called "eco-terrorism" threats, but has led to COINTELPRO-like disruption and spying on peaceful environmental groups.

Take, for example, the FBI definition of terrorism, which includes vandalism and other attacks on property (warning: PDF) leading the Bureau in the 2000s to list environmental and animal rights group “eco-terrorists” -- as the greatest U.S. domestic terrorism threat, despite the fact that such groups were responsible for few deaths or injuries.  This eventually led to a Department of Justice Inspector General’s report criticizing the FBI for targeting of First Amendment (civil liberties) and animal rights/environmental groups practicing non-violent civil disobedience, including improperly placing members of such groups on terrorism watch lists.

Subsequently, the FBI’s stance was altered to reflect criticism. But that didn't change the fact that targeting environmental groups had became an institutional mission priority that was clearly shaped by FBI terrorism definitions and mission statements interacting with (misplace, undemocratic) situational understanding of threats.

In contrast, other domestic extremists, including some anti-government, anti-abortion, and various hate groups, were responsible for hundreds of attacks and plots violent to people, yet were considered at the time less of a priority -- particularly after outcries by the rabid right against even feeble efforts by federal authorities to highlight the growing threats from domestic rightwing extremism.


Without question, the NYPD needs a mandatory Justice Department consent decree forcing them to clean up their act, as has been done with other police departments (including the Los Angeles PD in the 1990s after the Rodney King beating) in the past.

But the entire U.S. system -- local to federal -- has been moving in the general direction of fusing the criminal justice and terrorism industrial complex into one, anti-democratic behemoth. Without significant change in direction, the ability of anyone -- from environmental groups, Moral Monday or Wisconsin Walker protesters, to minority groups criminalized in wholesale ways by spying, stop and frisk, and Patriot Act abuses in the name of the War on Drugs --  to seek redress from government will be eliminated.

This is not a matter of one priority over another, however well intentioned people may be in thinking it's either-or. These are all interrelated, and eventually everyone's rights will be trampled on if the security state in New York, and across the country, continues its current trajectory.

As Jonathan Turley reminds us, we're already well on our way to an illiberal democracy -- i.e., one in name only.  10 Reasons The U.S. Is No Longer The Land Of The Free

It's not too late, but it's getting there unless we kick the ass of the the only political party that might have any interest in turning it around. Or we could just roll over and play dead.


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Comment Preferences

  •  New York City has suffered attack, twice. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, Kombema

    Pearl Harbor only got attacked once.

    How long has it been since Baltimore or Washington been attacked? The US Civil War notwithstanding.

    Stop and Frisk is not about stopping terrorists and needs to stop on account of being ineffective.

    •  It's all part and parcel to the same overreach, (11+ / 0-)

      unfortunately, nation-wide. When the CIA is part of an investigation of Occupy, and the FBI and local police departments profiling and violating the rights of not just Muslim Americans, but minority communities as part of the fused War on Drugs and War on Terrorism, something's wrong.

      I can't imagine you're signing off on Ray Kelly's tactics, beyond your criticism of stop and frisk, are you? Spying in New Jersey without authorization, installation of warrantless surveillance equipment in NYC mosques, etc.?

      "Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

      by Kombema on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 03:50:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If you were Mayor of NYC or Governor of NY (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        or POTUS what would you do in the face of an obvious repeated threat?

        •  Real terrorism prevention involves profiling (14+ / 0-)

          behaviors, rather than demographic profiles or entire groups, as the Israelis long ago discovered. This ham-handed blanket surveillance and Constitutional violations backfires by sewing mistrust and poor relations with the respective communities -- whether terrorism OR crime/drug related prevention.

          The threat is never going away, but much of what is being done is not just ineffective, but it's also counterproductive and un-Constitutional. Far better to promote trusting relations with people, from whom good community intel can emerge. The militarization of civilian policing -- and the confusion of everyday crime with terrorism, wastes money, and social trust, criminalizing society in general rather than targeting those actually most threatening to society.

          With any luck we'll find out what a new, less authoritarian mayor will do very soon.

          "Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

          by Kombema on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 04:05:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The same thing that was done (7+ / 0-)

          after the first attack, follow the law, not criminalize every Muslim in NYC, turn the NYPD into Mayor Bloomberg's private army and then use it to silence legitimate protest with abusive tactics. This is NYC not some third world country or Russia.

          "Information is power. But like all power there are those who want to keep it for themselves" Aaron Swartz, 1986 - 2013

          by TheMomCat on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 04:30:28 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's tremendously short-sighted, and a big fail (5+ / 0-)

            on every level. Aside from being immoral and unfair, and un-Constitutional, it also doesn't work -- thus failing on even a practical level. Three strikes.

            Hope a new mayor both pushes back against Kelly's Third World militarized policing, and cooperates with what I hope is a DoJ investigation of the many horrifying practices and events that have occurred. You don't need to run rough-shod over the Constitution to prevent terrorism -- or common crime.

            There was a diary recently about an NYPD assault of a homeless guy and the judge who tried to intervene. That's the level of arrogance and authoritarianism that has to be checked in a still-purportedly democratic society.

            "Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

            by Kombema on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 04:45:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  It's the authoritarian mindset of people like... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Kombema, TheMomCat, aliasalias

            Ray Kelly who drank the Cheney kool-aid and now live, eat and breathe the malevolent philosophy of his dreaded "one-percent-doctrine."

            Unfortunately, the former vice president was not only the worst vice president of modern times... he was also the most influential.

            'Cuz freedom can't protect itself ~~ EFF ~ EPIC ~ ACLU

            by markthshark on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 04:59:21 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  He was the chickeniest of the Chicken Hawks, too (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              markthshark, TheMomCat, NearlyNormal

              A draft-evading Darth Vader wannabe.

              "Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

              by Kombema on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 05:13:23 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  getting deferments 5 times while supporting (0+ / 0-)

                the war(s) and that's what makes his 'draft dodging' wrong, not just because he dodged the draft.

                Which is what I did, I was a draft dodger, that's why my children were born in Canada (they're still there too), but I was in protests against the war and I wanted everyone to be a 'draft dodger'.

                without the ants the rainforest dies

                by aliasalias on Tue Aug 27, 2013 at 11:19:02 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  The "war on terror" is now "the war on crime"... (17+ / 0-)

      ...and minority communities (moreso urban minority communitiies) are at the top of the list for surveillance and "pre-crime" targeting. This is a pretty widely-publicized and very ugly manifestation of our "war on terror."

      "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

      by bobswern on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 03:55:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  War on crime is local. (0+ / 0-)

        Detectives in Trenton are trying to stifle the next murder. 31 so far. The next sets an unfortunate record in south rust belt.

      •  All here should read this excellent piece from... (13+ / 0-)

        ...PR Watch, from is outstanding!

        The Homeland Security Apparatus: Fusion Centers, Data Mining and Private Sector Partners
        by Beau Hodai — May 22, 2013 - 7:45am

        This article is an extraction of material contained in "Dissent or Terror: How the Nation's 'Counter Terrorism' Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street," published by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy.

        Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a nationwide "homeland security""counter terrorism" apparatus emerged. Components of this apparatus include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center, and state/regional "fusion centers." Fusion centers, by and large, are staffed with personnel working in "counter terrorism" "homeland security" units of municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/public safety/"counter terrorism" agencies. To a large degree, the "counter terrorism" operations of municipal, county, state and tribal agencies engaged in fusion centers are financed through a number of U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant programs.

        Initially, fusion centers were intended to be intelligence sharing partnerships between municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/"counter terrorism" agencies, dedicated solely to the dissemination/sharing of "terrorism"-related intelligence. However, shortly following the creation of fusion centers, their focus shifted from this exclusive interest in "terrorism," to one of "all hazards"-- an umbrella term used to describe virtually anything (including "terrorism") that may be deemed a "hazard" to the public, or to certain private sector interests. And, as has been mandated through a series of federal legislative actions and presidential executive orders, fusion centers (and the "counter terrorism" entities that they are comprised of) work-- in ever closer proximity-- with private corporations, with the stated aim of protecting items deemed to be "critical infrastructure/key resources."

        This article examines the genesis and evolution of the nation's "homeland security"/"counter terrorism" apparatus, as well as the integration of corporate interests in that apparatus...

        "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

        by bobswern on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 03:58:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The World Trade Center was targeted. That was not (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kombema, lostinamerica

      a happenstance. Free trade, like "free market," is a euphemism for exploitation -- for exacting and extracting and exporting and extorting and leaving nothing but a mess behind.
      Perhaps people directed by ulterior motives cannot accept at face value what someone says.
      Free trade backed up by military force is no longer acceptable in the 21st Century. Some people seem to have forgot that the U.S. set up military bases in Central Asia to protect some pipelines.
      Anybody remember Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo? That was the prototype for the permanent bases that were slated to be constructed in Iraq. Obama/Biden abandoned that endeavor, but the foothold in Afghanistan is harder to give up. After all, there's still the "resurgent Russia" and the "rising China" to be worried about.

      The problem with ulterior motives is that it happens that even the principals don't know what they are up to. On the other hand, it's probably just as well that making an example of Iraq to impress Russia and China was never admitted.

  •  Human rights have still to rise to the top of the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    heap. The founders gave human rights lip service and then proceeded to enshrine property. Ownership of things, including other humans (slaves, wives, children) is a substitute for natural persons being deprived of their rights (privacy, integrity, speech, perambulation, recreation, reproduction, association, communication). Private property trumps personal properties. That's got to change. The culture of obedience is trying desperately to keep that from taking place.
    George Will is right. Civil rights were not significant, until the citizenry started to honor their obligations to:

    hold office
    serve on juris
    draft legislation
    provide material support
    enforce the laws

    None of that was possible until our access to information was assured and governmental actions were open to review. Transparency, btw, is not sufficient. We want to inspect, not just look through the glass, whether half full or empty.

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