[Marxism] The left is warming up to the FBI. That’s a mistake.
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Oct 22 13:13:56 MDT 2018
Washington Post Op-Ed, Oct. 22, 2018
The left is warming up to the FBI. That’s a mistake.
By Chip Gibbons
(Chip Gibbons is a journalist and policy and legislative counsel for the
advocacy group Defending Rights & Dissent.)
Terry Albury was a decorated FBI agent with a spotless career and only a
few years from being eligible for retirement benefits. Yet as the only
African American agent in the Minneapolis field office, he was
increasingly unable to overlook systemic racism in the bureau. He was
especially disturbed by what he believed was a widespread animus within
the bureau against Muslims, particularly the local Somali American
community. More chillingly, after serving as an FBI interrogator in Iraq
he said he had not only observed anti-Muslim attitudes by U.S. personnel
there but also believed the FBI was complicit in torture.
So he did what many public employees who are unable to be complicit in
injustice have done: leak information to the media. And for this act of
conscience, he was sentenced last week to four years in federal prison
for violating the Espionage Act.
One might think Albury would be a hero among progressives. Yet his
sentencing comes at an odd time when some in the anti-Trump “resistance”
have begun to embrace the security state. The FBI, once the bête noire
of progressives who saw it as a threat to civil liberties, now boasts
more support among Democrats than Republicans.
Albury’s case demonstrates that this newfound faith in the FBI on the
left is entirely misplaced. The FBI has far more in common with
President Trump than many would like to admit.
The FBI has always targeted dissent. This doesn’t just include
historical acts, such as spying on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. or
rounding up socialists and anarchists during the Palmer Raids. In recent
memory, the FBI has used its counterterrorism authorities to spy on
Occupy Wall Street and the antiwar group School of the Americas Watch.
FBI agents have reportedly shown up to interview students involved with
pro-Palestine activism and Standing Rock “water protectors.” In the
run-up to the 2016 Republican National Convention, FBI agents visited
Black Lives Matter and Occupy Cleveland activists to ask whether they
planned to protest the convention and reportedly suggested they stay
home. After immigration agents detained an Occupy ICE activist in San
Antonio, FBI agents allegedly began questioning him about his fellow
These should be viewed as part of a continuum, not isolated incidents.
We know from congressional investigations, such as the one conducted by
Sen. Frank Church in 1975, the type of domestic political policing the
FBI engaged in before the 1970s. And we know from a late-1980s Senate
Intelligence Committee investigation that just a few years after the
reforms of the 1970s, the FBI was spying on opponents of U.S. policy on
Central America. Thanks to a Justice Department inspector general
report, public-records requests and reports from activists themselves,
we know that throughout the George W. Bush and Obama years, the FBI
monitored activists from environmentalists to peace campaigners, often
under the guise of counterterrorism. Taken together, this amounts to a
decades-long pattern of politically motivated surveillance that runs
counter to democratic norms.
The FBI cannot be the antidote to Trump’s brand of politics. When Trump
issued his second travel ban barring people from some majority-Muslim
countries from entering the United States, he cited as justification two
terrorism plots involving refugees. Yet both cases stemmed from
controversial stings in which the FBI and its informants came up with
and proposed the plots. A judge described one of the two cases as
The FBI has also deployed confidential informants in Muslim communities
across the country. Such monitoring is rooted in a belief that Muslim
communities are inherently suspicious, a view shared by Trump, who
campaigned on surveilling mosques.
The FBI also seems to share with Trump an animus toward black activists.
Then-FBI Director James B. Comey used his bully pulpit to tout the
“Ferguson effect,” the discredited theory that posits that Black Lives
Matter protesters and increased attention to police human rights abuses
cause a nonexistent uptick in crime. Sound familiar?
Even more disturbing, in 2017 the FBI issued an intelligence assessment
on “black identity extremists.” According to the report, justifiable
outrage at police racism or killings of unarmed African Americans could
lead to violent attacks on police. Like much of the president’s
war-on-police rhetoric, the assessment attempts to pin violence against
police on those who protest police misconduct.
Much has been said about Comey’s role in electing Trump, particularly in
his announcement that the FBI had reopened the Hillary Clinton email
investigation. But what’s never asked is what role the FBI played in
creating fertile ground for a Trump-like figure in the first place. By
treating American Muslims as a fifth column, African American protests
against racism as a threat to police and dissent as a potential
precursor to terrorism, the FBI contributes to a political atmosphere
that a demagogue such as Trump can take advantage of. Before warming up
to the FBI, the left should remember the threat that the bureau has
posed to our democracy.
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