Number 18 - November 28, 2002
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have begun pulling mildly leftist white people off of airplanes. It's
time for the rest of us to get very worried.
The evidence is
rolling in, and it is unmistakable: the Bush people are assembling purely
political lists of individuals and groups to be targeted during some
future crisis, real or manufactured. The list makers probably do not
yet know what they plan to do to the people on their enemies lists,
which are still fragmented among various agencies. However, once such
lists are compiled, eventual government action becomes all but inevitable.
It is already clear that the list will be a very long one, reaching
into broad categories of what the current rulers consider to be dangerous
Civil rights lawyers,
Green Party activists and even the Catholic advocacy group Peace Action
are on the lists, as are, it appears, Amnesty International and various
environmental activist organizations.
In an article titled
"Grounded," the mainstream Salon.com related the experience
of Center for Constitutional Rights assistant legal director Barbara
Olshansky, who was forced to pull down her pants in view of other travelers
at Newark International Airport. When the lawyer protested the indignity,
a security agent replied, "The computer spit you out. I don't know
why, and I don't have time to talk to you about it."
Six other employees
of the center had been pulled out of an airport boarding line a month
earlier. Since all had purchased their tickets separately under their
own names, it was plain that the Center for Constitutional Rights staff
were on some kind of list. Readers familiar with the workings of bureaucracies
will immediately recognize the clanks, squeaks and grinds of cumbersome
government machinery getting into gear.
her colleagues are, apparently, not alone. For months, rumors and
anecdotes have circulated among leftwing and other activist groups
about people who have been barred from flying or delayed at security
gates because they are "on a list."
But now, a spokesman
for the new Transportation Security Administration has acknowledged
for the first time that the government has a list of about 1,000 people
who are deemed "threats to aviation" and not allowed on
airplanes under any circumstances. And in an interview with Salon,
the official suggested that Olshansky and other political activists
may be on a separate list that subjects them to strict scrutiny but
allows them to fly.
a list of about 1,000 people," said David Steigman, the TSA spokesman.
The agency was created a year ago by Congress to handle transportation
safety during the war on terror. "This list is composed of names
that are provided to us by various government organizations like the
FBI, CIA and INS.... We don't ask how they decide who to list. Each
agency decides on its own who is a 'threat to aviation.'"
The agency has
no guidelines to determine who gets on the list, Steigman says, and
no procedures for getting off the list if someone is wrongfully on
The Salon.com article
details the harrassment of other political travelers, including people
from conservative organizations that apparently wound up in the computer
by mistake or through haste. Writer Dave Lindorff notes that the federal
Transportation Security Agency's unpredictable actions "seem to
be netting mostly priests, elderly nuns, Green Party campaign operatives,
left-wing journalists, right-wing activists and people affiliated with
Arab or Arab-American groups."
The 1,000-name "no
fly" list referred to by the TSA spokesman is certainly not
the larger, political list. If that were the case, none of the individuals
interviewed by Salon.com would have ever left the ground. The article's
subjects are on a different set of lists. It is clear that the airport
agents became confused because of a proliferation of lists -
data in temporary disarray.
Bring me more
What is obvious
is that names are being generated and dumped into an embryonic but evolving
apparatus of wide-ranging political scope. The Bush men simply haven't
fine-tuned the procedure. They have not yet differentiated between the
"somewhat dangerous," the "immediately dangerous"
or the "might become dangerous" - or whatever color-coded
formulas ultimately emerge.
They want names,
lots of them. The scatter-shot, eclectic character of the listings indicates
that a furious demand is emanating from the highest levels of the bureaucracy
for as many names as possible, as soon as possible. Collation and categorization
will come later.
from on-high were especially shrill in the corridors and field offices
of the FBI. The New York Times headlined their November 21 article,
"F.B.I. Officials Say Some Agents Lack a Focus on Terror,"
but any low-GS clerk could understand what the bureau's number two official,
Bruce J. Gebhardt, was actually demanding when he sent out a memo to
56 field office agents-in-charge: names, names and more names.
to instill a sense of urgency" in field agents, Mr. Gebhardt
wrote. "They need to get out on the street and develop sources.
to demand that information is being sent" to the bureau's headquarters
in Washington, he continued, adding: "You are the leaders of
the F.B.I. You cannot fail at this mission. Too many people are depending
Among their complaints,
senior bureau officials have said they are unhappy that some field
offices are not moving aggressively enough to use secret terrorism
warrants, are not developing enough intelligence sources to penetrate
possible terrorist cells and are not loading all the terrorism-related
information they receive into the F.B.I.'s central computer system.
that senior bureau leaders in recent weeks have directed field supervisors
to demand weekly written briefings from their counter-terrorism squads,
ask more questions about investigations and push for greater use of
warrants and surveillance against suspects.
The New York Times
is unwilling or incapable of interpreting Gebhardt's memo, but every
agent in the field understands perfectly what is demanded: names for
the computers. Not the names of "sleeper" terrorists, who
by definition cannot be identified. Not the names of criminals and fugitives,
the people the existing system is designed to track. And only a fool
could believe that, with all the flack the FBI has gotten over its pre-September
11 failures, field agents are slacking in their pursuit of persons who
have even the remotest reason for being on watch lists for actual bombers,
skyjackers and poisoners of water. That's not what the computers in
The FBI is focused
on "preventing attacks," says the NYT article. In the bureau's
lexicon, "preventative measures" is a euphemism for surveillance
of persons and infiltration of groups that have committed no crime for
which they can be arrested. There can be but one result that satisfies
headquarters' demand: more names and thicker dossiers. And there is
only one way for the agents in the field to produce these items in sufficient
quantity; the "anti-terror squads" must revert to their roles
as Red Squads, Black Militant Squads and Agitator Squads - under new
nomenclature, of course.
This should have
been expected since the morning the Twin Towers fell, a reflexive reaction
by an agency molded from its beginnings as a political police force.
However, the sheer size of the net being cast - to include blond, Catholic,
Wisconsin schoolgirls attempting to board a flight to Washington to
lobby their congressman against the U.S. war in Colombia - indicates
that the "usual suspects," the historical targets of repression,
will have unaccustomed, white middle class company.
The Bush regime,
it is becoming apparent, is as serious about smashing domestic opposition
to its agenda as it is about Saddam Hussein. As Bush told Bob Woodward,
"I will seize the opportunity to achieve big goals."
Islam is the FBI's
open portal to the African American community at large. The Nation of
Islam has a long history of relationships with Middle Eastern and Arab
nations, and non-NOI African American Muslims often worship with foreign
co-religionists. FBI mumbo-jumbo can fill in the rest of the justifications
for the most intensive, general surveillance of Black American Muslims
and their associates. Since these Muslims are indigenous, comprising
probably 5 percent of African American citizens, their relatives and
"associates" include virtually the entire Black population.
The chosen ones
John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness project, under construction
in the bowels of the Pentagon with the capability to keep track of an
individual's every electronic move, is not designed to screen the behavior
of 285 million Americans. Too much data, few practical uses. But tens
or a few hundreds of thousands of politically marked targets - that's
a potentially doable mission. The logic of world events and the zeal
of the Bush men will create the domestic emergency long before Poindexter's
machine is ready but, by its very existence, the project telegraphs
the regime's intentions.
Here's how Poindexter's
Information Awareness Office describes his project:
The TIA program
objective is to create a counter-terrorism information system that:
(1) increases information coverage by an order of magnitude, and affords
easy future scaling; (2) provides focused warnings within an hour
after a triggering event occurs or an evidence threshold is passed;
(3) can automatically queue analysts based on partial pattern matches
and has patterns that cover 90% of all previously known foreign terrorist
attacks; and, (4) supports collaboration, analytical reasoning and
information sharing so that analysts can hypothesize, test and propose
theories and mitigating strategies about possible futures, so decision-makers
can effectively evaluate the impact of current or future policies
and prospective courses of action.
Round up the people in categories X and Y.
If it appears that
we are painting a picture of inevitable, massive detentions and restrictions
of American citizens, it is because the daily sweep of administration
activity points in that direction. There will be serious if not
catastrophic terror attacks on U.S. soil - Bush's foreign policy guarantees
it. When the attacks come, the regime in Washington will declare
some kind of state of emergency; only the particulars are unknown, probably
to the Bush men, themselves. And they are not compiling lists
of public activists and left-leaners, in urgent and sloppy haste, just
for the fun of it.
Measures will be
taken against the names on the lists of those designated as domestic
threats. An action plan will inexorably shape itself around the database.
That's how bureaucracies of repression work. Discreet categories of
threat require specific measures of response. It will take a while for
the various agencies to work out the details. There can be no doubt,
however, that the people closest to George Bush are impatient to move
the task along.
There is no precedent
for the things in store in the days ahead: not McCarthyism, not Cointelpro,
not a combination of the two. Technology plus the new, corporate-style
methods of a ruthless, social monopoly-minded, mass media manipulating,
coldly corrupt and absolutely cynical politic class has created and
is feeding upon an environment of permanent crisis. These men have plans
to reorganize American society and the world, they know they will be
opposed by larger and deeper sectors of the population over time, and
they are preparing to act decisively against the opposition. First,
they take names.
Nothing but a mass
movement, comprised of many "targets," can stop the machine
that is clanking rather noisily into place. However, the machinery,
itself, may become the engine of mass mobilization. The Bush men, supremely
arrogant and flush with power, are making a mistake in advertising their
intentions against the persons of white lawyers and other left-liberals.
Bush and Cheney forget the duality of American society; some people
can be abused with impunity; others, connected to significant sectors
of opinion and resources by profession, family wealth and background
and, most importantly, by race - cannot be so cavalierly stripped of
their citizenship rights.
The duality of
American life and death
December 4 marks
the 33rd anniversary of the assassination of Black Panthers Fred Hampton
and Mark Clark, set up for execution in Chicago by an FBI contract agent.
Hampton was barely 21 years old, a brilliant, one-time pre-law student
and Youth Leader of the West Suburban (Chicago) branch of the NAACP,
where he organized 500 members. Hampton then founded the Chicago chapter
of the Black Panther Party and rose swiftly to national prominence.
Police riddled Hampton's body with bullets while he lay helpless, drugged
by the FBI's employee.
The people who haul
white lawyers and Catholic nuns off of airplanes will kill a Black activist
in his bed the very same night. This is what passes for equivalence
in a racist society.
White folks are
being put on some serious lists. Under the perverse duality of America,
that means the canaries are already dying.
The ACLU No Fly
List Complaint Form.
Fred Hampton, The
Talking Drum site
Fred Hampton, Biography
Resource Center site