In a series of raids last year, the FBI raided the homes and offices of antiwar activists in Minneapolis, North Carolina, Chicago, and California. They seized boxes of materials, cell phones, documents, and other private property, and issued subpoenas to a number of individuals, 24 at last count, demanding their appearance before a federal grand jury. The focus of this fishing expedition is ostensibly the “solidarity work” engaged in by the Antiwar Committee of Minneapolis, and sympathizing organizations, in Palestine and Columbia, but the history of police repression against these groups and individuals goes back years, specifically involving their work in organizing a march on the Republican and Democratic national conventions: in the Twin Cities, the “RNC Welcoming Committee,” which planned the protest, was of particular interest to the authorities. The local cops, working with the FBI, actively worked to recruit informants, and — using information gleaned from these infiltrators — conducted a weekend-long reign of terror in early September 2008, breaking down doors, manhandling protesters — including journalists — and rounding up dissidents in anticipation of violence they claim “might” have occurred had the authorities not acted.
In reality, of course, the RNC Welcoming Committee was engaged in perfectly legal activities protected by the First Amendment, and there was no evidence presented that violence was forthcoming — but, under the terms of the post-9/11 legislative assault on the Constitution that culminated in the “Patriot” Act and subsequent acts of Congress, the First Amendment is no longer operative in this country.
If you’re an Influential Person, however, you can get away with almost anything. Let’s say you’re Michael Mukasey, Bush’s former Attorney General, who recently traveled to Paris with Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security chieftain, Fran Townsend, President Bush’s former chief adviser on Homeland Security and counter-terrorism, and former New York City mayor and spectacularly failed presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, to endorse the continuing effort by the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), or People’s Mujahideen, to get off the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.
MEK is an Iranian Marxist-turned-neocon Iranian exile group, with a weirdly cultish orientation, that has murdered US diplomatic personnel and was instrumental in the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran. They lost out in the power struggle following the overthrow of the Shah, and fled to Iraq, where they were succored by Saddam Hussein: MEK brigades fought on the Iraqi side during the Iraq-Iran war, and carried out terrorist acts against civilian targets — a strategy they would very much like to carry out with US assistance today.
Over one-hundred members of Congress, who recently signed an appeal to the State Department to take MEK off the terrorist list, are angling for this, and the prominence of the US delegation to the Paris confab is part of the continuing campaign by the War Party to legalize these somewhat nutty cultists — whose unquestioned leader, Maryam Rajavi, has already declared herself the “President” of Iran — and get the group funding. The idea is to use them, as the Bush team used the Iraqi National Congress, to get “intelligence” — of similar quality — to gin up another war, this time against Tehran.
Can you imagine the outcry in official Washington if the FBI invaded the offices of Mukasey, Giuliani, Ridge, and Townsend, searching for evidence of “material support” to a foreign terrorist organization — the same crime the Minneapolis defendants are potentially facing? Such laws, however, aren’t written in order to target such people: it’s only those without power who suffer such a fate. If you’re in any way associated with WikiLeaks, government agents are quick to stop you at the airport, question you, and seize your laptop, but if you’re Rudy the Lout, on the way back from a tête-à-tête with terrorists — the good kind, rest assured — you’re escorted to the VIP line and whisked through security.
Civil libertarians may cavil that this disparate treatment is evidence of selective prosecution, but selectivity is what the post-9/11 assault on the Bill of Rights is all about. Of course the government has the legal “right,” these days, to read everyone’s email, break into our private property, and collect information about our constitutionally protected activities — but you can bet they’re not intercepting Senor Mukasey’s email. Unless some political figure is being set up for blackmail, the Washington insiders and their friends are exempt from the depredations of the surveillance state. When it comes to the Antiwar Committee of Minneapolis, however — well, that’s a horse of a different color, as they say in the land of Oz.
In the wake of 9/11, the neocons were strategically enough placed to launch a two-front war: one at home, and one abroad. The post-9/11 coup, in which a handful of neocons seized control of the machinery of the state and lied us into war, also involved waging a war on the home front — against the Constitution. And while the Iraq campaign ended in failure, an outcome currently being replicated in Afghanistan, their domestic campaign to destroy the legacy of the Founders and create the basis for a police state was much more successful. Indeed, I would venture to call it a near total victory.
With the support of both political parties, an extensive network of “anti-terrorist” “fusion centers” was created, in which local, state, and national law enforcement agencies cooperated in a “fused” effort to gather intelligence on and take action against targets deemed potential nodes of terrorist activity. Acting under a very broad mandate, and with billions of our tax dollars at their disposal, these agencies were also under considerable pressure to produce results. This led, according to the Office of the Inspector General [.pdf], to spying on perfectly legal and even pacifist organizations, whose only “crime” was to oppose the foreign and military policies pursued by Washington.
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.