Friday, November 28, 2014

Infiltrating activist and protest groups

I see that "an undercover law enforcement sting" has resulted in the arrest of two men in an alleged terrorist plot related to Darren Wilson's murder of Michael Brown: Christine Byers, Alleged plot included bombing Arch, killing St. Louis County prosecutor, Ferguson chief St. Louis Post-Dispatch 11/27/2014.

This could be another in a string of busts in which law-enforcement officials cook up a terrorist plot, entice people to participate and then score an arrest against the terrorist plot they created. The bust then becomes a feather in the cap for the agency and the individual police officers participating. And it reminds the public that there are Scary Terrorists out there coming to get us and we need those same law-enforcement agencies to protect us.

I'm sure it's pure coincidence that the arrest came last week just as the grand jury farce over Wilson was coming to a close - and poor County Attorney Robert McCullogh is alleged to be one of the targets of the this supposed terrorist plot. One of the two men charged is associated with the far-right hate group, the New Black Panthers.

It wouldn't be the first time authorities have infiltrated popular movements or used "dirty tricks" to discredit them.

Tom Hayden in a review of a new book on CIA infiltration of student movements in the 1950s and 1960s describes some of the better-known figures who at one time worked knowingly on behalf of the CIA within the student movement in the United States, which included Gloria Steinem and Allard Lowenstein. Hayden's review is The CIA's Student-Activism Phase The Nation 11/26/2014. The he's reviewing is Patriotic Betrayal: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade Against Communism by Karen Paget, scheduled to be published in 2015. Hayden writes:

The story begins in the 1950s, which may leave some to wonder if it's not a stale and useless tale by now. It's relevant today, however, because of the cancerous growth of Big Brother surveillance and the proliferation of clandestine operations branded in the name of "democracy promotion,” from Cuba to the Ukraine. The pervasive rise of secret money in campaigns, moreover, makes it impossible to know whether operatives of our intelligence agencies have any role in harassing radicals or steering social movements, or whether such roles have been passed to private foundations. Democracy is increasingly in the dark. Any light from history can serve as high-beams to illuminate the future.
For more recent official infiltration activity, see: Josh Harkinson, How a Radical Leftist Became the FBI's BFF Mother Jones Sept/Oct 2011.

Hayden comments on the contemporary relevance of the recent history Paget's book covers:

One conclusion from this history is that the CIA's illegal infiltration of domestic political groups began long before 9/11 and the present War on Terrorism. It has been a rogue agency for a very long time, masking its agenda by claiming that domestic spying is justified as part of its global duties. Just as the control of NSA was justified for "foreign policy" reasons, so has its wiretapping and spying on domestic sources been justified on the grounds of monitoring international terrorism.

Second, the CIA-NSA revelations created a permanent climate of paranoia among progressives who would never know again who might be "witting." After the many CIA scandals of the 1970s, both political parties created partisan institutes to channel millions of tax-payer dollars to NGOs in countries struggling with democracy issues. The differences are blurred between the CIA and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which spends an annual $20 million on covert "democracy promotion" in Cuba alone. Similar programs are aimed at Russia, Venezuela, and various "color" revolutions in the former Eastern Europe. The US cannot credibly claim a clean foreign policy, and fuels a global opposition to its double standards.
If I were writing a story of a government agency or a rightwing political sugar-daddy setting up an organization in the US to discredit a movement, I would probably use a group like the New Black Panthers as a model.

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the New Black Panther Party (n/d; accessed 11/27/2014) this way:

The New Black Panther Party is a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers. Founded in Dallas, the group today is especially active on the East Coast, from Boston to Jacksonville, Fla. The group portrays itself as a militant, modern-day expression of the black power movement (it frequently engages in armed protests of alleged police brutality and the like), but principals of the original Black Panther Party of the 1960s and 1970s— a militant, but non-racist, left-wing organization — have rejected the new Panthers as a "black racist hate group" and contested their hijacking of the Panther name and symbol.

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