FOIA request reveals semantic change in description of America’s political police force
January 6, 2014
Kel McClanahan, a national security lawyer in Washington, noticed something last month after he filed a Freedom of Information request with the FBI. A fact sheet sent along with a response to his FOIA request contained a revision. It stated that the FBI’s primary mission is no longer law enforcement, but national security.
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“I think they’re trying to rebrand,” he told Foreign Policy. “So many good things happen to your agency when you tie it to national security.”
In the past, the FBI portrayed itself as a crime-fighting organization. In fact, since its inception as the Bureau of Investigation in 1908, the FBI has served as a political police force. Movies and cultural lore portray the FBI as dedicated to a fight against the Mafia, bank robbers and kidnappers, but in fact the agency was established as a political section within the Department of Justice. In 1917, Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer created the “Radical Division” and appointed a young J. Edgar Hoover to head it up.
Following the passage of the Espionage Act of 1917, Palmer’s radical division worked closely with the Military Intelligence Bureau to suppress opposition to war. In the mid-1970s, the Church Committee uncovered details on the agency’s long and sordid history of subverting the constitutional rights of American citizens. Beginning in the 1950s, the FBI’s COINTELPRO, short for counterintelligence program was established to “disrupt” political groups and “neutralize” individuals deemed to be threats to national security.
The FBI is “a national political police force. The Bureau should be in the business of catching criminals. It should be removed, once and forever, from the business of monitoring citizens’ political beliefs,” writes Ross Gelbspan. “As a political police, mobilized to protect the interests of any political establishment, it is an affront to the basic rights of free speech and association and an insult to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.”
As the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkley revealed, the FBI has all but jettisoned the practice of catching criminals, including suspected terrorists. It now concentrates on running a patsy operation designed to ensnare would-be terrorists who are then paraded before the public by the establishment media to keep the war on terror rolling along.
“The problem with the cases we’re talking about is that defendants would not have done anything if not kicked in the ass by government agents,” a New York attorney, Martin Stolar, told Mother Jones. “They’re creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror.”
The FBI’s patsy mill is part of a larger operation designed to turn the United States into a national security police state with a pervasive high-tech surveillance grid. It is not designed to ferret out al-Qaeda terrorists, but to keep tabs on political movements and individuals who may pose a threat to the national security state and its political monopoly.
McClanahan’s discovery represents a semantic change, not a policy change at the FBI. The agency, while posing as a law enforcement organization dedicated to going after diamond thieves and Mafia bosses, has since its inception worked hand-in-hand with the national security state to persecute political enemies.