March 27, 2009
Earlier this week, FBI director Robert S. Mueller III went before the Senate Judiciary Committee and urged lawmakers to renew intelligence-gathering measures in the USA Patriot Act that are set to expire in December, the Washington Post reported. Portions of the law are up for reauthorization this year.
|FBI director Robert S. Mueller III.|
Mueller said the provisions are “exceptional” tools to help protect national security. One of those provisions, which allows the government to access business records without notifying the suspect, “has been exceptionally helpful in our national security investigations,” he said. Mueller said the FBI used the provision about 220 times between 2004 and 2007.
In effect, under the provision, the FBI had the power to engage in search and seizure without probable cause, a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
The FBI director said the agency remains concerned about al-Qaeda and said “we must also focus on less well-known terrorist groups, as well as homegrown terrorists.” The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in Phoenix, Arizona, however, was not concerned over the prospect of radicalized Muslims and al-Qaeda when it designated constitutionalists, common law advocates, and various “rebels” and “lone individuals” as domestic terrorists during the Clinton administration (see “Public Servants” Going After “Constitutional Terrorists”?). Earlier this month, the Missouri State Police released a document characterizing supporters of Ron Paul, Bob Barr, and Chuck Baldwin as violent terrorists.
|Joyce Riley on the FBI’s COINTELPRO.|
NYU’s Center for Law and Security released a study in 2006 revealing that from September 11, 2001, through September 11, 2006, only “four individuals have been convicted of federal crimes of terrorism” in the United States and “no sleeper cell with logistical or tactical links to al Qaeda has been convicted of plotting an attack to be carried out within the U.S.” Benjamin H. Friedman, writing for the Cato Institute, made a logical conclusion: “That means we have found no terrorist sleeper cells in the United States since September 11, as the FBI admitted.” (See Secret FBI Report Questions Al Qaeda Capabilities, ABC News, March 9, 2005.)
“Time and again, federal officials held press conferences to announce the break-up of a terrorist plot and vaguely described the disaster prevented,” Friedman continues. “The evening news and the headlines repeated their lurid claims. Months later, the inside pages of the papers would report that the plot was not what we were told — and TV doesn’t even bother. The plans have turned out to be unfeasible or preliminary. On other occasions, it turned out the plotters visited a terrorist camp but did little plotting. Some charges have been dismissed. Some have been completely bogus.”
The so-called 2006 Sears terror plot is a primary example of this sort of exaggerated threat. In that case, highly paid FBI informants attempted to set-up the defendants and portray them as al-Qaeda inspired terrorists.
[efoods]As the record reveals, the FBI is more interested in monitoring domestic political groups opposed to the government and its policies. Ross Gelbspan, in his book Break-Ins, Death Threats And The FBI, details the “persistent history of the FBI as a national political police force,” a Stasi-like force that represents “an affront to the basic rights of free speech and association and an insult to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.”
In 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union accused the FBI of misusing terrorism investigators to monitor domestic political organizations. Citing hundreds of pages of heavily-censored documents it obtained from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act, lawyers for the ACLU described this use of terrorism resources as an illustration of intensified surveillance aimed toward Americans, the Associated Press reported on December 20, 2005.
As the FBI sheepishly admitted, there are no terrorist sleeper cells, al-Qaeda or otherwise, in the United States. The ACLU and others have documented the agency expends a large degree of its resources monitoring anti-war and patriot movement activities.
Robert S. Mueller III’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee — replete with references to scary jihadist terrorists within our midst — is at best disingenuous. As Ross Gelbspan notes, the FBI’s primary task is not to go after dangerous terrorists or even specifically white collar criminals or organized crime. The agency is a national political police force designed to go after political enemies in much the same way the Committee for State Security went after political enemies in the former Soviet Union.