American Nonsense
September 2, 2008

McCain’s bizarre Palin pick did more than just turn the national media feeding frenzy away from Obama’s remarkable and strong speech, and the great feeling of and commitment to unity the Democrats left Denver with, but also knocked out of the national media–if ever it would reach there, anyway–the excessive actions the Minneapolis police–along with and perhaps at the direction of the federal government–are taking to prevent protests at the RNC.

Glenn Greenwald, I-Witness Video, Feministing, and FireDogLake have been reporting from Minneapolis about the excessive and unprovoked actions of the FBI and the Minneapolis police. Here’s Glenn, today:

As the police attacks on protesters in Minnesota continue — see this video of the police swarming a bus transporting members of Earth Justice [see update], seizing the bus and leaving the group members stranded on the side of the highway — it appears increasingly clear that it is the Federal Government that is directing this intimidation campaign. Minnesota Public Radio reported yesterday that “the searches were led by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s office. Deputies coordinated searches with the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Today’s Star Tribune added that the raids were specifically “aided by informants planted in protest groups.” Back in May, Marcy Wheeler presciently noted that the Minneapolis Joint Terrorist Task Force — an inter-agency group of federal, state and local law enforcement led by the FBI — was actively recruiting Minneapolis residents to serve as plants, to infiltrate “vegan groups” and other left-wing activist groups and report back to the Task Force about what they were doing. There seems to be little doubt that it was this domestic spying by the Federal Government that led to the excessive and truly despicable home assaults by the police yesterday.

So here we have a massive assault led by Federal Government law enforcement agencies on left-wing dissidents and protesters who have committed no acts of violence or illegality whatsoever, preceded by months-long espionage efforts to track what they do. And as extraordinary as that conduct is, more extraordinary is the fact that they have received virtually no attention from the national media and little outcry from anyone. And it’s not difficult to see why. As the recent “overhaul” of the 30-year-old FISA law illustrated — preceded by the endless expansion of surveillance state powers, justified first by the War on Drugs and then the War on Terror — we’ve essentially decided that we want our Government to spy on us without limits. There is literally no police power that the state can exercise that will cause much protest from the political and media class and, therefore, from the citizenry.

Note that there have been reports of semi-violent protest at the convention by anti-war protesters–apparently not the “Food not Bombs” students that have been under police and FBI surveillance for weeks, or the FBI and police raids against them might have actually turned up evidence that they intended to do more than non-violent protests. It’s difficult to to sort out what really happened and who is responsible when there is such a provocative and heavy-handed police presence.

I don’t think that the vast majority of the American population wants, as Glenn says, “our Government to spy on us without limits.” But what the Bush administration has been so effective in doing is creating so many varied crises for Americans to have to focus on–most immediately how they are going to keep a roof over their head, food on the table, and gas in the car–that whether or not they’re being spied on (and no one imagines that they could be–their first mistake) becomes something of an academic question.

But one that should be receiving just a little bit more attention from the traditional media. The Republican vision of a full on surveillance state of the nation is in full display now in Minneapolis, and it would be a good thing for America to see as it considers casting its vote in November.

Update: Earthjustice e-mails to note an error in Glenn’s post, reprinted here. The bus seized is not associated with national environmental litigation organization Earthjustice.

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