There was a time in the 1960s when the FBI’s illegal surveillance of left-wing groups seemed, and maybe even was, sinister if not broadly menacing. Parts of today’s Justice Department report on its more recent activities, however, evoke that old saw about history repeating itself as farce.Sadly Jeff Stein treats this as a bit of joke and treats COINTELPRO as a minor event.
The Inspector General’s report covered a number of FBI targets following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: an antiwar rally in Pittsburgh; a Catholic peace magazine; a Quaker activist; and members of the environmental group Greenpeace as well as of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.
My favorite story was about the rookie FBI agent who was dispatched to an antiwar rally in Pittsburgh with a camera and told to look for terrorism suspects.
According to the Justice Department’s report, FBI officials, including the Pittsburgh office's top lawyer, engaged in distinctly COINTELPRO-style tactics after the American Civil Liberties Union sued for the release of documents relating to the surveillance.COINTELPRO was police state tactics to suppress legitimate civil rights. It resulted in police state murders. It wasn't a laughing matter (unless you enjoy living in a banana republic where goons in uniform can arrive brandishing weapons and haul away innocents at random).
Boiled down to their essence, those tactics involved officials generating post-dated “routing slips” and other paper to create a terrorism threat that didn’t exist.
Or as the inspector general put it, the FBI's elaborate, “after-the-fact reconstruction” of the Pittsburgh events, designed to fabricate a counter-terrorism rationale for the rookie’s surveillance mission, “was not corroborated by any witnesses or contemporaneous documents.”
It was on the basis of their fabrication, moreover, that FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III gave “inaccurate and misleading” testimony to Congress, the IG said.
In the midst of Birmingham church bombings, the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and MLK, the FBI was busy suppressing legitimate civic groups while ignoring the violent KKK and other white supremacist organizations. From Wikipedia:
FBI records show that 85% of COINTELPRO resources were devoted to infiltrating, disrupting, marginalizing, and/or subverting groups and individuals suspected of being "subversive," such as communist and socialist organizations; the women's rights movement; militant black nationalist groups; the non-violent civil rights movement, including individuals such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others associated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Congress of Racial Equality, the American Indian Movement, and other civil rights organizations; a broad range of organizations labeled "New Left", including Students for a Democratic Society and the Weathermen; the National Lawyers Guild; almost all groups protesting the Vietnam War, as well as individual student demonstrators with no group affiliation; nationalist groups such as those "seeking independence for Puerto Rico;" and notable Americans, such as Professor Albert Einstein. The remaining 15% of COINTELPRO resources were expended to marginalize and subvert "white hate groups," including the Ku Klux Klan and National States' Rights Party.I guess Jeff Stein finds the idea that "rookie FBI" agents are recreating the past is funny. Most people who care about civil rights, their liberties, and the rule of law take this a bit more seriously.
Even Stein admits it is worrying that there is no "internal investigations" of the FBI that are looking into and rooting out illegal police activity:
The IG found the agency's explanations, however, "unconvincing."
If the FBI punished anyone in its ranks, moreover, the IG makes no mention of it.
Now that is a return to the bad old days.