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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

 
Homeland Occupation

by digby

So, we found out yesterday that Homeland Security was doing some tracking of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. It they've only done what was reported, it seems to be fairly benign, limited to tracking and analyzing the movement through public media. Here's the main thrust of its reasoning:

Mass gatherings associated with public protest movements can have disruptive effects on transportation, commercial, and government services, especially when staged in major metropolitan areas. Large scale demonstrations also carry the potential for violence, presenting a significant challenge for law enforcement.


I suppose that's true. But why is it the federal government's problem? No large scale political demonstration is going to be big enough that it could "disrupt" beyond the borders of a major metropolitan area or certainly not state borders. Lord knows there are plenty of local and state police around to handle anything that happens. There is no federal implication to any of it, unless it's happening in Washington DC.

These are explicitly political demonstrations, even if they aren't partisan, and great care needs to be taken to ensure that the government isn't interfering with that. I realize that we have a huge new federal policing apparatus with Homeland Security that needs to play with its toys, but I don't think it was designed for the purpose of monitoring domestic political demonstrations. After all, we already have the FBI for that --- and I would imagine they are doing their own monitoring, (also for no good reason, by the way.)

Local police are perfectly capable of handling demonstrations. There's no reason for the Feds to be involved.

But I do wonder, considering this revelation, if Homeland Security is monitoring the Tea Party at all? After all, there was a fairly good chance that some of the fringe far right characters who were involved were actually planning some terrorism. My guess is that the locals and maybe the FBI would have also been capable of dealing with that, but one could at least see some remote reasoning for DHS to be concerned with them over Occupy, which hasn't shown the slightest inclination toward any kind of terrorism or violent national threat.

DHS did warn of some threat from the Tea Party back on 09, of course. But you'll recall that they were harassed by the right wing into withdrawing their warnings. In fact, they ended up closing down the whole unit that was devoted to right wing extremist groups:

In an in-depth interview published in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report, [former DHS analyst]Johnson reveals the level of sway the political right had in thwarting intelligence work on right-wing extremism. He says DHS deliberately "mischaracterized the report as unauthorized, even though it had passed through proper channels" and "instituted restrictive policies that brought the important work of his unit to a virtual standstill." As a result, Johnson "left DHS in dismay and was followed by almost all the members of his team, leaving a single analyst where there had been six." In comparison, there are at least 25 analysts devoted to tracking Islamic terrorism.

When questioned about Johnson’s claims -- which have been confirmed by current and former department officials in the Washington Post – DHS officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have repeatedly disputed his account and insist that "the level of activity by right-wing extremist groups has remained consistent over the past few years." In addition, they claim "the perception of increased extremist activity may be due to increased awareness of the threat by the government and the public." But the numbers beg to differ.


I wonder how many analysts they put on Occupy?

The fact is that right wing terrorist groups are growing and have been quite active over the past few years, which anyone who reads the paper knows. But the political pressure that was brought to bear was instantaneous and crushing. That was the end of that. So I would imagine they held back on doing any assessment of those who brought guns to political events for intimidation purposes or investigated any of the militia groups that have infiltrated the Tea Parties.

Again, I'm not sure what Homeland Security's role is supposed to be in all this to begin with. We already had the FBI for national law enforcement, which includes domestic terrorism.(And lord knows they have historically been eager and willing to infiltrate and monitor political movements.) I thought DHS was going to be for bringing all the federal authorities together to assess foreign threats to the "Homeland."

That it would end up infiltrating and duplicating the FBI and local law enforcement's jurisdictions was inevitable, however. If you build it, they will use it. And it appears they are using it to monitor events such as peaceful political demonstrations against domestic industries. Just don't ask them to monitor violent white supremacist groups or anti-government terrorists. It would go against the constitution and that would be wrong.


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