Harassment, Surveillance, Intimidation: How America’s Police State Deals with Dissent and Political Activism
Most Americans proudly trumpet their famed civil liberties such as freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and of thought, freedom of the press, freedom from warrantless search, the treasuring of dissidents and dissident thought, but these freedoms and liberties have long since disappeared into the police state that is now the USA, though the repetition of these myths in the media and their indoctrination in the minds of Americans continue unabated. The freedom to assemble peacefully in the US died many years ago, and many other so-called rights melted away with this one. True dissension is heavily circumscribed and anyone actually presenting a challenge to the established order will find himself targeted by the authorities.
America’s If such a challenger is a very high-profile person like Noam Chomsky he might be able to avoid the police breaking down the door to his home at 6:00 AM some morning and confiscating his computers and notes while charging him with terrorism, but most others will pay heavily, some with their lives, for presenting a threat to the established system. The American establishment is vicious in protecting itself from true challenges and political dissension, which makes even more repugnant and infuriating the Americans’ constant and widespread incitement of precisely such political dissension in other countries. Many of the nations the US so boldly criticises – like China – are more civilised and far more free than is America today.
The use of military-style Swat teams has become endemic in the US, having increased dramatically since the early 1980s. These are situations where heavily-armed military teams enter a home or other premises, often without a search warrant, most often by physically kicking in the door in the early hours of the morning and terrorising the inhabitants by issuing commands at gunpoint and frequently literally trashing the house. The US Justice Department claims to maintain no records on the numbers of these forced and often violent entries, but in a recent study, the CATO institute estimated that at least 80,000 such raids are conducted per year.
The Rutherford Institute stated this in a large study: “Consider that in 1980, there were roughly 3,000 SWAT team-style raids in the US. By 2001, that number had grown to 45,000 and has since swelled to more than 80,000 SWAT team raids per year. On an average day in America, over 100 Americans have their homes raided by SWAT teams.” (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)
These paramilitary SWAT and similar teams specialise in the violent, forcible and unannounced entry into homes, subjecting individuals to a disturbing level of terror, and in a high percentage of cases mistakenly breaking into the wrong residence.
In cases where the team does have a warrant, the real cause for the entry is often unrelated to the content of the warrant, essentially being a license to search and confiscate anything that catches their eye or that they didn’t want disclosed in the warrant. It is always a question why it is okay for the US to engage in such brutal operations against legal – and harmless – political activism in the US, while it so loudly condemns other nations for much milder responses to much more serious offenses. Many of these raids deliberately inflicted on political victims failed to produce useful evidence and were dismissed by the FBI as “isolated instances” of mistakes, but there have been so many of these the Cato Institute referred to them as “an epidemic of ‘isolated instances’”.
The official story is that these raids are conducted against potentially violent criminals, often drug dealers, but a great many and perhaps most have political overtones. One Occupy Movement member claimed they “were not being raided by police for connection to any crime, but for espousing a political ideology” that attracted the disapproval of the FBI and other authorities. He said he was doing research on the strikebreaking paramilitaries that were operated by the old Pinkerton Company, and shortly thereafter had heavily armed agents smashing down the door of his home at 6:00 AM, terrifying him and seizing everything in sight.
Another typical case involved such a swat team in Maryland entering the home of investigative reporter Audrey Hudson with a curious search warrant for unregistered guns. But upon conclusion of the search she realised that a great many of her investigative files were missing, notably those containing much content on illegalities and other problems existing in the Department of Homeland Security. She noted that the officers questioned her about that part of her work, and then realised later that this had been the real reason for their entry and search. She claimed “they tore apart my office” and quietly removed all files on that topic, in direct contravention of the search warrant. Her files have not been returned and the agents who took them have not been charged. (6) (7) (8)
Many hundreds of thousands of US citizens can tell truly frightening stories of either local police or US Federal agents kicking in their front door in the middle of the night, terrorising their families, sometimes killing, almost always vandalising the home, then departing without identifying themselves or stating the purpose of their presence. They are sometimes on a search for illegal aliens or drug shipments, or sometimes working on a bad tip of criminals being in the home. In most of the reported cases, they find nothing, provide no explanation for their appearance or behavior and, since they cannot be identified, there is no recourse. No government agency will admit to the crime and the families are left to bear the sometimes substantial expense of repairing their homes.
These frequent military-style ‘commando’ raids are unnecessarily violent and provocative and have resulted in many needless serious injuries and deaths of children, bystanders and innocent victims. They are all violations of the so-called “rights” that every American will swear exist, but in fact do not exist. The sorry truth is that political activism in the US today carries real dangers of being targeted by law enforcement and imprisoned, a striking breakdown – destruction, in fact – of the rule of law, clearly signaling the descent to an authoritarian fascist state.
This kind of excessive and arbitrary violation occurs throughout the US in many different circumstances, but in every case with an appalling lack of responsibility even for grave mistakes, and with officers of varying origin operating with an apparent absolute immunity. In one notable case, two men returning from a fishing trip within the US, landed their light aircraft at a small airport near the Canadian border. For unknown reasons, US border agents presumed a possibility the aircraft might contain illegal cargo, so they handcuffed and jailed the men while proceeding to dismantle the aircraft. When they were done, the airplane was lying on the tarmac in thousands of pieces, literally everything including the engine having been taken apart. Having found no contraband, the men were released and their plane returned to them – in pieces – and without assistance, apology or compensation.
The FBI is using Grand Juries against political activists as a natural tool in the criminalisation of political dissent since these Juries are secretive processes and a way to avoid oversight while forcing a disclosure of information. They are often little more than fishing expeditions, but with the power to imprison any persons refusing to testify about their personal beliefs and political associations. The US government is increasingly making use of these grand juries, military tribunals and other schemes that serve to limit the ability of those charged to defend themselves and to severely limit responsibility to uphold the rule of law related to criminal charges, the presentation of evidence and even the right to counsel. (9) (10)
In dealing with dissension, the government increasingly files harsh and unjustified charges against whistle-blowers and similar, then effectively bans the media or any other oversight from the proceedings. Part of the US mythology is the public trial system that is claimed to represent real freedom by creating “checks and balances”, but instead we have a long-standing pattern that undermines effective dissension, broadly categorising it as felonious if not treasonous. This pattern is especially insidious since so many of the charges against political dissidents (our so-called ‘domestic terrorists’) involve incitement by the FBI or other agency, and qualify as entrapment. As one author noted, “Secret trials built on the testimony of undercover police given broad license to manufacture and incite criminal activity to entrap defendants is particularly revolting and deeply dangerous to all of us.” (11)
In late 2013 the Financial Times ran an article titled “America must dump its disrupters in 2014”, referring of course to political activists, specifying the term disrupter as descriptive of those creating challenges to the established political order. The article dutifully informs us that “fresh thinking is highly desirable” but that these political activists display only “mindlessness”, and expresses the fervent hope that the US media “will put an end to the nonsense before it turns into a habit”. (12)
Screenshot, Financial Times
The above article was partially prompted by reports from Seattle of the FBI sending heavily armed agents to raid a number of private homes in the Portland area on searches for “anti-government or anarchist literature” as a pretext for harassing political activists and a mechanism for intimidating those who speak out against social and economic injustice. In addition to the so-called “anarchist literature”, the FBI seized computers, flags, flag-making material, mobile phones, hard drives, address books, and “black clothing”.
Americans have been experiencing increasing harassment, surveillance, and prosecution of political activists associated with the Occupy Movement, with the FBI on occasion being so apparently desperate to arrest “anarchist terrorists” that it incited and encouraged them to disruptive actions, supplied them with illegal materials and then used an informant to entrap them. These FBI stings are presented in court as preventing “domestic terrorism”, and accuse political activists as “criminals seeking an ideology to justify their activities”.
The threats to those revealing details of crimes committed by various agencies of the US government are becoming increasingly real and severe, often involving a level of frightening and violent police and FBI activity that could be classified as official terrorism, and certainly brutal intimidation. Obama made frequent use of the Espionage Act, which is a remnant created during the First World War to deal with enemy saboteurs but is now used to intimidate and silence those who reveal government crimes. The charges levied against these individuals have all collapsed in court for lack of evidence but not without causing substantial fear and legal costs on those accused. Overall, there has developed an alarming pattern of threats, intimidation, and on occasion even death, to those who dare to come too close to the truth.
This kind of intimidation process actually has a very long history in the US. As far back as the 1930s, the FBI was using its enormous power to silence those who threatened the interests of the elite. In one well-known case, a man named George Menhinick, who was a severe critic of both President Hoover and the US FED banking system, wrote a series of articles critical of the banks and bankers that contained information they preferred to keep confidential. His efforts resulted in a visit by five FBI agents who must have terrified him. The FBI later reported to Hoover that “Menhinick was considerably upset over the visit of the agents. He is thoroughly scared and I do not believe that he will resume the dissemination of any information concerning the banks.”
Due primarily to Hollywood’s propaganda movies of FBI agents chasing bootleggers, it doesn’t appear widely known that the FBI was never conceived as a law enforcement agency in the usual sense, but was created as America’s political police and have always functioned as such. Even today, radio stations report threats of loss of broadcast license for reporting other than the official narrative.
In a much more sinister vein, documents were obtained from the FBI office in Houston, Texas, that outlined a plan to use mercenaries to kill the leaders of this Occupy Wall Street movement if it progressed much further. In that city as in many others, official reaction to the demonstrations involved violent assaults by police on the activists, and this is where the assassination plot was hatched. To quote the FBI document,
“(An organisation) planned to engage in sniper attacks against protestors in Houston, Texas . . . planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles”.
The FBI confirmed that the document was genuine and that it originated in the FBI’s Houston office. It offered neither explanation nor apology. It appears that the organisation involved was an FBI/CIA-linked mercenary-for-hire organization called Craft International, which has a contract funded by the US Department of Homeland Security. (13)
When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State she launched a bitter attack on Edward Snowden, suggesting his revelation of massive illegal espionage activities was aiding terrorist organisations, and made the following statements:
“I don’t understand why he (Snowdon) couldn’t have been part of the debate at home. When he emerged and when he absconded with all that material, I was puzzled, because we have all these protections for whistleblowers. If he were concerned and wanted to be part of the American debate, he could have been.”
But her comments are nonsense. Clinton would surely know that external contractors have no protection from government retaliation when revealing crimes.
Angela Canterbury, from the Project on Government Oversight, wrote “The riskiest whistle-blowing that you can possibly do on the government is as an intelligence contractor”. And even if Snowdon had been a Federal government employee, that would have been worth nothing, as this following case indicates (a case with which Clinton would have been well aware).
In 2010, an NSA employee named Thomas Drake dutifully made use of proper channels to report allegations of illegal conduct, and ended up the victim of a vicious attack by the same government charged to protect him. Kathleen McClellan, counsel for the Government Accountability Project, wrote,
“Drake followed the Intelligence Community Whistleblower law to a ‘T’. He went to the Department of Defense inspector general and both congressional intelligence committees and it did not protect him from retaliation. In fact, it made him the target of an investigation.”
Immediately upon his revelation of illegal conduct, US Federal agents charged him with multiple felonies in an attempt to silence him. When the government’s felony case eventually collapsed, a federal judge said it was “unconscionable” that Drake and his family had endured “four years of hell”. Yet Clinton foolishly and falsely claimed protections for whistleblowers. (14) (15)
The US has almost eliminated jury trials since almost all federal criminal cases and a great many others are subject to plea bargains inflicted on victims with enormous pressure because federal crimes carry severe penalties and usually minimum mandatory prison time for each separate count. Prosecutors use this power to threaten defendants with decades in jail if they choose to go to trial, or to offer a light sentence on a lesser charge if they plead guilty. “This plea bargain system simply begs to be abused, yet the courts preside over it without protest.” Drake bravely refused any plea bargain, and was found not guilty on the trumped-up FBI charges.
Even more sinister than US government attacks on its own citizens is the attempt to export this fascism to other nations, in an ambitious and desperate attempt to silence all criticism of the US government in all the world’s nations. A London woman named Sarah Henderson, who had been an editor at Wikileaks and had worked with Edward Snowdon, is now in exile in Germany, claiming she cannot return to her home country of England for fear of extradition and prosecution as a terrorist in the US. Her fears would appear to be well justified. The UK Terrorism Act of 2000, initiated under the bullying direction of the US, defines terrorism as “the use or threat of action designed to influence the government or an international governmental organisation” or which “is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause”.
Thus, any act of advancing a political cause or any attempt to influence a government, is now classified as terrorism. That wouldn’t be so bad, but “government” is defined as the government of any country, including the US, which means that a UK citizen who criticises the US government, reveals crimes committed by the US government or its agencies, suggests even moderate political changes in the US, promotes religious tolerance or a reduction in American racism, has committed an illegal act, qualifies as a terrorist, and can be extradited to America to be imprisoned. Naturally, Americans can criticise other governments, reveal their crimes suggest political changes or promote other political agendas without fear, while citizens in other countries doing the same to the US are classified as terrorists to be extradited and imprisoned.
There is evidence the US has attempted to impose this same draconian restriction on a number of other Western governments, attempting through bullying, intimidation, fear, and lawless police state tactics to silence the entire world in criticism of the US government. These new laws, definitions and categories are so broad as to be all-inclusive and universal, to the extent that almost anyone in any country could be arbitrarily indicted as a terrorist in the US and disappear into a secret court and secret prison system. It should be more than clear that this is not about crime or protecting the US national interest, nor about ‘terrorism’ in any form. It is entirely about stifling dissent, about creating a worldwide climate of fear to suppress any negative commentary while the US works feverishly in the dark to construct its new fascist regime.
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Larry Romanoffis a retired management consultant and businessman. He has held senior executive positions in international consulting firms, and owned an international import-export business. He has been a visiting professor at Shanghai’s Fudan University, presenting case studies in international affairs to senior EMBA classes. Mr. Romanoff lives in Shanghai and is currently writing a series of ten books generally related to China and the West. His writing has been translated into more than 20 languages and is available on more than 100 foreign-language websites around the world. He can be contacted at: email@example.com.
(1) Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids; https://www.cato.org/books/overkill-rise-paramilitary-police-raids-america
(2) How States Can Fix the Police; Cato Institute; https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/how-states-can-fix-police
(3) Speaking Truth to Empire: 80,000 Swat Team Raids Per Year; https://www.veteranstoday.com/2018/04/28/speaking-truth-to-empire-80000-swat-team-raids-per-year-in-usa-wtf/
(4) Battlefield America: The War On The American People; by John W. Whitehead; https://www.amazon.com/Battlefield-America-War-American-People/dp/1590793099/
(5) A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State; https://www.amazon.com/Government-Wolves-Emerging-American-Police/dp/1590799755
(6) Homeland Security Reaches Settlement After Raid on Reporter mary hudson
(7) Federal agents’ pre-dawn raid on reporter’s home raises questions
(8) Armed agents seize records of reporter, Washington Times prepares legal action
(9) Statement against FBI and grand jury repression; https://www.workers.org/2012/08/799
(11) N.C. Libertarians condemn FBI raids on anti-war activists; https://www.nolanchart.com/article8235-nc-libertarians-condemn-fbi-raids-on-antiwar-activists-html
(12) America must dump its disrupters in 2014; https://www.ft.com/content/0a44ee6c-68cc-11e3-996a-00144feabdc0
(13) FBI classified information about OWS assassination plot; https://www.rt.com/usa/fbi-assassination-ows-sniper-227/
(14) Thomas Drake vs. the N.S.A. | The New Yorker; https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2011/05/23/the-secret-sharer
Larry Romanoff is one of the contributing authors to Cynthia McKinney’s new COVID-19 anthology ”When China Sneezes”.
Copyright © Larry Romanoff, Moon of Shanghai, 2020