News Release Archive - Domestic Surveillance

New Domestic Terrorism Legislation “Would Make It Worse”

CHIP GIBBONS, chip@defendingdissent.org, @ChipGibbons89
Policy director at Defending Rights & Dissent, Gibbons recently wrote the piece “The Capitol Riot Was Bad Enough. New Domestic Terrorism Legislation Would Make It Even Worse” for Jacobin, which states that since 9/11, the U.S. government has erected a vast “apparatus in the name of ‘national security.’ Yet this security apparatus completely failed to thwart a plot carried out in plain sight.

“On top of that, just last summer, demonstrations against police violence and racism were repeatedly met with militarized police and wanton repression. In a country where you can’t even take expired suntan lotion past airport security, where Quakers organizing against the death penalty are surveilled in the name of ‘counterterrorism,’ and where police that resemble an occupying army — because they are literally equipped with gear from an occupying army — greet peaceful protests, it’s rational to wonder just how all of this could have happened.

“One thing is certain: the failure to prevent the Capitol attack is not because of a lack of police powers or anti-terrorism measures. Still, some people have wasted no time hijacking the moment to advocate new domestic terrorism legislation. A lawmaker in the solidly Democratic state of Maryland has proposed a state domestic terrorism statute, and others are sure to follow.

“This is not the first time in recent memory that far-right violence has sparked calls for new domestic terrorism legislation. The general uptick in violence that has plagued the Trump years, including the horrific white supremacist shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, has produced a steady drumbeat of demands for a new domestic terrorism law. Joe Biden’s campaign website put him on record as backing a new domestic terrorism law, though it’s unclear where he currently stands.”

Last year, The Intercept published Gibbon’s in-depth investigation: “FBI Opened Terrorism Investigations Into Nonviolent Palestinian Solidarity Group, Documents Reveal.”

See National Security Archives documents on FBI and NSA spying on Martin Luther King Jr.

You Can’t Fight Fascism by Expanding the Police State

EVAN GREER, evan@fightforthefuture.org, @fightfortheftr

Greer is deputy director of Fight for the Future and recently wrote the piece “You can’t fight fascism by expanding the police state” for Fast Company, which states: “In the coming days and weeks we are likely to see pundits and lawmakers call for things like passing a new domestic terrorism law, expanding mass surveillance programs, increasing funding for the FBI and law enforcement, installing backdoors in encrypted messaging apps, and arming police with more technology like facial recognition and social media monitoring software. …

“This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing. Expanding the U.S. government’s already bloated surveillance state will only bring more terror and harm to the same communities that Trump targeted with his racist policies and rhetoric. …

“President-elect Joe Biden has already expressed that he supports the creation of a new domestic terrorism statute. Experts warn that a new law isn’t needed — acts of terrorism are already illegal. Creating a new designation would fail to prevent right-wing attacks while threatening marginalized communities with increased surveillance, prosecution, and harassment for engaging in First Amendment protected activities. In the last few years, top Democrats and Republicans have called for billions of dollars in additional funding for the FBI, and have scuttled attempts to rein in the phone and internet spying programs enabled by the USA Patriot Act, which was rushed through Congress faster than lawmakers could read it in the immediate wake of 9/11.”

Trump and Barr Turn to Joint Terrorism Task Force to Crush Protests

DAVE LINDORFF, dlindorff at gmail.com
Editor of ThisCantBeHappening.net and 2019 winner of an “Izzy” Award for Outstanding Independent Media, Lindorff just wrote the piece “Tear Gas and Clubs in Lafayette Square Were Just the Beginning” for The Nation.

Lindorff reports: “On June 1, President Trump ordered National Park Police and troops from the District of Columbia National Guard and some other federal law enforcement agencies to drive peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, north of the White House, to clear the way for his Bible-holding photo op. The same day, Trump and his Attorney General William Barr, along with Defense Secretary Mark Esper, also placed a call to the nation’s 50 governors.

“A leaked transcript of that taped conversation, published in full by a number of major news organizations [audio], shows both Trump and Barr referring in glowing terms to the way the Obama administration, almost nine years earlier, had crushed the months-long Occupy Movement across the country in a matter of a few days.

“Trump told the governors, many of whose states were experiencing massive protests against police brutality in the wake of the brutal videotaped police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, ‘This is like Occupy Wall Street. It was a disaster until one day somebody said, “That’s enough.” And they just went in and wiped them out. And it’s the last time I heard the name Occupy Wall Street. …’

“Trump was followed at that point in the call by Attorney General Barr, who told the assembled governors that the Trump administration planned to use the same Fusion Centers and Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) the Obama administration had relied on to spy on and then crush the Occupy Movement to shut down the current wave of urban uprisings and protests over police brutality.

“As Barr put it, ‘The structure we’re going to use is the Joint Terrorist Task Force, which I know most of you are familiar with. Tried and true system. It’s worked for domestic and homegrown terrorists, and we’re going to employ that model.’

“It’s important to remember what actually happened with the Occupy Movement, a remarkable protest against inequality, corporate power, and the corrupt Wall Street banks whose recklessness had caused the 2008 financial crisis. Occupy was a spontaneous grassroots protest that sprang up in September 2011 in Lower Manhattan with the occupation of a one-block space called Zuccotti Park located just two blocks north of the intersection of Wall Street and Broadway. That encampment was quickly replicated in over 18 cities across the nation as part of a movement that introduced into popular discourse the class-conscious notion of ‘the 1 percent and the 99 percent.’

“As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the Washington, D.C.–based Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) recalls, the Occupy movement” was targeted by the government. She said, “That’s why you saw encampments wiped out by police with over 7,000 arrests.”

“PCJF, following that shutdown of Occupy, turned to the Freedom of Information Act, seeking all documents relating to efforts to crush that movement from both the FBI and the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security, as well as the Pentagon and other intel agencies. After appeals, the organization received thousands of pages [see BigBrotherAmerica.org] of heavily redacted documents that made it clear that even as the FBI was reporting that the Occupy movement was peaceful, it had been classified as a domestic terrorist threat by both the FBI and DHS, ‘before even the first encampments were set up in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere in mid-September,’ with the FBI already providing detailed warnings of Occupy Wall Street’s plans to Wall Street banks and US corporations as early as August, 2011.”

Pelosi, Hoyer and Schiff Keep Trying to Give Trump More Spying Powers?

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Steny Hoyer in the Oval Office on Wednesday, May 13, 2009

CommonDreams is reporting: “Pelosi Accused of ‘Trying to Do an End-Run Around Her Own Party’ by Sending Spy Powers Bill to Conference.”

Trevor Timm, executive director of Freedom of the Press Foundation, on Thursday wrote the piece “Congress Is Alarmingly Close to Handing Trump Dangerous Spying Powers: And Adam Schiff, of all people, is the one giving it to him.”

Reporter Dell Camron writes: “Democratic leaders are doing anything and everything they can to prevent privacy protections from being added to FISA. People need to be asking themselves why this is happening. What do Pelosi/Hoyer/Schiff have to gain by defending warrantless surveillance?”

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said: “At the request of the Speaker of the House, I am withdrawing consideration of the FISA Act. The two-thirds of the Republican party that voted for this bill in March have indicated they are going to vote against it now. I am told they are doing so at the request of the President. I believe this to be against the security interest of the United States and the safety of the American people.”

Politico reports: “Effort to renew FISA crumbles: It was a rare legislative setback for Pelosi, and Trump rejoiced.”

EVAN GREER, evan at fightforthefuture.org, @fightfortheftr

Greer is deputy director of Fight for the Future. She tweeted Thursday: “I just want to be extremely clear that right now Nancy Pelosi the so-called leader of ‘The Resistance’ is actively trying to gut a bipartisan amendment that specifically protects journalists & religious groups from abusive surveillance, so she can reauthorize FISA & Patriot Act.”

See statement by the group Demand Progress.