The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Legalizing the “illegal” spying

Sep 8, 2008

The Bush Administration released new rules to legalize and broaden the spying government has always done “illegally.” The rules, in a “public comment” phase since July 31, are expected to take effect before the election.

So far, neither candidate has said a word about this reversion back to the police-state habits of the McCarthy period.

At the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement, public outcry against government spying led to restrictions on the kind of information the police “red squads” could keep on citizens, and what they could do with that information. The new rules effectually gut those restrictions.

Of course, the government started ignoring the restrictions almost as soon as they were passed. And since 9/11, it has used “homeland security” as a pretext to junk all the restrictions in fact, if not legally. Pacifists were reported as “terrorist threats.” Tourists taking pictures of famous landmarks – especially dark-skinned tourists! – were arrested for “suspected terrorist activities.” Denver police “infiltrated” meetings of Amnesty International; California agents spied on environmental activists. Maryland state police were recently discovered spying on opponents of the death penalty and of the Iraq war. South Carolina accused striking longshoremen of “terrorism,” and the head of Homeland Security called in leaders of the West Coast longshore union when they proposed a strike.

A Bush advisor said, “This is a continuum that started back on 9/11 ... to focus on the terrorism threat.” No! This was to focus from the start on intimidating those who wanted to be active against the Iraq war and oppose government and corporate policies.

These new rules, and the many like them already quietly implemented, are aimed at giving legal justification for muzzling an entire population. A population which in large majority hates the Iraq war, fears the growing economic crisis, and sooner or later may call the government to account for these problems.

Carrying out war after war and save-the-rich economic policies, the government seeks to spy on, harass and intimidate those who would raise a voice of protest.

An awakening population can dump those plans.