Online COINTELPRO: Nullifying Bloggers
A recent Senate Report blasted fusion centers for violating civil rights with COINTELPRO-style techniques, and, moreover, for being ineffective and costly to the taxpayer.
A Senate Committee has released the results of its two year investigation into the $1.4 billion post-9/11 fusion centers The bi-partisan report finds the programs, intended to facilitate sharing of information among law enforcement, were ineffective, overly expensive and intruded on civil liberties.
"Fully Evolved into a Network That Can Engage in COINTELPRO-Like Operations"
Like the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) wrote in a “spotlight on surveillance” report in June 2007, “A national network of state fusion centers, working with the federal government, comes perilously close to a domestic surveillance agency, which has been rejected by the public and law enforcement officials.” There has been documented abuse:
In December 2003, just nine months after the Department of Homeland Security had been created, an officer from the DeKalb County, Georgia, Division of Homeland Security observed and photographed vegans who were peacefully protesting outside a Honey Baked Ham store. When two protesters noticed they were being photographed, they wrote down the license plate of the man’s unmarked government. After they refused to turn over the paper with the license plate number, the Homeland Security officer arrested them. In 2004, two plainclothes Contra Costa County sheriff’s deputies identified themselves as Homeland Security agents while monitoring a protest by striking Safeway workers.In February 2006, two Montgomery County, Md., Homeland Security agents walked into a suburban Bethesda library, demanded the attention of all the patrons, and told patrons that viewing Internet pornography was illegal. It is not illegal to view pornography in a public library, and Montgomery County simply “asks customers to be considerate of others when viewing Web sites.” The Washington Post said, “After the two men made their announcement, one of them challenged an Internet user’s choice of viewing material and asked him to step outside, according to a witness. A librarian intervened . . . [and later a] police officer arrived. In the end, no one had to step outside except the uniformed men.” The men were later reassigned, but the incident raised questions about why exactly Maryland Homeland Security agents thought it part of their Homeland Security duties to enter a public library, survey the patrons, and then incorrectly tell patrons that their legal viewing habits were illegal acts.
In conclusion, the subcommittee report affirms the worst fears or concerns shared by civil liberties organizations. Indeed, its officials engage in operations similar to operations FBI agents engaged in during the days of COINTELPRO.This does not mean Homeland Security officials are engaged in this activity and FBI agents are not. FBI agents are infringing upon Americans’ civil liberties as well. There are at least two networks of agents or officials spying on constitutionally protected behavior—the FBI’s network of agents and the DHS network of officials at fusion centers. In the particular case of the fusion centers, this entire network cannot be said to keep Americans safe because they produce mostly useless intelligence reports. And the network should be dismantled.
A Texas fusion center worker made a comment to an L.A. Times article critical of fusion centers. The comment as well as every other comment to the article was promptly scrubbed. I obtained a copy of the fusion center worker's deleted comment from a colleague of mine:
chanteuse at 1:34 AM October 3, 2012 I spent 2 years at the Fusion Center in Austin, TX and spent most my time on social media. Using my native language skills my job was to "create sparks" (as my manager liked to say) by deliberately infuriating other users on facebook, comments sections (like this one), etc. in an effort to manipulate users and gain intelligence information. We used an automated system that created fake profiles on thousands of social media outlets and, based on scripts I wrote, generated comments, videos, etc. to provoke people. If someone took the bait, we'd use a system that obtains their real identity (from the Internet Service Provider) and then put them on a watch list. This watch list (when I left) had hundreds of thousands of names on it.
- Report Abuse
The COINTELPRO process has gone online. You can not be sure which writers or commenters are agent provocateurs. One must use discernment when analyzing, and dealing with the government's neo-COINTELPRO as it exists throughout the internet and blogosphere. There is a thoughtful guide to dealing strategically with online COINTELPRO for bloggers and activists. It was written by Stephen DeVoy a political activist, writer, and professional computer programmer who became a political target for group stalking and other abuses:
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR NOWPUBLIC?
NowPublic was born of the age of citizen journalism and a newly born, democratized internet media. Unlike, the MSM, from which NP has received much praise, NP is not hamstrung by the rigors of traditional costs and subsequent controls imposed by corporate owners and advertisers. The internet press and blogosphere have become a natural government target for infiltration, covert manipulation and control. The MSM has become more centralized, and is now dominated by a handful of multi-billion dollar media giants. This is a situation that the government is more relaxed in. The big boys are subject to infiltration, legal and other coercion, that is largely absent from the internet press model.
I believe that the ideas developed on NowPublic, through its writers, and, equally through its commentators, are unique and in the public interest. NowPublic has become a venue for liberating ideas from the constraints of traditional media. NowPublic, and, the internet writ large, is subject to its share of bad journalism as well as the agent provocateurs seeking to control the scope of discussion and flow of information. NowPublic is a valuable part of citizen journalism and crowd powered media that links it to the heart of discussion of under-reported news, and, evolving social and political trends.
It is disheartening for me to experience new controls and censorship at NP. Anonymous comments which powered many stories are being banned. Many writers, this author included, can not currently post comments, even to their own stories! I strongly suggest that NowPublic should reconsider these new strictures. I acknowledge the arguments to the contrary calling for a ban on anonymous comments, and, I support the right of those individuals to make such arguments. In the end, I believe that more freedom of expression, including anonymous speech (despite its inherent flaws), is necessary to maintain and grow a liberated, democratized and unshackled internet press.