If the FBI is going to investigate dissent, than someone has to investigate the FBI. That’s why for decades we’ve continuously and meticulously documented the FBI’s bad acts. We use this information to educate the public and policymakers alike that these continued abuses of First Amendment rights are a threat.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the nation’s top law enforcement and domestic intelligence agency. They do more, however, than pursue crime or threats to national security. For over a century, the FBI has spied on dissent. It’s predecessor organization, the Bureau of Investigation made it clear that investigating radical political views was a top priority. This culminated when the General Intelligence Division, or Radical Division, headed by J. Edgar Hoover carried out the Palmer Raids, rounding up and deporting radicals. The FBI itself proudly carried on this tradition, creating an index of political dissidents and implementing the infamous COINTELPRO program to not only spy on disfavored political groups, but disrupt and neutralize them.
All of this may seem like ancient history, but it’s not. It was only a handful of years after the Church Committee exposed this conduct before the FBI was back to its old tricks investigating opponents of US Central America policy. And today, the FBI is still at it. We know the FBI has spied on Occupy Wall Street, antiwar, and environmental groups. They’ve made house calls to Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, and Palestinian solidarity activists. They’ve created an intelligence assessment on “Black Identity Extremists,” which claims African-Americans rightfully angered by police racism are a threat to law enforcement. And they continue to deploy informants and infiltrators in the Muslim community writ large, essentially transforming religion into a proxy for suspicion.
The FBI’s use of assessments and its homegrown violent extremism designation are both highly controversial. Yet, the OIG ignores this completely, taking their existence for granted.
The FBI both has expansive surveillance powers and a long history of abusing civil liberties. Congress must exercise oversight over the FBI. This requires approaching these abuses as what they are–longstanding, systemic problems.Unfortunately, for the most part, both Democrats and Republicans missed opportunities at least week’s hearing to really take on the issue of FBI abuse.
Defending Rights & Dissent Teams Up With Institute For Policy Studies for A People’s Briefing on FBI Abuse
Sixty people attended a joint Defending Rights & Dissent and Institute for Policy Studies People’s Briefing on political surveillance and the FBI.
Around 100 people gathered at The People’s Forum last Thursday, for a discussion of “Still Spying on Dissent: The History of Political Policing.” The event showcased Defending Rights & Dissent’s groundbreaking report Still Spying on the Dissent: The Enduring Problem of FBI First Amendment Abuse and comes on the heels of the 100th Anniversary of the Palmer Raids, one of the most notorious abuses of civil liberties in US history.
Yesterday, the Department of Justice Inspector General released a long awaited report on the FBI’s conduct during “Operation Crossfire Hurricane,” the counterintelligence investigation into certain associates of the Trump campaign.