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.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. Hamtpon and Clark were activists with the Black Panther Party. Chicago police killed both men during a police raid ostensibly ordered by the Cook County state’s attorney. Subsequent revelations uncovered the role of the FBI in the raid. In our recent report, Still Spying on Dissent: The Enduring Problem of FBI First Amendment Abuse, we discussed the raid and how it is part of the FBI’s notorious COINTELPRO.
The investigatory powers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are regulated not by any Congressional charter, but by guidelines promulgated by the attorney general. Thanks to George W. Bush’s lameduck Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who was the last attorney general to revise the guidelines, the FBI’s standard for opening an investigation is shockingly lax. The lax nature of current FBI investigatory powers are in the news again.
Last week, Defending Rights & Dissent released the groundbreaking report Still Spying on Dissent: The Enduring Problem of FBI First Amendment Abuse. The report has received widespread praise and has once again raised the issue of FBI spying.
Defending Rights & Dissent launched a groundbreaking new report chronicling the FBI’s (most) recent surveillance of social movements. And the report, Still Spying on Dissent: The Enduring Problem of FBI First Amendment Abuse, is already making waves!The Intercept just published a major piece on the report, that both summarizes and validates the report: