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 Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion are an infamous anti-Semetic forgery. Created to stoke anti-Semetisim in Russia at the turn of the 20th century, they continue to be the centerpiece of bigoted conspiracy theories to this day. So why did an official FBI account tweet them?
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Still Spying: The Podcast
Join DRAD Policy Director Chip Gibbons as he hosts our new Still Spying Podcast, which explores the FBI’s continuing First Amendment abuse. In addition to being our policy director, Chip is a noted FBI expert, journalist, and commentator. His writings on the FBI have appeared in The Intercept, Washington Post, and The Nation.
This podcast builds on DRAD’s groundbreaking report titled Still Spying on Dissent: The Enduring Problem of FBI First Amendment Abuse, which documented a century of FBI spying and contextualized it in the larger history of the Bureau.
In this limited series podcast, Chip is joined in conversation by experts and activists and will explore everything from the failure to reform the FBI, the FBI’s own war on Black dissent, the FBI’s dual role as both law enforcement and intelligence, and how the issue of political surveillance fits into larger discussions about policing.
Download it now wherever you get your favorite podcasts.