The First Amendment protects freedoms of religion, speech and assembly, while the Fourth Amendment prohibits the government from snooping around us without probable cause that we’re up to something criminal.
But U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have a history of digging into our lives based on our political or religious beliefs or activities. In recent years, the FBI and state and local police have sent undercover agents and paid informants into Mosques, and Muslim, Arab and South Asian groups, and political movements like Occupy, peace, environment and Black Lives Matter. Once embedded, these agents create dossiers on groups and individuals, dangerously play the role of agents provocateurs, and even develop stings that ensnare vulnerable members of the community or group into a fake terrorist plot.
Confidential informants are the unseen foot soldiers in the government’s war on drugs. By some estimates, up to eighty per cent of all drug cases in the country involve them.
In Spite of Local Law Limiting Investigations of First Amendment Assemblies, DC Police Infiltrated Organizing Group for Inauguration Protests
Before the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) had arrested a single protester at Trump’s inauguration, undercover agents had infiltrated one of the main groups organizing protests according to court documents.
In response to revelations that the FBI and DHS have been spying on Black Lives Matter, Occupy, anti-pipeline activists and peace and solidarity activists, individuals and 131 civil society organizations asked the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to find out the true extent of improper spying.
The Inspector General found that the NYPD broke the rules on surveillance of political activity, doing it for too long without a reason. Also, 95% of those spied on were “individuals associated with Islam.”