Counter terrorism restricts 1st Amendment
It’s been nearly a decade since the Department of Homeland Security was foisted upon our frightened nation, and all we got was this lousy police state. Petulant, Americans tend to scoff at the notion, and mock those who suggest the reality. “We’re not as bad as N. Korea!” goes the typical internet rebuttal. Fair enough; we’re not as bad as N. Korea.
With the rise of poverty in this country, those who were formerly middle class are suddenly realizing the cruel truth that our urban poor have known forever: the system is wildly unjust. But I dare say being white is no longer enough to be above the law. It helps. Let’s not pretend our history of institutionalized racism is dead, but it’s more strictly about money these days. While the Wall Street crooks who ruined the economy walk free, thousands who’ve protested against those thieves have been detained in some of the largest mass-arrests in U.S. history. We have the largest percentage of citizens in jail than any other country, often with the strictest penalties, for trifling offenses that other countries are civilized enough to not prosecute.
From NYC to Oakland to Atlanta, the Department of Homeland Security’s been playing a role in crushing #OWS dissent. It’s anecdotal evidence: counter-terrorism units sighted surveilling protesters in Lower Manhattan, Philly, and Boston. Lesser bloggers claim that DHS involvement is just a wild conspiracy.
But we don’t have to rely on hearsay or conjecture, according to Ayesha Kazmi from The Guardian. As with many parks across the country, Legislative Plaza in Nashville, Tennessee has been ordered closed during the night to keep out the occupiers. However, the orders came down from DHS:
“The Department of Safety and Homeland Security took the appropriate action to support the state’s revised policy that the Legislative Plaza is not to be used at night without specific authorization. The policy was revised for security reasons, and the protestors were aware of the policy. The process was handled by state troopers in a professional manner and without incident…”
This is incredibly disturbing, and to think DHS isn’t actively engaged against the 99% more generally is wildly naive. Even without a populist movement sweeping the nation, DHS fusion centers (designed to integrate federal and local information) have already been found spying on peace activists in Washington. The DHS’s raison d’être is to support local municipalities in facing “terrorist” threats. Now consider the Patriot Act’s vague “domestic terrorism” language:
“…A person engages in domestic terrorism if they do an act “”dangerous to human life”" that is a violation of the criminal laws of a state or the United States, if the act appears to be intended to: (i) intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion…”
Any direct action, like OWS, is a form of coercion intended to influence government policy. Hell, the language is so malleable as to be wrapped around anything — Americans For Prosperity literature, McDonald’s adverts, Frank Luntz’s dumb fucking face…. But in Post 9/11 America, our representatives are OK with this kind of ambiguous & prime-for-abuse-language because they fear the rise of a Great Kansas Caliphate. Or something.
In addition to cracking skulls with tear gas rounds, and shooting citizens with rubber bullets at pointblank range, cops deployed a Long Range Acoustic Device to Occupy Oakland. Reports are sketchy regarding its use, but the LRAD is a piece of DoD hardware — the kind that can make people vomit blood and die — we’ve used on insurgents in Iraq. The Oakland PD has even gone undercover to infiltrated the Occupation. And maybe they set fires too. It’s possible, if not probable. And though OWS participants haven’t been deemed domestic terrorists, the apparatus meant to fight that existential threat is being aimed at them.
Our 9/11 chickens came home to suppress dissent — a kind of 9/11 force drift. Disregarding the “conspiracies,” the — sometimes — brutal response to OWS is indicative of a police state, where dissenters are treated as insurgents, and cast as trouble-making fools by the corporate press.
In another disconcerting move toward a full-on American police/surveillance state, localities are implementing the use of drones — this is in addition to federal drones flying over the Canadian and Mexican borders. If a police drone is not a violation of the 4th Amendment, I don’t know what is. (Cop’s ability to track cars without a warrant is now before the Supreme Court, and may have implications on what kinds of surveillance will be legal.)
We can cite examples of 9/11 force drift all day — the torture and assassination of U.S. citizens, the NSA spying on everyone, etc. — but DHS logistic support to local police agencies, and unconstitutional edicts like the one in Nashville, are perhaps the most troubling aspect of the American police state because our cops don’t really need help being ruthless pricks who enforce ridiculous, unconstitutional laws.
While the militarization of our police is a new depravity, it’s also tempting to think that we’re entering an unprecedented era of police abuse. It’s likely just more visible now. People have iPhones to record their unlawful arrests. Although a lot of people can’t afford one.
But, hey, at least we’re not N. Korea.