Sam Smith today reminds us why the FBI had rules against spying on American citizens. Durng the Hoover era and afterwards, it committed numerous crimes. As the Senate committee reported about COINTELPRO:
Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but CONTELPRO went far beyond that. The unexpressed major premise of the programs was that a law enforcement agency has the duty to do whatever is necessary to combat perceived threats to the existing social and political order. - US Senate committee report on CONTELPRO (1956-71)
He also links to a terrific site at http://www.humboldt.edu/~go1/terrorism/unit3/cointelpro.html which documents a lot of COINTELPRO activities, and also provides a historical look at how the US Government has turned its back on our freedoms when it thought it was worth it. Here's some of what COINTELPRO did:
- Distorted the public's view of radical groups in a way that helped to isolate and demonize the groups and, in so doing, frightened Americans into believing that the use of unconstitutional means was necessary in order to repress and oppress such radicals.
- Reinforced and exacerbated the weaknesses of the radical groups, making it very difficult for the inexperienced activists of the Sixties to learn from their mistakes and build solid, durable grassroots organizations.
- Encouraged the withdrawal from grassroots organizing of some of the most committed and experienced leaders and members within the protest movements.
- Often convinced its victims to blame themselves and each other for the problems it created, leaving a legacy of cynicism and despair that persists today.
- Severely weakened domestic political opposition without shaking the conviction of most Americans that they lived in a democracy where free speech and the rule of law are honored.
Of course, all those things mean it "worked." A cynical public wihtout solid grassroots organization and oposition to government/corporate politics is exactly the kind of thing the ruling class wants.
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