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News :: Organizing
Watch Lists or Witch Hunts?: American "Intelligence" Agencies
04 Jan 2004
With Homeland Security in full swing, and the DNC protests coming to Boston, I thought it was a good time to review watch lists produced by the FBI and CIA in our recent past...
Watch Lists or Witch Hunts: American “Intelligence” Agencies
by Kirsten Anderberg Copyright 2004

According to the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), one of the flights that was grounded recently, from Britain to the U.S., had 6 names come up on America’s terrorist watch list, and that was a large factor in grounding the flight. But now it comes out there were some mistakes. One of the names was of a young child. Another of the names was of an elderly Chinese woman. Neither had terrorist links. Donna Bucella, the director of America’s ”Terrorist Screening Center,” (another Bush-era agency, whose job it is to coordinate the FBI, CIA, and other agencies’ watch lists), said, basically, that she was not surprised that there were some mix-ups associated with the new “terrorist” list. Another government spokesman said that part of the problem was a language barrier. He said it was easy to get the names wrong in translations! In the recent terrorist alerts associated with the grounding of these flights, the same names were not on both Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) lists, so the lists and organizations are not working together on terrorism “properly” yet. If you read the U.K. newspaper, The Guardian, you will see headlines that reflect frustrations growing in the U.K. over American “terrorism” alerts that affect the whole world.

I thought it would be fun to review America’s not-so-distant past with “terrorist” lists and terrorism propaganda. Between 1947 and 1954, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), created a “Red Scare,” accusing all types of people, and any type of critic of American policy, of being “Communists,” and therefore of being traitors, and threats to American safety. Just as today, the government PROMOTED spying on thy neighbor for the government. In 1947, HUAC intended to show that the Screen Writers’ Guild harbored Communists, and that Hollywood was sneaking subliminal Communist messages into its films (such as “Share and Share Alike”). Blacklists were made, careers were ruined. Articles written now, in retrospect, about this national security period, use words like “witch-hunt,” and “hysteria.” By 1956, the FBI had 5 major counter-intelligence (COINTELPRO) programs, spying predominantly on political and racial minority groups. The COINTELPRO programs were aimed at “disruption” and “neutralization” of political dissent, not mere observation and intelligence gathering. I see this same behavior from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today.

In 1962, a national security “watch list,” issued by the FBI, red-flagged all materials coming from Puerto Rico of an anti-American or pro-Soviet nature, peace groups going from the U.S. to the Soviet Union, and any American interacting on a regular basis with students in Moscow, or with the U.S.S.R. By 1972, the FBI’s “watch list” expanded to include the previous groups with Puerto Rican or Soviet Union connections, plus U.S. protest and peace groups, including Women Strike for Peace, and also “extremist” groups, which included the Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Progressive Labor Party. Persons sympathetic to North Korea, North Vietnam, Red China, and pro-Cuban individuals were now added to the list also. The FBI also maintained a list of “suspicious” people, who were to be rounded up in the event of a national emergency, as they were in positions to influence others “against the national interests,” “due to their subversive associations and ideology. ” This FBI roundup list included a) professors, teachers, or leaders, b) labor union organizers and leaders, c) writers, lecturers, newsmen, entertainers, and others in the mass media field, d) lawyers, doctors, and scientists, e) other potentially influential persons on a local or national level, f) individuals who could potentially furnish material financial aid.” In 1962, MLKing, Jr. was added to this index. The NYTimes recently reported the FBI is again profiling political protesters in America, and included “anarchists” as an additional target group this time around.

In 1973, the CIA’s “Operation CHAOS” supposedly ended. By that time, they had
300,000 American citizens in a computerized index, with 7,200 separate personality files, and 1,000 “subject” files with groupings on students, peace activists, the American Indian Movement, publishing organizations, etc. As the CIA was taking pictures of the OUTSIDE of 2,705,706 letters and opening 215,000 of them, the FBI was publishing “watch lists.” The FBI “discovered” the CIA’s mail opening program in 1958. The CIA and FBI were as uncoordinated back then, as they are now with their terrorist lists. It will be interesting to see what the Freedom of Information Act dredges up in 2030, about the behaviors of the DHS, the FBI, the CIA, and other national security agencies regarding spying on American protesters, after the Iraq war was begun, in 2003.

As we moved through the 1960’s and 1970’s, American national security agents were confused as to who they should be spying on, who the enemy was, and what the status quo was they were protecting. At one point in the 1960’s, black children trying to attend public school in the South were attacked by police as the enemy! In the 1970’s, police thought non-violent anti-war student protesters at Kent State University were the enemy, and opened fire on them, on an American campus! Terms like “communists,” and “extremists,” came under more and more scrutiny, the more liberally they were applied across society in the 1950’s – 1970’s. In the 1960’s, the line blurred between average citizens and government critics. Politicians, Professors, Feminists, Farm Workers, Students, Journalists, hell, the Nightly News, were openly questioning the U.S. policy in Vietnam and Nixon’s reign as president.

In 2003, these blurred categories of potential enemies have again swelled, as have the files on American citizens. In the 2000’s, these agencies have now added to their watch lists, “anarchists,” (a new word for “extremists?”), current anti-war protesters and peace activists, independent media centers, street medic organizations, and people with Middle Eastern relations. Previously, the government watched those with relations in Puerto Rico, then it added the U.S.S.R., then Cuba, North Korea, China, North Vietnam, and now Iraq and the Middle East. How long until the list includes ALL affiliations, except those with America’s party line via the White House? How long until THE WORLD is America’s enemy? Are we there yet? America prides itself on political free speech. Yet its government spies on those who use that free speech for political dissent. It has in the past, and it is doing it now.
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