By Pete Papaherakles
The Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Lawyers Guild sued the Boston Police for illegally spying on citizens, monitoring peaceful demonstrations, interrogating protesters and categorizing peaceful groups as extremists. Documents and videos obtained through this lawsuit reveal that the police have been illegally targeting peaceful activist groups and compiling surveillance files on them under the heading “Criminal Act” and bearing labels like “Extremist Groups,” “Civil Disturbance” and “Domestic Terrorist Threat.”
The ACLU’s lawsuit revealed that the Boston Police have been illegally keeping records on multiple peaceful groups such as Stop the Wars Coalition, Veterans for Peace and United for Justice with Peace. These organizations were targeted and listed under the heading “criminal act” with labels like “Homeland Security Threat” and “Domestic Terrorist Threat.”
In the aftermath of 9-11, so-called “fusion centers” were set up around the country to share intelligence among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, ostensibly to prevent acts of terrorism. There are as many as 70 of these fusion centers operating today, although the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which started and funded them to the tune of $1.4B, will not say exactly how many there are.
A recent 141-page Senate subcommittee report on fusion centers has found that they have produced “useless” reports, and that they have been collecting dubious “intelligence” and violating civil rights in the process although they have not uncovered a single terrorist plot.
According to the Senate report, this falls afoul of federal privacy regulations and DHS guidelines, which forbid the routine monitoring of groups and individuals unless there is reason to suspect them of criminal activity. There are also indications that these illegal reports have been shared with other fusion centers around the country and retained after five years.
Of much concern is how DHS defines who is a potential terrorist. In a video released by DHS last year, all the terrorists portrayed were white, while the threshold of suspicious activity has been ridiculously lowered to include just about everyone. Paying with cash for a cup of coffee, owning gold, buying food in bulk or driving a van is considered suspicious activity. Even someone using a video camera, writing on a piece of paper or flying the American flag is now considered a potential terrorist.
Since the notorious 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) legalized indefinite detention without habeas corpus last New Years Eve, further unconstitutional executive orders have given the government the alleged right to take control of food, water and energy resources. And with moves to control access to healthcare and transportation and recently the right to freeze bank accounts of Americans, we are now a national emergency declaration away from a total police state. Attempts to reverse NDAA detention provisions have been thwarted by the government.
Peter Papaherakles, a U.S. citizen since 1986, was born in Greece. He is AFP’s outreach director. If you would like to see AFP speakers at your rally, contact Pete at 202-544-5977.