March of the Moles

Surveilling Americans


California now has a central anti-terrorism center, and police and sheriff's departments in the state have developed homeland security, anti-terrorism, and intelligence units, with many departments participating in an FBI joint terrorism task force. So what progress have the cops made against the Golden State's homegrown Bin Ladens?

According to "State of Surveillance," a recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union, they've been working overtime to infiltrate and neutralize activist groups. In Sacramento a police "identification specialist" videotaped the crowd at a demonstration because, in her words, "This is a crime scene." Oakland police infiltrated, and helped plan some of the activities for, a demonstration against police brutality. A San Francisco cop (acting without authorization) donned a Che Guevara pin and helped whip up excitement at an anti-war rally. A deputy sheriff in the terrorist hotbed of Fresno posed as an especially active and motivated member of a local peace group a ruse that unraveled when the deputy died and members of the group recognized his picture in an obituary.

These efforts to help agitators agitate recall the work of the FBI's notorious Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which sowed confusion among radicals in myriad ways, from publishing a fake Black Panther Coloring Book filled with violent racial imagery for children to spreading the rumor that the actress-activist Jean Seberg was pregnant with a Panther's child. Compared to those masterstrokes, the recent efforts by local flatfoots seem practically tame.