Warning! You Are Being Watched
By Kristie Reilly
In late April, two teen-age students in Oakland, California, got an unwelcome, real-life lesson in civics. During a heated class discussion at Oakland High School about politics and President Bush, the boys made comments the exact nature of which are in dispute, but which their teacher believed constituted a threat toward the president. The teacher went to the FBI. ....
Secret Service agents showed up at the high school the next day to interview the boys, both 16. The school principal sat in for an hour and a half as agents interviewed each student individually, without their parents’ knowledge or consent. “He asked us questions like was I a good shooter ... was I a good sniper ... am I good dealing with guns, and what are my thoughts on the president,” one of the boys told San Francisco Bayview. “I was very scared. I was crying because of what they said to us.”
The FBI has followed up on thousands of “tips” since the attacks of 9/11. In June, Atlanta bookstore employee Marc Schultz found himself visited by FBI agents after someone spotted him reading an article titled “Weapons of Mass Stupidity” at a local coffee shop. Schultz has dark hair and a beard, and the combination was apparently enough to make someone call the FBI. Schultz says the agents told him: “There’s no problem. We’d just like to get to the bottom of this. Now, if we can’t, then you may have a problem. And you don’t want that.” .....
Perhaps more disturbing than jarring visits from the FBI are signs that state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies are systematically monitoring First Amendment activities—including those of religious groups—in the name of safety and security in a post-9/11 age. ...........”
Ignoring a city prohibition against the collection of First Amendment-related intelligence, the Denver Police developed files on 208 organizations and 3,200 individuals. Monitored groups included the American Friends Service Committee (a pacifist Quaker group), Amnesty International and many others with no history of criminal activity. Documents obtained by the ACLU describe how police intercepted e-mails, recorded the license plate numbers of vehicles at demonstrations, and infiltrated advocacy group meetings. Sounds like good old Germany to me!
Activists are feeling the heat. “Not to be alarmist, but what’s increasingly clear to me—and I don’t do anything illegal, I’m a volunteer with a leftist news organization—is that no one is safe,” says MacKenzie from the San Francisco Indymedia Center. “Anyone can be and will be targeted. It should be sobering. Liberals, leftists—everyone is a target.”
September 21, 2003
Source: In These Times