Tuesday, March 27, 2012

COINTELPRO Revisited

Carl Rowan once said, “There are two ways to circumvent or trample over a constitution…one way is to arouse public fear and hatred…the second way is to amass enough police or military power to force your will upon society.” This was decades before the election of President Obama and he said it in reference to a book that I read as an adolescent and greatly admired called The Choice: The Issue of Black Survival in America by Samuel Yette.

Written at the 1970s it addressed “the colonized colored people of the United States.” He referenced that black and white political leadership had rendered African Americans obsolete people, spoke of massive un-employment, big business of the prison-industrial-complex, and how black and white so-called liberal politicians avoided examining the fact that black was “unsightly in America.” Most importantly, he pointed out that Black elected leadership means nothing in the face of systemic racism because they are “powerless” and too incompetent to tackle the “arrogance of superiority” of racist American political machinery.

Seems that the same is true today. Although there is a person that looks like the African American community in that mansion on Pennsylvania Avenue, he appears powerless to address the ills of our community and continue the policies that have maintained political hegemony over people of color around the globe.

Recently the Obama Administration’s Justice Department attorney, via Douglas Letter suggested that no judge in this nation has authority to be “looking over the shoulder” of the Obama administration’s targeted-killing program. Yes, the present administration claims a right to kill American citizens without trial, notice, and or the chance to object legally to such within the purview of due process. In effect, the present administration has expanded the Bush administration’s “targeted killing” program to include Americans far from any war zone. In order to accomplish this, the administration is hiding behind state secrets – meaning they don’t even have to explain why the president has the right to kill Americans without trial. This position according to Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Pardiss Kebriae, “Would allow the executive unreviewable authority to target and kill any U.S. citizen it deems a suspect of terrorism anywhere.” In summary, if it is accepted that the U.S. government can label Americans as enemies of the state and kill them without due process they can kill anyone they desire anywhere for any reason.

From my perspective, it is recollective of the FBI counterintelligence programs designed to neutralize political dissidents (COINTELPRO). From 1956 to 1971, COINTELPRO efforts were broadly targeted against radical political organizations per the desire of J. Edgar Hoover, longtime Director of the FBI. More than 2000 COINTELPRO operations before the programs were officially discontinued in 1971. The FBI’s COINTELPRO program continually stretched its target list from real political targets to “the kid with a picket sign, and from the kid with the picket sign to the kid with the bumper sticker of the opposing candidate.

The goals according to official FBI documents were: 1. Prevent a coalition of militant black nationalist groups, 2. Prevent the rise of a messiah who could unify and electrify the militant nationalist movement ... Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael and Elijah Muhammad all aspire to this position, 3. Prevent violence on the part of black nationalist groups, 4. Prevent militant black nationalist groups and leaders from gaining respectability by discrediting them and 5. Prevent the long-range growth of militant Black Nationalist organizations, especially among youth. The target organizations" included groups such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM), and the Nation of Islam (NOI). It was expressly directed against such leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokley Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Maxwell Stanford, and Elijah Muhammad.
Anyone with an ounce of problem solving ability could see the parallels of what was implemented under J. Edgar Hoover via COINTELPRO and what the Obama administration has proposed with its targeted killing program. Like the FBI, many individuals were framed as the record confirmed and killed without due process. The same is consistent with the “targeted killing” efforts of this administration. Both trampled on liberty and due process and evinced the tendency of mission creep, even to the point of fabricating evidence to justify targeted assignation and incarceration as well as to try and gather public support. New laws support this giving approval for roving wiretaps in foreign intelligence investigations that are not focused or specific to a specific person, or the ability to seize business or other records in a presumptive terror investigation or threat (Patriot Act Section 215).

Regardless, both, especially the new Obama approach, give the President and Federal government a blank check to target and kill enemies of the state. It is far removed from our constitutional reality and more akin to what dictators have done throughout history. Not to mention sovereign immunity will not allow for any Obama administration official to be held liable, regardless of whom the U.S. government kills.

Yes indeed, COINTELPRO is back, revisited and there is a new Sheriff in town.

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