Yesterday the Amash-Conyers amendment to the Defense Authorization bill was narrowly defeated. Those who voted it down have done so with the argument that "keeping us safe from terrorists" is more important that adhering to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Furthermore, they assert, "If you aren't doing anything wrong, why should you fear being spied upon?"
Those of us who demonstrated against the Vietnam War, can answer that question.
For four administrations between 1956 and 1971 the FBI conducted the COINTELPRO (Counter-inteligence Program) against the American people in order to "protect national security".
In 1976 Senator Frank Church's Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities investigated this program, revealing what it was really doing.
Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that...Now here's the kicker - and this is why the people saying, "If you're innocent of wrong-doing, why are you objecting to warrantless spying?" are so dangerous.
...the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.[text version of report] [emph added]
COINTELPRO was designed to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, or otherwise neutralize" groups that the FBI believed were "subversive" by instructing FBI field operatives to:
- create a negative public image for target groups (e.g. by surveiling activists, and then releasing negative personal information to the public)
- break down internal organization
- create dissension between groups
- restrict access to public resources
- restrict the ability to organize protests
- restrict the ability of individuals to participate in group activities
Let's just think about this for a while:
surveiling activists, and then releasing negative personal information to the publicPolitical science teaches that when you transform a crime-detecting police force into a crime-preventing policing apparatus, you have created a police state.
The COINTELPRO program ended up prolonging what history now agrees was a devastating and unnecessary war by allowing the government to disrupt the American citizens who were seeking redress and trying to stop the war. They did this via warrantless spying on innocent citizens who were not doing anything wrong.
STILL think massive, warrantless surveillance on the American public is harmless?
Here are the Democrats who Voted "No" on the Amash-Conyers Amendment to rein in wholesale spying on Americans:
You'll notice that 35 of the 51 "New Democrat Coalition" member are on this list, as would be expected since they've been pushing FISA and CISPA.
Johnson, E. B.