The Konformist

December 2001

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Jim Redden, author

Snitch Culture (Feral House, 2000)



The Global Surveillance State predicted in the December 2000 edition of my book Snitch Culture is rising from the ashes of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

It is being done under the guise of an international War on Terrorism orchestrated by George W. Bush, the son of the former CIA director who ran the illegal Iran-Contra supply network while he was Vice-President.

With the nation still reeling from the apocalyptic attacks, Bush declared war on terrorism in general and Saudi exile Osama bin Laden in particular. Although only Congress has the power to declare war, Capitol Hill simply rolled over and applauded the crusade, just like they did in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama and the Balkans.

And just as they did in those conflicts, the mass media wrapped itself in the flag, stifled all voices of dissent, and rushed to embrace "America's New War," as CNN dubbed it in red, white and blue letters. With the talking heads calling for the nation to rally behind Bush, U.S. bombers were pounding Afghanistan - bin Laden's assumed home base - by early October. Even as much of the Muslim world rose up to oppose the strikes, the talking heads gushed enthusiastically about the accuracy of satellite directed missiles and "bunker buster" mega-bombs.

Meanwhile, Bush turned responsibility for securing the domestic front over to Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor who oversaw the violent suppression of civil rights during the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia - including covert surveillance of lawful political groups and the brutal arrest of protest leaders on trumped-up charges. As head of the newly created Office of Homeland Defense, Ridge is in charge of the anti-terrorism activities of over 40 federal law enforcement agencies. An early estimate put the cost of defending the country at $1.5 trillion over the next five years.

If Bush and Ridge have their way, within a few years everyone will be required to carry an official ID card that will include a computer chip to allow the government to track their movements. Facial recognition cameras will scan crowds at airports and other public places, matching faces with vast databases that will include millions of digital drivers' license photos. The FBI will plug its Carnivore computers into the servers used by Internet Service Providers to route e-mail traffic. All information collected by any government agency will be shared with every police agency around the world.

More than that, the government is apparently preparing to round up thousands of people. On October 4 the New York Post reported that the Federal Bureau of Prisons had just issued requests for bids to build two prisons to hold "criminal aliens" in Georgia, with three more prisons in the Southwest deserts that can hold 1,500 detainees to be built early next year. The article speculated that the Wackenhut private security company could win the contracts because it has run immigrant camps in Australian made out of converted military bases.

As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told a law school audience in Manhattan on September 29, "[W]e're likely to experience more restrictions on our personal freedom than has ever been the case in our country."

Many of these invasive practices will be authorized by the first major expansion of the Snitch Culture in the 21st Century, the so-called USA Act of 2001 rushed through Congress with little debate within weeks of the attacks on New York and Washington DC. Many of the provisions enhance the power of domestic law enforcement agencies to spy on Americans for "intelligence" as opposed to criminal investigations. Among other things, the law:

* Creates the new crime of "Domestic Terrorism" that could be interpreted to impose heavy penalties on political protest.

* As part of a crackdown on "Cyber-terrorism," computer hackers and virus makers will face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, even if no one is ever harmed by their activities.

* Allows information obtained during criminal investigation to be shared with the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Secret Service and the military without judicial review, and with no restrictions on how these agencies can use the information.

* Authorizes covert "sneak and peak" searches where the government can enter your home, office or other private place and search your files, photograph your belongings, and download your computer hard drive without telling you.

* Allows "forum shopping" where law enforcement agencies can use friendly judges to obtain "single jurisdiction" search warrants to use against suspects in other parts of the country, making it almost impossible to challenge them.

* Allows the CIA to spy on American citizens and requires the FBI to share its files with the spy agency, including those on law-abiding American citizens.

* Allows indefinite detention of non-citizens, including legal aliens, without meaningful judicial review.

* Requires colleges and universities to open student files to law enforcement agencies.

* Expands wiretap authority by allowing police to obtain the equivalent of "blank" warrants for any phone in the country.

* Widens the scope of subpoenas for records of electronic communications to include evidence such as credit card receipts and Internet accounts.

* Authorizes U.S. authorities to shire into about persons suspected of terrorism or money laundering with financial institutions.

* Orders the Attorney General to explore the feasibility of an integrated computer fingerprint identification system that can be used at points of entry and US consulates.

"Most Americans do not recognize that Congress has just passed a bill that would give the government expanded power to invade our privacy, imprison people without due process and punish dissent," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington National Office, said on October 12.

The War on Terrorism claimed many victims before the bill even passed, however. As always, the first victim of this new war was the truth. George Bush flatly told the nation that much of the government's activities would be conducted in secret and might never be disclosed. "Watch what you say," White House press spokesman Ari Fleischer warned within days of the attacks. A short time later, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice personally told the heads of all major television and cable networks to censor their newscasts - and they agreed.

Al Cross, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, said the restrictions are preventing reporters from doing their jobs.

"They're finding it increasingly difficult to fulfill their roles as watchdogs," Cross said on October 13. "It just seems that things have been done willy-nilly."

Other early victims included foreign visitors. Over 700 people - mostly from the Middle East - were jailed in the early stages of the investigation into the attack. Many were simply released after being held in interrogated for weeks. A 20-year old student from Pakistan said he was stripped and beaten in his cell by other inmates while jail guards failed to intervene and denied him medical care. In three midwestern states, U.S. immigration officials cut off all visits and phone calls for detainees for a full week. Authorities refused to tell San Diego attorney Randall Hamud where his three clients - Osama Awadallah, Modhar Abdullah and Yazeem Al-Alsami - were even held.

But this new War on Terrorism is not just another domestic law enforcement initiative. It is the excuse to create an international surveillance society that will ultimately monitor everyone in the world.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair carried the message to receptive leaders throughout Europe. Dozens of other countries promptly signed up, pledging all possible support. The United Nations quickly passed a resolution requiring all member nations to cooperate by opening up their banks to international inspectors - potentially affecting billions of law-abiding citizens across the globe. The September 11 attacks allowed governments in Europe and the Middle East to round up hundreds of political dissidents under the guise of cracking down on terrorist networks.

History teaches us these new powers will be abused. President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Foreign-born socialists and labor organizers were deported during World War I. Japanese-Americans were interned during World War II. The government spied on, harassed and even murdered political protesters during the Vietnam War era.

As in the past, America's New War will benefit the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor. Multinational corporations facing growing protests over their labor and environmental practices will find it easier to do business. Fledgling labor movements in developing countries will be shut down as terrorist organizations. Dissident political organizations will have their bank accounts frozen and their assets seized.

Meanwhile, the establishment press is ignoring many troubling questions. Chief among them, what is the government¹s real relationship with bin Laden, the alleged mastermind behind the September 11 attacks. The CIA admits that bin Laden was an "intelligence asset" during Afghanistan¹s war against the Soviets, but insists he turned against America when the U.S. government turned its back on him after the Cold War. Michel Chossudovsky, professor of economics at University of Ottawa, insists the CIA never severed its ties with him and other Muslim militants, however.

"Since the end of the Cold War, these covert intelligence links have not only been maintained, they have become increasingly sophisticated," Chossudovsky claims. "New undercover initiatives financed by the Golden Crescent drug trade were set in motion in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Balkans. Pakistan's military and intelligence apparatus (controlled by the CIA) essentially served as a catalyst for the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of six new Muslim republics in Central Asia."

This raises an obvious question about the September 11 attacks: What did the government know when did they know it? Government agents infiltrated such previous attacks as the Greensboro Massacre, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal office building. Although intelligence officials originally denied having any advance warning of the September 11 attacks, they were soon forced to admit that "lots of signs" pointed to the plot, including warnings of an impending "Hiroshima" on U.S. soil.

Three days after the attacks, Newsweek, the Washington Post and the Knight Ridder newspapers reported that five of the hijackers were trained at secure U.S. military installations during the 1990s. The reports also claimed three of the terrorists had listed their address as the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, and had participated in military exchange programs for foreign officers at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida.

The Pentagon denied the reports and the stories went away. But in fact, the FBI raided the private Florida flight school where several of the suicide pilots trained within hours of the attacks, proving the government knew more far more about the terrorists than it is admitting.

Likewise, the media is ignoring even bigger questions. Five Israeli citizens were arrested and held in isolation after accusations surfaced that nearly 4,000 Jews mysterious skipped work at the World Trade Center. Who are they? George Bush Sr. is in business with bin Laden's family through the Carlyle Group, a private Washington DC equity firm that has essentially become the nation's largest defense contractor. What is real relationship between these two powerful families?

And what is the role of oil in the equation? According to published reports, the U.S. and Pakistan decided to install a stable regime in Afghanistan around 1994 to ensure the safety of a Unocal pipeline project. Is Operation Enduring Freedom just the final step in this effort to tap the region's oil reserves?

Don't look to the CNN or any other mainstream news outlet for the answers. They are too busy playing their roles as cheerleaders for the Snitch Culture, gleefully pumping the $5 million rewards offered for what they dubbed, "The World's Most Wanted Terrorists."

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