---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 08 Dec 2001 13:03:49 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Police-FBI Roundups Not New
Police-FBI Roundups Not New
by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, AlterNet
December 5, 2001
Civil libertarians hailed the recent decision by Portland police officials
not to help the FBI indiscriminately grill Middle Eastern immigrants.
Police officials in San Francisco and Minneapolis though they did not
flatly refuse to aid the FBI hunt still expressed deep unease about the
There's a good reason they should.
The FBI has given no evidence that the more than 5,000 individuals they
seek to question have any ties to the September 11 terror attackers, have
committed any crimes or are in the country illegally. Attorney-General John
Ashcroft has refused to give any assurance that the FBI's new round-up will
bag more terrorists. Without that official assurance the at random
questioning of Muslim immigrants smacks of racial profiling.
The seed for the government ethnic targeting of Arab-Americans was planted
in the 1960s. The ghetto riots that rocked hundreds of American cities
triggered the first major escalation in police power. The 1968 Civil Rights
Act gave police and federal agencies broader authority to conduct
surveillance and wiretaps against groups and individuals considered a
threat to national security. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, with the full
blessing of President Lyndon Johnson, escalated its illegal, and
super-secret counter-intelligence program, popularly known as COINTELPRO,
specifically designed to harass, intimidate, and neutralize black militant
In the 1970s, Congressional investigators probing Hoover's spy program
marveled at its scope. From 1964 to 1969, the FBI assembled a small army of
more than 7,500 "ghetto informants" (known) and hundreds of FBI agents in a
deadly national campaign to name names and compile dossiers on thousands of
African-Americans whom it claimed were connected with the Black Muslims,
Black Panthers, and civil rights leaders and activists.
The FBI listed the individuals targeted for questioning and surveillance
under categories variously called, "Rabble Rouser Index," "Agitator index"
and the "Security Index." Individuals wound up on the FBI's security watch
list if they attended a political meeting, donated a few dollars to a
political group, or were rumored to be sympathetic toward political causes.
What made the Portland police's refusal to aid and abet in the FBI's
current political hunt astounding, though, is that police officials have
routinely cooperated in past FBI stop, search and question campaigns
against those whom they tag as racial or political subversives. A provision
in the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act made it even easier
for the FBI to rope local police departments in on its political hunts.
Congress kicked out $5 million to expand the police training programs at
the FBI National Academy.
In 1969, the number of police in the program leaped from 200 to 2000. In
the decades since then, police officials thousands of local and foreign
police officials have received training in riot control, interrogation and
intelligence gathering procedures the FBI academy.
During those years police departments in Los Angeles, San Diego, Chicago,
Detroit, and New York either established, or expanded, their "red squads"
in cooperation with, or apart from the FBI, to collect information on
thousands of individuals suspected of being sympathizers or supporters of
militant political organizations. In 1970, Seattle police blew the cover on
FBI-police political hunts when it publicly balked at aiding the FBI in a
planned raid on local Panther offices. The FBI had produced no tangible
proof that the group had committed any crimes.
Police officials in other cities will soon have to decide whether they will
aid and abet the FBI in its hunt or follow the example of Portland police.
Justice Dept. officials say they want to interview more than 600 persons
all of Middle Eastern descent throughout the Midwest. They have notified
them by letter that they will be questioned. The FBI has formally requested
that a local police officer be present during the questioning.
But what if some of those targeted for questioning refuse to
cooperate? Though they are not accused of committing any crimes, or having
any links with the terror attackers, will FBI agents haul them in for
questioning? And will police officials help them? If so, will the FBI
detain them as they have hundreds of others with no charges against them
and with only the shaky assurance from Ashcroft that they have access to
attorneys, and are allowed visits from family and friends? The search to
ferret out those who belong to what Ashcroft calls "hidden terror cells"
will escalate. Almost certainly hundreds more names will be added to the
FBI's secret list of those it wants to question. And almost all of them
will be Muslims.
The Portland police sent a strong message that they will not engage in the
FBI's political fishing expedition, which tramples on the civil rights of
individuals without evidence of wrongdoing. Other police departments would
do well to join them.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and columnist. Visit his news and
opinion Web site: www.thehutchinsonreport.com
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