But when the FBI has a slow work day... well the the Justice Department's inspector general has released a pretty damning report about FBI work on domestic terrorist organizations. Specifically a 2002 rally in Pittsburgh sponsored by a nonviolent anti-war group was "An ill-conceived project on a slow work day."
Did it really start with two agents, feet up in the office?
"What do you want to do today, Marty?"
"I don't care. What do you want to do?"
[Kudos to anybody that can tell me where that line is from. I don't know and get this: can't find it on google! It's probably a movie from the 1950s as I learned it from my dad. Update: I figured it out. It's from the movie Marty. Google wins again.]
"We could keep an eye out on the war-protesters. They're probably up to no good."
The New York Times reports:
The IG also concluded that the factual basis for opening some investigations was factually weak and that in several instances there was little indication of any possible federal crime, as opposed to state crimes.Turns out that was not true.
Regarding the Pittsburgh rally, controversy erupted in 2006 over whether the FBI had spied on protesters at the event several years earlier because of their anti-war views.
At the time, the FBI issued a news release saying the surveillance had been based on an ongoing investigation.
FBI Director Robert Mueller told a Senate hearing that the bureau had been trying to identify a particular individual believed to be in attendance.
Why does this matter? Well the Times points out that, "Domestic terrorism classification has far-reaching impact because people who are subjects of such investigations are normally placed on watchlists and their travels and interactions with law enforcement may be tracked."
My issue is more primal. Every time I hear that anti-war protesters and pacifists are considered a national-security American threat, I reach for my gun. Especially given the FBI's has a long and shameful track record of investigating "subversives." Certainly that was the case under J Edgar Hoover. But we've moved on, haven't we?
And I also have a much more basic complaint. The FBI, part of the Executive Branch, is not a police force (no matter how much they act like one on TV). The line between local police and federal law enforcement can at times seem like very fine line indeed. But it's an important distinction to keep. For starters it's a constitutional issue. But it's also important because local police can be held accountable to local (and state and federal) politicians. And because law enforcement is supposed to be work for us and not become a domestic spying organization.
Truthfully, I don't mind the FBI investigating subversives. What I mind how this category is defined. Why do liberals and pacifist seem to get a lot of attention? I mean, you may not agree with them, but pacifists are, well, pacifist. And it just so happens that these anti-war folk (myself included, though I'm not much of a protester) happened to have been right. Maybe the FBI should spend more time investigating those who want to get us into these wars.
[Since I've been around, off the top of my head I can think of US troops occupying, bombing, or invading Kuwait, Iraq, Panama, Grenada, Serbia, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Lebanon (I'm sure I'm forgetting one or two). Did any good come from any of these? Maybe. But it's damn hard to make an argument that good has come from all of these collectively.]
Does that make me suspicious? Maybe. I guess it makes me a liberal. And I suppose the FBI, like most law enforcement, is basically conservative and suspicious of liberals.
[I just thought of this one: You know you're a liberal when... the thought of Michael Moore as president scares you less than Sarah Palin.]