When failing to shop officially became a terrorist threat
Wait, wasn't it a paranoid conspiracy to even suggest that there was coordination among federal, state and local authorities in dealing with the Occupy protests?
When the Occupy protests spread across the country three years ago, state and local law enforcement officials went on alert. In Milwaukee, officials reported that a group intended to sing holiday carols at “an undisclosed location of ‘high visibility.’ ” In Tennessee, an intelligence analyst sought information about whether groups concerned with animals, war, abortion or the Earth had been involved in protests.
There are legitimate reasons for police agencies to track major gatherings around the country. But take a look at the documents and then tell me whether or not their "intelligence gathering" was all kosher.
The communications, distributed by people working with counterterrorism and intelligence-sharing offices known as fusion centers, were among about 4,000 pages of unclassified emails and reports obtained through freedom of information requests by lawyers who represented Occupy participants and provided the documents to The New York Times. They offer details of the scrutiny in 2011 and 2012 by law enforcement officers, federal officials, security contractors, military employees and even people at a retail trade association. The monitoring appears similar to that conducted by F.B.I. counterterrorism officials, which was previously reported.
This was interesting:
The Boston Regional Intelligence Center, one of the most active centers, issued scores of bulletins listing hundreds of events including a protest of “irresponsible lending practices,” a food drive and multiple “yoga, faith & spirituality” classes.
They were very busy. Too busy, evidently, to monitor an actual terrorist threat. That'll happen when you decide that peaceful political activity is a threat. There's a lot of peaceful political activity out there.
The reports also listed appearances by people including a professor at the Harvard Divinity School, the linguist Noam Chomsky and an official at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, who was to discuss the Patriot Act. Some reports noted that a man scheduled to join in a teach-in at Dewey Square had written a film about Sacco and Vanzetti and wondered whether he was “a known/respected figure within the anarchist movement.” Others described Bill McKibben, an environmentalist and scholar at Middlebury College, stating, “McKibben organized a sit-in near the White House in August of this year to protest construction of a pipeline,” and was arrested but not charged.
And just make sure you don't participate in something threatening like Buy Nothing Day or you might just end up on a terrorist watch list. Evidently failing to shop is considered a threat to the Republic.
The reporter, Colin Moynihan, has a sense of humor. He describes a defense department official writing this to a civilian recipient of his "intelligence":
Before distributing the message, the employee asked the sender whether it was “safe” to visit the site without hiding his computer’s identity.
Lulz. I don't think so, buddy.
Update: Kevin Drum notes that the right wingers succeeded in having the DHS revise their policies on armed militias while the left totally whiffed on complaining about the government treatment of Occupy. And he nails the reason why:
Mainstream lefties just don't identify with the far left as a key part of their tribe. They'll get a certain amount of support, sure, but they'll also get plenty of mockery and derision, as the Occupy protesters did. On the right, though, extremists are all members of the tribe in good standing as long as they stop short of, say, murdering people. They only have to stop barely short, though. Waving guns around and threatening to kill people is A-OK, as Cliven Bundy and his merry band of armed tax resistors showed.
And it's not enough to say the mainstream left was just reflexively defending the Obama administration from all criticism although there is an element of that. They were also defending the abusive local and state police --- or, at least, failing to condemn them as they turned up their noses at the "extremists" of Occupy who embarrassed them by being too shrill.
So when DHS produces a report suggesting that right-wing extremism might turn out to be a growth industry in the Obama era, the ranks of the conservative movement close. An attack on one is an attack on all, and Fox News stands ready and willing to turn the outrage meter to 11. Rinse and repeat.
But hey, I'm sure that mainstream liberalism will win in the long run because one of these days the country is going to realize that these Republicans are acting kooky and then they'll turn on these right wing radicals and chase them right out of town. And then everyone will be proud of the Democrats for being the grown-ups in the room. One of these days. For sure.