Friday, August 31, 2007

The Price of Dissent

One of the disadvantages of living the life of an activist for progressive causes in the US is that you are virtually guaranteed at some point in this country's history of being hounded by federal, state, and/or local law enforcement, not infrequently arrested, beaten, shot, rounded up and forcibly expelled, or spied on relentlessly. I suppose at some level all states, even democratic ones, are the same. They like to control people.

Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King, Jr., and a great civil rights advocate in her own right, died this last year. Finally, it was revealed in her FBI file (sometimes I wonder if I have one) that she was spied on by federal law enforcement, several years after the assassination of her husband. For all of you who think the government will not abuse your rights when allowed:


Documents: FBI Spied On Coretta Scott King
POSTED: 3:41 pm EDT August 30, 2007
UPDATED: 3:52 pm EDT August 30, 2007

Federal agents spied on the widow of Martin Luther King Jr. for several years after his assassination in 1968, according to newly released documents that reveal the FBI worried about her following in the footsteps of the slain civil rights icon.Coretta Scott King might try to tie "the anti-Vietnam movement to the civil rights movement" according to some of the nearly 500 pages of intelligence files, which go on to show how the FBI trailed King at public appearances and kept close tabs on her travel.The documents were obtained by Houston television station KHOU in a story published Thursday. Coretta Scott King died in January 2006. She was 78.One memo shows that the FBI even read and reviewed King's 1969 book about her late husband. The entry made a point to say that her "selfless, magnanimous, decorous attitude is belied by ... (her) actual shrewd, calculating, businesslike activities."

The documents also focus on her relationship with Stanley Levison, who was a close adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. and a person the government long suspected was a communist.There is also evidence that the Nixon administration and then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger were kept informed of the FBI's surveillance.Martin Luther King Jr.'s activities were long known to have been monitored by the federal government. News of intelligence gathering on famous Americans and war critics became so infamous that rules to curtail domestic spying were put in place in the 1970s.


It should be noted that the US government spied on Coretta Scott King expressly because of her anti-war views, and the fear that she might carry on her slain husband's work of combining the anti-war and civil rights movement. These movements were by definition non-violent, meaning there was no issue of "terrorism," fear of violence, but simply because the bureaucrats in control of the US government did not agree with Coretta's views.

This is pertinent today because the same FBI, entrusted with the Patriot Act to decide what constitutes a terrorist to be monitored off your dollar, has by its own admission on numerous occasions used its power to spy on your transactions and moves without anything resembling a warrant. Of course, this is allowed under the Patriot Act (including the right to break into your residence to confiscate any property considered evidence without telling you). In the abuse cases in the recent news, these actions were only a violation of the law because the FBI did not follow the guidelines to spy on you without a warrant. Never mind that the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees your right as a citizen not to be spied on or have any property seized by the state without a warrant. That has already been jettisoned. They are in trouble because they could not follow the guidelines of their own legally-permitted violations of our Constitution.

And this is a government whose law enforcement agencies still consider progressives as "terrorists." So, if you are a vegan or anti-war activist, in all seriousness, be aware. There is a good chance you already have an FBI dossier chronicling your movements, your internet activity, as well as all of your phone calls being cataloged by our friends at the National Security Agency. This is all to catch terrorists, naturally, which now includes people that do not want you to eat meat, chop down trees, or those Americans who make phone calls to each other.

Since the Bush Presidency, I sometimes try to reconcile how an ideology predicated on smaller government could degenerate itself to this point. Maybe this is the logical conclusion of small government, a larger and more regulated state that operates as a guardian to keep people in line and outwardly supportive of such a belief system. It is sort of a marriage of Lord Acton and Plato's Republic. Unfortunately, we are living it.

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