Back in 2012, the ACLU of Massachusetts published a report called 'Policing Dissent', exposing the Boston Police Department's 'red squad' surveillance operations, directed at antiwar and economic justice organizers. Among thedocuments we obtained through a public records lawsuit were so-called 'intelligence reports' from the Boston police fusion center, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC). These documents shocked the public. In files labeled "HOMESEC-DOMESTIC", "GROUPS-CIVIL DISTURBANCE", and "GROUPS-EXTREMISTS", detectives described the entirely peaceful activities of groups and individuals ranging from Veterans for Peace and CodePink to Howard Zinn and a former city council member.
While the BPD files didn't explicitly call these non-violent activists 'terrorists', detectives working at a so-called 'counterterrorism fusion center' came about as close as they could get to doing so without spelling out the T word in black and white. But it's no secret that other law enforcement agencies jumped that shark long ago. In recent years, undercover informants have infiltrated antiwar movements targeted as "domestic terrorists". While the past decade's terror wars have given local, state, and federal law enforcement seemingly endless funds to pursue activists simply for challenging government policy, the US government's conflation of peaceful dissent with terrorism has a long history in the United States, dating back at least to the 1970s.
Betty Medsger's new book on the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI, "The Burglary", contains some relevant and largely suppressed history. In the wake of the Media, PA burglary and the subsequent newspaper articles exposing J. Edgar Hoover's red squad surveillance programs, some CIA officers began to voice dissent internally about their own agency's troubling domestic operations, codenamed MHCHAOS. In 1972, Medsger writes, CIA director Richard Helms
called his top aides together and said he was adamant that MHCHAOS would not be "stopped simply because some members of the organization [the CIA] do not like this activity." He made changes in order to protect the program more now that the [dissident officers were] so determined to have it end. To the maximum extent possible, within the agency, the program and the agent then in charge of it, Richard Ober, would be identified with terrorism and not with American dissidents. The massive program would in fact have the same functions it always had, including the monitoring and destruction of the more than five hundred alternative newspapers staffs it had under surveillance. (At the same time, the FBI also monitored alternative and campus newspapers, sometimes suppressing them.)
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