June 16, 2002
I MEANT TO LINK TO this collection of stuff on Hoover-era FBI abuses a while back, but I lost the link and didn't get to it. I have some personal knowledge of this sort of thing: my father's antiwar protest career involved some rather dirty governmental tricks, and when I was in law school I did a radio program (with NPR bigshots-to-be Andy Bowers and David Baron) on the New Haven May Day riots, the research for which made it seem pretty likely that FBI-sponsored provocateurs were behind a lot of what went on, including the hockey-rink bombing.
On the other hand, the real question is what lesson this past misconduct teaches us today. One is a theme upon which InstaPundit constantly harps: big, unscrutinized organizations inevitably become corrupt, dishonest, and often dangerous. The other is that much of what Hoover did was illegal then; this suggests that oversight is more important than the precise parameters of the applicable law.
But while I believe in prosecuting the current war against Islamist terrorists to the utmost, I feel absolutely sure that if the U.S. government is given power to act in ways for which it is unaccountable, it will act badly. Our entire Constitution is based on the notion that unaccountable power cannot be trusted. That's more than a notion, really: it's a certainty, on a par with the law of gravity.
InstaP writes, "But while I believe in prosecuting the current war against Islamist terrorists to the utmost, I feel absolutely sure that if the U.S. government is given power to act in ways for which it is unaccountable, it will act badly."
The constant mantra that "we are at war" is terribly dangerous in its falseness, as tradeoffs of liberty for security that are otherwise unimaginable occur regularly under the guise of war time necessity.
I have posted, in re a Douglas Kmiec article, my thoughts as to why what we are currently experiencing -- and will be experiencing forever, as the threat from anti-Americans is neither new nor susceptible to closure -- is not war at my site, www.hauserreport.com/pickingfights
Posted by: Jeff at June 16, 2002 11:47 PM
Nice list of abuses (from a decidingly agenda-less source, I bet). Questions that are raised in my mind, when looking at their timelines especially, involve matching up those activites and accusations against information that the Russians/Soviets have been leaking about their real activities at the time. I know people have written about this before, but I was wondering if anyone knows of a definitive work, if one has been written yet.
re: Jeff and "Are we at war?"
If we are not at war with these organizations now, after their acts, when will we ever be at war with anybody ever? After looking at your page, it seems that you will spend much time and effort splitting, arranging, and rearranging the words "we are at war", in order to avoid thinking about what it might mean.
It seems to mean to me that we (America) will use our political, diplomatic, and military means to force these people (who have self-selected themselves as our enemies) to no longer be threats. This includes destroying their means (money, state sponsership), their will (harder to recruit now, I bet), and their lives (dead taliban and al-queda can't kill us). This sucks, yes. This is a poor use of our resources, yes. And it is dangerous, messy, and causes us to do and support horrible things, yes. But, what other realisitc option do we have that will allow us to live our lives as we see fit (as a western, liberal, successful culture), and make sure that they don't kill our innocent population by the thousands?
ps. If you dont agree that 1) the victims of 9/11 WERE innocent and 2) our culture IS western, liberal, and successful, then there is no point. I choose unpleasent truths.
Posted by: Donut at June 17, 2002 12:02 AM
Individuals do things, not the FBI, the White House, or the CIA.
When the cruise missles were sent to hit a phamaceutical plant in Africa, it was not the Government who acted. It was Bill Clinton using the powers of the United States on his own, without advice and consul, not the United States itself.
This is what happens when there are no real checks and balances in place.
Much activity in the Federal Govenment is wasted (and I say that as an ex-insider). It is lost in the friction of one viewpoint arguing against the other.
This is not a problem, this is a benefit.
That is the way we must keep it.
When any single individual is allowed to get the bit in their teeth, trouble is sure to follow.
Posted by: Rudy Bickel at June 17, 2002 12:02 AM
Re Donut: talk about false choices. of course I agree that "1) the victims of 9/11 WERE innocent and 2) our culture IS western, liberal, and successful." Talk about slurs -- whether or not the US is "at war" has NOTHING to do with the horrors of 9/11.
But the WTC was attacked in 1993 -- were we at war then? If so, how come no one knew it? If we get rid of Al Qaeda, the threat will not be over; will the war be over? if not, when? If never, then war is permanent and loses its meaning as an anomalous time, and any tradeoffs we accept for security now become PERMANENT, unlike, say, Lincoln and habeus corpus.
Posted by: Jeff at June 17, 2002 12:12 AM
So you expect, as a direct result of this war:
1. Abolishment of elections
2. Disarming of populace
3. Constitution used as TP by all inside the beltway
4. We smile, take it, and enjoy the 2 minute hate.
If the people think that the war needs ending, they will elect the politicians that will end it. Remember how Nixon got elected in 1968? Of course he lied...but one of his main points was "Vietnam is a Democrat war, us Republicans can/will end it!"
To answer your question: 1993 WTC bombing should have been looked as a National Security event, but was not. The FBI / crime area of the gov't was STRICTLY FORBIDDEN from engaging in any foreign intel for that case. They were told to convict those suspects, and don't worry about the obvious connections. Why the CIA/NSA/DIA etc. did not get the order to find out what happened? Ask Sandy Berger.
Jeff, if you think that 9/11 has nothing to do with the war we are in, then you would have to believe that without 9/11, we would currently be at war. Is this the case?
Aren't these "quiet war" periods fun? Remember the spring of 1940? "What war?" said the headlines.
ps. You avoided the question: If not war, then what? Treat it like a crime? Don't change our behavior, don't destroy those responsible, don't do whatever it takes to avoid it again? Seems a real choice to me.
pps. This is fun. Glen, please tell me if this off-topic discussion is against the spirit of your turning-on-the-comments.
Posted by: Donut at June 17, 2002 12:41 AM
This particular webpage seems to focus on FBI activities in California, specifically UC Berkeley. I don't know much about that. But I must say that I'm a little more sceptical of these sort of claims now than I was a few years ago.
One immensely eye-opening book was _Operation Solo_ by John Barron. In the late '40s/early '50s, the FBI turned a prominent US communist by the name of Morris Childs after he became disillusioned. Childs had some amazing exploits as an FBI agent who frequently travelled to Moscow. But there was a sidebar to the story: just after he was turned, Childs gave the FBI some names of US communists.
One of them later turned up in the public spotlight again. He just happened to be working with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. This naturally spooked a few people. Hoover told the Kennedy admin, and Bobby personally asked King to distance himself from this dude. King refused. And that's when the FBI started watching King.
They had no choice. What would've been the consequences if the civil rights leadership was getting funds and orders from the Soviet Politburo? Fortuanately, the FBI found that this was not the case. The man King associated with was no longer an active communist.
Again, I don't claim to know much about the FBI's activities in the '60s or now. And I'm pretty sure that some abuses did occur. But I don't think that Hoover was as naughty as he's made out to be.
Posted by: Pete S. at June 17, 2002 12:56 AM
'They had no choice. What would've been the consequences if the civil rights leadership was getting funds and orders from the Soviet Politburo? Fortuanately, the FBI found that this was not the case. The man King associated with was no longer an active communist.'
Would soviet funding somehow invalidate their agenda? I mean, I'm as anti-communist as anyone else, but geez.
Posted by: Jason McCullough at June 17, 2002 02:28 AM
Following up on (and underscoring) Glen's statement: "The other is that much of what Hoover did was illegal then; this suggests that oversight is more important than the precise parameters of the applicable law." This is such a key point that it should be engraved in stone somewhere. Oversight Is More Important Than The Precise Parameters Of The Applicable Law. If you really want to understand, say, the heart of the Savings and Loan failure, you must understand this very simple maxim. Deregulation wasn't the problem -- it was a failure to oversee and enforce the rules in effect (while at the same time, putting the full faith and credit of the US at risk). Go backwards in time, through the FBI abuses at most governmental scandals and you see the same thing. The same is true for the corporate sector -- Enron/Arthur Anderson was mainly a failure of corporate oversight -- which is why we are so scandalized over AA -- it not only failed it's oversight role -- it became an aider and abettor.
Posted by: William Sulik at June 17, 2002 07:14 AM
The main problem with US internal security in the 60s and now is not "the all powerful FBI/CIS/NSA/xxx". The main problem is that no police force uses proper riot + looting technique: SHOOT ALL LOOTERS AND RIOTERS. You end the LA riots days earlier. You show people that engaging in violence means there own quick and painful death. I'm sorry if this means the prof wouldn't have been born or would have had a really screwed up childhood... but anyone engaging in political violence/terrorism/insurrection should be dealth with with maximum prejudice. The only way to fight barbarians is to kill them. That's what we'll need to do in vst swathes of the middle east, and its what we need to do here at home. The good thing about barbarians is that they'll strike first and you can eliminate them in a morally justifiable way, but it has nothing to do with morality, only survival. Its all Keiser Socesce [sic] / Machiavellian tactics: you have to be the craziest person in the fight, willing to bear any burden, pay any price, be absolutely purely ruthless. Morality and shame is appropriate after we've won and we can all do a cricle jerk over how horrible we all are, just like we do over the Indian Wars (apologies again Gelnn), but remember, we won the Indian Wars first, and 100 years later we give a shit, well after the danger has passed. Its just survival
Posted by: bugs bunny at June 17, 2002 08:09 AM
"The main problem is that no police force uses proper riot + looting technique: SHOOT ALL LOOTERS AND RIOTERS. You end the LA riots days earlier."
Um, Bugs, the problem with that notion is that the police are not trained to "shoot all looters and rioters". That's not their job. Their job is to nip crime in the bud if they can, and solve crimes after the fact. Most of the problems with law enforcement today stem from the militarization of the police, as we have pressed them into service as "soldiers" in the execrable "War on Drugs".
Shooting looters and rioters is the job of the military-- that's what they get paid to do: killing people and breaking things.
As for indiscriminately striking back at terrorists--how do we strike back at them in a military fashion without causing undue harm to the civilian population into which they blend? One way that works is what we did in Afghanistan. And it should be clear that "Nuke them all and let God sort them out" is the surest way to stamp "Monster" on the forehead of the Statue of Liberty.
Much as I want the terrorists and their followers dead, that's too high a price to pay.
If we have to put up with the inconveniences attendant to a low-grade war against brigands (a la the war against the Barbary Pirates in the early 1800s) so be it. The alternative is worse.
ex-1LT, AD, USAR
Posted by: Hale Adams at June 17, 2002 12:13 PM
Big, unscrutinized government organizations inevitably become corrupt, dishonest, and often dangerous. The same is much less true of the private sector, largely because if there is any competition, corruption and dishonest will be punished in the market.
Wouldn't it be nice to have a competiting FBI to give money to when the current one screws up?
Posted by: Leonard Dickens at June 17, 2002 12:23 PM
One of our duties as citizens is to be informed about what the government is doing. But it seems kind of silly to create an agency like the FBI and then tell it that it can't do what it was designed for.
I think our government is more transparent than any other. Sometimes it's so transparent that the light bounces around and get refracted into mirages. But we have the means to keep track of what it is doing. In this emergency, it seems foolish to tie the hands of those who are supposed to protect us with bureacratic and procedural delays.
The FBI's history of abuse comes down to J. Edgar Hoover, and that largely because he used blackmail to prevent anyone from challenging him. But now he's dead, we have the FOIA, and we have a press highly sensitized to any whiff of scandal.
The most recent failures have been, IMO, due to fear of being criticized, an overreaction to the lapses and the response thereto in the past.
I've always thought that we should have kept the size of the Federal Government down, precisely because it's so hard to keep an eye on such a huge entity. But there are some things that only the central government can do, and fighting war, gathering intelligence, and countering international terrorism are among them. So give them the tools and the power they need, but keep a close eye on how they use it, and trim it back once the emergency is past.
Posted by: AST at June 17, 2002 05:03 PM