Ashcroft Goes After the Left

In an apparently ludicrous turn of events, the FBI warned local law enforcement across the country to be on the lookout for the latest al-Qaeda manual — the Farmer’s Almanac.

“The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning,” reports the Bush Ministry of Disinformation, Fox News Division. “It urged officers to watch during searches, traffic stops and other investigations for anyone carrying almanacs, especially if the books are annotated in suspicious ways.”

“The practice of researching potential targets is consistent with known methods of Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations that seek to maximize the likelihood of operational success through careful planning,” added the FBI.

If the police discover anything “suspicious,” they are to report it immediately to their local Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), according to the FBI bulletin released on Christmas Eve.

JTTFs are new and relatively unknown. They are essentially the FBI’s vanguard — a crucial and emerging link between the FBI, various federal agencies, state law enforcement, and local police departments.

The JTTF concept originally “began with 11 members from the NYPD and 11 FBI investigators,” explains the Law Enforcement Agency Resource Network. “Today’s task force, 1 of 16 nationwide, includes more than 140 members representing numerous federal and local agencies, such as the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the New York State Police, the NewYork/New Jersey Port Authority Police Department, and the U.S. Secret Service.”

In other words, the connecting tissue of the evolving surveillance state.

“All agencies participating in the JTTF sign a formal memorandum of understanding that clearly states the task force’s two objectives… reactive: to respond to and investigate terrorist incidents or terrorist-related criminal activity and… proactive: to investigate domestic and foreign terrorist groups and individuals targeting or operating within the New York metropolitan area for the purpose of detecting, preventing, and prosecuting their criminal activity.”

JTTFs soon sprouted up all over the country.

“The joint terrorism tasks forces are chaired in 56 regions of the country by the FBI, and those task forces include members of other federal agencies, such as INS, Customs, AFT, and CIA, as well as state and local law enforcement. Homeland security would be included as well,” noted FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III last month. “The importance of these task forces is that they have transformed a federal counter-terrorism effort into a national effort, creating a force multiplier effect, and indeed providing effective realtime information sharing among the participants.”

In other words, a federally coordinated police force integrating elements of the military, the CIA, numerous federal agencies, and nearly every police department in the nation.

On March 4, Mueller told the Senate’s Committee on the Judiciary that eventually 27,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel would receive “specialized counterterrorism training,” presumably with the help of the CIA.

A few weeks after Mueller was talking up JTTFs before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, a bill (HR 3439) was introduced in Congress designed to “promote the sharing of personnel between Federal law enforcement agencies and other public law enforcement agencies, and for other purposes.”

Section 4 of this legislation will “detail any employee within the Central Intelligence Agency” to state and local law enforcement. In other words, your local police department may not only be working in tandem with the CIA, individual officers will also be “deputized” and answerable directly to the CIA. In order to do this, the bill will amend the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949 and its long regretted (and often violated) restriction on domestic activities.

“We have increased the operational integration between the CIA and FBI since 9/11,” noted Mueller in an FBI press release. “From my daily morning briefings with CIA officers and George Tenet to the widespread assignment of executives, Agents, and analysts between the two agencies since 9/11, the FBI and the CIA have become integrated at virtually every level of our operations.”

All of this follows the CIA’s installation of analysts and covert action operatives in “each of the 56 FBI field offices in the United States” last year, according to the AP. The CIA claimed their agents would only serve only as “conduits of information,” providing law enforcement with “distilled intelligence” from the CIA.

But a spokesman also indicated members of the CIA’s “operational branch” were among those being assigned to the domestic FBI offices — in other words, “operatives responsible for carrying out dirty tricks ranging from election rigging to assassinations,” as the AP characterized it.

HR 3439 is so important it was immediately referred to the House committees on intelligence and the judiciary. One of the two sponsors of the bill is Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX). Frost represents a district in Dallas-Forth Worth and is the ranking Democrat on the House Rules Committee. He served previously on the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and is tight with major defense contractors such as Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.

In Portland, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon was so concerned about the COINTELPRO-like aspects of JTTF operations they urged the Portland city council to enact “safeguards and insist that they apply to FBI agents, Portland Police and other members of the Task Force,” according to the ACLU’s Oregon web page. In essence, “Portland police officers are under the sole control and instruction of federal agents,” apparently now including the CIA’s operational branch.

Meanwhile, on October 15, the ACLU filed suit against Denver, Colorado, seeking disclosure of a document that sets out the terms of the Denver Police Department’s participation in the FBI’s JTTF. Back in May the FBI admitted tapping into the Denver Police Department’s surveillance files and also confirmed it had sought information on activists attending a protest rally in Colorado Springs.

“None of the files contained reports of violence, disruptiveness or lawlessness,” reported Mike McPhee of the Denver Post. “In some cases, names were recorded of people who merely testified in support of legislation, or of African-American citizens who gathered to demand that more black professional athletes, particularly Denver Broncos, get more involved in community issues… In other cases, police recorded license plate numbers of people outside a mosque during a worship ceremony.”

“An FBI anti-terrorism agent asked Springs police to provide him with the vehicle license-plate numbers of environmentalists who were picketing a timber-industry gathering at The Broadmoor hotel,” reports the Colorado Springs Independent. “For civil libertarians, the incident and other recently surfaced evidence conjure up memories of the days when the FBI routinely spied on political dissidents [COINTELPRO] — a practice that was condemned and officially ended following congressional hearings in 1976.”

The Denver police also provided the FBI with files from the Multi-Agency Group Intelligence Conferences, or MAGIC, a confab of federal and state agencies as well as approximately 20 law enforcement agencies from four states. According to the Denver Post, the MAGIC agenda list includes discussions of “extremist groups,” such as the American Indian Movement, environmentalists, animal rights groups, and other organizations presumptuous enough to actually exercise their rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.

“Last Spring, Denver settled the Spy Files lawsuit and agreed it would stop collecting information about peaceful protesters who have no connection to criminal activity,” said ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “The FBI, however, is not bound by the same restrictions, especially now that recently-relaxed FBI guidelines make it even easier for the agency to gather information on peaceful political activity. This raises the question whether Denver intelligence officers assigned to work full time for the JTTF must abide by Denver’s new intelligence policy, or whether they are permitted to operate under the FBI rules that are much less protective of civil liberties.”

The FBI and its associated JTTFs are in the process of analyzing the information they receive from local law enforcement — and much of it has nothing to do with al-Qaeda or Muslim miscreants.

In fact, the FBI ignored leads and stymied investigations of al-Qaeda.

Case in point: Zacarias Moussaoui.

Even though French intelligence warned the FBI that Moussaoui was possibly connected to al-Qaeda, the agency did not take action or bother to question him. After the WTC and Pentagon lay in smoldering ruins, FBI agent Coleen Rowley wrote a thirteen page letter to Robert Mueller chastising the agency for not arresting Moussaoui prior to 9/11.

John O’Neill, director of counterterrorism at the FBI office in New York, was so frustrated by the FBI’s obstructing any serious al-Qaeda investigation that he consented to several interviews with Jean-Charles Brisardand and Guillaume Dasquié, authors of the controversial book “Ben Laden: La Vérité interdite” (Bin Laden: the Forbidden Truth). O’Neill accuses the Bushites and the FBI of implementing a high-level intelligence block in order to protect business relationships between the Saudi royal family, the Taliban, and the Bush family.

And then there’s FBI agent Robert Wright. According to an LA Weekly story published in August 2002, Wright informed his superiors of the existence of alleged terrorist training camps in Chicago and Kansas City connected to the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Instead of taking action, the FBI silenced Wright.

The FBI is attempting to squelch the publication of a book manuscript authored by Wright. “The FBI continues to illegally refuse the release of … Wright’s 500 page manuscript, ‘Fatal Betrayals of the Intelligence Mission,’ that… Wright submitted for prepublication review in October 2001,” writes Judicial Watch in a press release. “In fact, the FBI refused to turn the manuscript over to Sen. Richard C. Shelby, Vice Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, charged with investigating the FBI’s intelligence failures.”

No such hesitation exists when the FBI investigates progressives.

“The FBI puts far more resources and energy into neutralizing political opponents, activists and whistle blowers than it does into stopping real terrorism,” writes Charles Amsellem for LA’s IndyMedia.

On November 23, Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times revealed a classified FBI memo advising “local law enforcement officials to report any suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads,” in other words the JTTFs.

The FBI collected information on the tactics, training, and organization of antiwar demonstrators, ostensibly to control “extremist elements” plotting violence. It stressed the snooping was not for the purpose of monitoring the political speech of lawful protesters.

“Routine spying on dissidents is a sign of a police state, and unless we stop this administration’s cavalier attitude towards fundamental rights we face a serious threat to our democracy,” warned Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Routine spying on political enemies is the FBI’s raison d’être.

In fact, the FBI’s predecessor, the Department of Investigation, spent much of its time rounding up draft resisters during World War I and conducting illegal dragnet arrests of tens of thousands of anarchists, socialists, and labor activists. Nothing much has changed over the years, even though Hollywood likes to portray the FBI as an agency concerned with protecting Americans from the likes Al Capone, John Dillinger, and John Gotti.

“Even before September 11, the government was running COINTELPRO-style operations against a coalition of radical labor, environmental, and human rights organizations opposed to corporate control of the global economy,” writes Jim Redden, author of Snitch Culture: How Citizens Are Turned into the Eyes and Ears of the State. “The truth is, there’s a long and sordid history of government operatives committing the very crimes they are supposed to prevent and setting up dissidents with phony charges.”

On May 30, 2002, AG Ashcroft effectively abolished restrictions on FBI surveillance, gutting guidelines created by the Ford Administration after the Church Committee, led by Idaho senator Frank Church, discovered widespread constitutional abuses under COINTELPRO. “The American people need to be reassured that never again will an agency of the government be permitted to conduct a secret war against those citizens it considers a threat to the established order,” Sen. Church declared at the time.

Ashcroft and the Bushites have effectively trashed the idea that people exercising First Amendment rights of freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly should not investigated without probable cause. Indeed, the Bushites are conducting “a secret war against those citizens [the Bushites consider] a threat to the established order.”

David Cohen, a former chief of the CIA’s covert operations division, was hired in the wake of 9/11 to run New York City’s intelligence unit. He immediately set out to eviscerate the Handschu agreement, a set of guidelines established in 1985 as a result of a 1971 class-action lawsuit filed by political activists who accused NYC’s notorious Red Squad and BOSS — the NYPD’s Bureau of Strategic Services — of using dossiers and undercover cops against constitutionally protected dissent. On February 13, 2003, a federal judge overturned the agreement.

Cohen went after Handschu in the wake of an earlier ruling by a federal court that had weakened similar guidelines in Chicago. Guidelines were put in place after revelations detailing more than 500 FBI black bag jobs and aggressive police surveillance and harassment of political opponents of the mayor. “Police went to our fundraisers and recorded license plate numbers,” Harvey Grossman, director of the ACLU’s Illinois office, told the Washington Post last year. “They kept voluminous files on the NAACP and the League of Women Voters. This is a history we ought not to forget.”

Resurgent Red Squads and police intelligence units all across the country are now working directly with the FBI, the JTTFs, the Ministry of Homeland Security, and the neighborly folks over at the CIA.

As author Jonathan Vankin notes, in the 1960s the CIA infiltrated police departments around the country and trained officers in clandestine methods. According to Verne Lyon, a former CIA undercover operative, the CIA “used its contacts with local police departments and their intelligence units to pick up its ‘police skills’ and began in earnest to pull off burglaries, illegal entries, use of explosives, criminal frame-ups, shared interrogations, and disinformation [against domestic political groups]. CIA teams purchased sophisticated equipment for many starved police departments and in return got to see arrest records, suspect lists, and intelligence reports. Many large police departments, in conjunction with the CIA, carried out illegal, warrantless searches of private properties.”

The FBI, on the other hand, worked mostly above board with police departments to neutralize political enemies. “A striking feature of Hoover’s approach to political spying was the close coordination between the FBI and local police departments,” explains Earl Ofari Hutchinson of Pacific News Service. “This was apparent when the FBI launched deadly search and destroy missions jointly with local police in several cities in 1969 against the Black Panther Party.”

Since 9/11 the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service, postal, customs, and immigration inspectors, and the Ministry of Homeland Security work together as an integrated national police force. As well, the Pentagon’s Northern Command and the Ministry of Homeland Security have created domestic intelligence departments.

Look no further than COINTELPRO and Operation CHAOS to understand the preferred modus operandi.

Particularly worrisome is the unchecked participation of the CIA, notorious for its organizational elan in regard to coups, death squads, and studious compilation of “subversive” hit and disappearance lists for use by sadistic thugs and dictators in such far-flung places as Chile, Turkey, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, El Salvador, and elsewhere. In 1983 the CIA published the “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual,” Orwellian doublespeak for a torture how-to book spelling out methods used in Honduras against labor organizers and indigenous rights activists.

Like the Geheime Staatspolizei, or Gestapo, in Nazi Germany, the Bush organized national police and military force will eventually predominate all aspects of law enforcement and federal regulation. It will not answer to the people and will not be subject to public oversight. Its abuses and constitutional violations may never again face the light of day before a Church Committee.

As absurd as the latest FBI mandate sent to 18,000 police organizations to be on the lookout for “terrorists” bearing copies of the Farmer’s Almanac may seem, it is an example how the Bushites are working hand-in-glove with local law enforcement (and state and federal agencies) in a coordinated effort to manufacture a police state of truly monumental and technologically sophisticated proportions.

The Bush police state target is nominally al-Qaeda, a largely mythical organization created by the CIA now serving as a convenient bogeyman for both domestic and international purposes. It is mostly an Emmanuel Goldstein scheme designed to anger and spook the public and allow the Bushites to push agenda of military expansion abroad and police state repression at home.

It’s not a cardboard and stage managed al-Qaeda the Bushites have in their sights trained on, but rather the progressive movements of America, traditional adversaries of the reactionary police state and the ruling elite it represents.

KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent no holds barred blog at . Nimmo is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. A collection of his essays for CounterPunch, Another Day in the Empire, will soon be published by Dandelion Books.

He can be reached at:


KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent no holds barred blog at . Nimmo is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. A collection of his essays for CounterPunch, Another Day in the Empire, is now available from Dandelion Books. He can be reached at: