I like to catalog evidence of the US government’s criminalization of thought here, in case any of you think I am a crazy conspiracy theorist overstating my case. And it does sound crazy sometimes (though maybe only to those of us raised with white privilege–I suspect it is a lot less crazy sounding to African Americans who may be more used to viewing the US government as an institution of unjust repression).
But it’s undeniable, too. To whit, even Gawker, hardly a bastion of left-wing anything, is posting about the CIA/Bush administration targeting of Juan Cole. And let’s not forgot the ongoing FBI probe in Minneapolis targeting anti-war activists.
It may seem to some of you dear readers that I am overreacting, and that such individuals, if guilty of no wrong doing, will be acquitted and the FBI/CIA will leave them alone. Or, if they have committed illegal protest acts, then they knew the risks they were assuming and should not shrink from facing the penalties.
Here’s the problem with that: the reason the CIA was gathering sensitive personal information on Juan Cole is so that they could find a way to silence his political speech in his personal life. Perhaps an email policy violation at the University of Michigan. Perhaps even just gathering unrelated details that could be used to accuse Juan Cole of a crime down the road in several years.
Think of any movie you’ve seen about the civil rights struggle in the southern US: remember those scenes where the car gets pulled over, and then the cop busts the light bulb, and then takes the cars occupants to jail or worse? FBI and CIA probes are like that. The order in which these events unfold really matters. Searching for unrelated wrongdoing in order to shut up someone’s political speech will probably turn up something that can be used against someone, but that doesn’t mean it was a justified search.
And another point, perhaps to be elaborated in a later post: these governmental probes, infiltrations, investigations are not the exception but the rule.