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Remembering the burglary that broke Cointelpro (muckrock.com)
96 points by danso 43 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 18 comments

If you have never read a book about the abuses by the FBI revealed by the COINTELPRO papers, I highly recommend you pick one up as soon as you can.

CONTELPRO is the perfect example of why saying "I have nothing to fear from the police because I have nothing to hide" is foolish. What if you are an anti-war or civil rights activist?

The book I read recently is titled: "Cointelpro: The FBI's Secret War on Political Freedom" - Nelson Blackstock. Would love recommendations for more recent books, since this one was released in the 80s.

I rather enjoyed the documentary "1971".


>What if you are an anti-war or civil rights activist?

Presumably, people who say "I have nothing to fear from the police because I have nothing to hide" are neither of those.

If this was done today, would it move the needle on the discourse at all? How long would those who did it remain in prison?

The FBI is very goood at dissuading discourse about its more sketchy practices. Imagine a warrant that the FBI does not have to get from the a Judge, one that a recipient can not talk about publicly without risk of going to jail. Nicholas Merrill received a mandate(national security letter) saying he must give the FBI one of his clients files and never speak of the the mandate. He said in a interview, that one year an estimated 50,000 businesses received such a mandate. He was the first person to challenge them in court.

The funny thing is that in this case and another nsl case, the FBI later dropped the request, making it difficult to sue.



> The funny thing is that in this case and another nsl case, the FBI later dropped the request, making it difficult to sue.

This is a very frustrating aspect of our legal system - there's often not a good way to get a "sure, you stopped, but you shouldn't have done that in the first place, and you'll be in serious trouble if you try it again" sort or ruling.

The issue is of standards and norms. People in power are held to defacto lesser standards when they should be held to more stringent ones. It isn't just those self interested in it like say judges who do coke giving a slap on the wrist to coke dealers while giving LSD dealers life sentences because they use one and counterculture uses the other but common people who buy into the "shouldn't have Xed to not be murdered".

If they were held to the same standards as even the average middle class misconduct it would be a non-issue because everyone responsible would be in jail.

The harsh truth in spite of any claimed lofty ideals power is all that matters for rights in practice. Long have people gotten into far more legal trouble for punching an obnoxious drunk than beating their kids. We can and should fight relentlessly and mercilessly against this.

There is a "capable of repetition evading review" standard meant to deal with this situation (to some extent).


Or more appropriately, the standard "you violated the law, so you're going to jail".

In modern life it seems like the choice is between nearly constant, unyielding outrage at abuses of power and corruption among government agencies, law enforcement, corporations, and so on... vs willful ignorance to empower a distracted existence focused more narrowly on just trying to manage or enjoy one’s own life.

I don’t mean this to sound dismissive at all. It is seriously an incredibly difficult moral and philosophical question as I see it.

Burning yourself out with constant (justified) rage obviously seems foolish: you’re not likely to accomplish anything except frittering away your life and youth and ending up bitter with nothing to show for it.

Meanwhile, it genuinely does not seem possible to make any incremental improvement to the world in terms of corruption and abuse of power without being pedantically hypervigilant and extreme to an alienating degree that rejects many comforts of basic life and ignores things like career or family development in favor of nearly constant activism.

The problems are so sprawling and complex that average, even above average, people have no hope at all of sustaining justified outrage and channeling it into productive action. So naturally it’s much easier for most people to slide into narrowly focusing on their own life / family / career / hobbies / community, and rationalizing away any feeling that they might have had an intrinsic moral duty to engage sustained, unyielding outrage even at their own expense until massive scale changes are effected or they literally die trying to bring about such changes.

I’m neither excusing anyone nor judging anyone in this observation. Just pointing out what feels like a deep, philosphically intractable trade-off at the heart of it.

I've wrestled with this. The only solution I've found to balance out these two conflicting ideas (justifiable outrage vs living my life) is to run for office myself.

I think there's a middle ground where you don't have to stop paying attention, yet you also don't have to be outraged by every new report, even despite it being outrageous.

But the pitfall you need to keep aware of is the cognitive dissonance that causes people to flip and start supporting the system. When "pulling back", it is important to not end up being taken in by simplistic messages that actually transmute you into an enabler. For example each political party preaches their own flavor of legitimate criticism to gather support, but then directs that energy at the easy target of the "other" team instead of ever addressing deep seated corruption.

It’s a cycle — we were grappling with the same issues in 1919 and 1819, as technology and governance changed the structure of society.

The reflex action to this form of gilded age will be significant and hopefully peaceful.

Reverse shadenfreude,maybe? The notion that you have been denied the opportunity to "live morally or joyfully" by the condition of misery in the world; the inability to enjoy your own selfishness or competitiveness enough to compensate.

But yeah, what you said. "This, times a million," as my dear heart would say to me.

FWIW you can't think clearly under the influence of rage or other passions.

This was done today, see Snowden or Manning. It did move the needle on discourse, see public outrage. What it did not do is produce significant reprimands for those responsible, see Clapper lying to Congress or the CIA breaking into Congressional computers with no result. The conclusion is that the security state has better control over the legislature than it did 50 years ago.

What do you mean if? Predatory policing and illegal surveillance are a normative experience for many Americans. For example, the muslim-American community. The FBI frequently seduces psychologically ill or mentally disabled individuals to create fake terror plots that are subsequently "foiled" by the FBI.

I don't think you need to use a hypothetical sense.

Pretty sure not much changed.

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