"Democracies don't fear their own people. They recognize that citizens must be free to come together, to advocate and agitate."I initially thought that these sentiments were laudable, and if left in their intended context they likely are. However, last week the ACLU updated an existing website, and announced a revived initiative to monitor surveillance activities on U.S. soil directed against those engaged in activism and other lawful protest activities. This surveillance includes infiltration of activist groups by undercover law enforcement personnel.
Those incidents that have been discovered have been carefully documented in a comprehensive report, and include several reported incidents of domestic political spying in Colorado, including extensive spying on political activity by the Denver Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF).
Many of these reported spying activities were facilitated by information gathered and distributed by what are called Fusion Centers - born from a well-intentioned effort to share information between law enforcement agencies across our many levels of government to aid in anti-terrorism efforts, but in practice are becoming an arm for information gathering and distribution on all manner of activities that in any other context would be lawful, private, and protected by the rights imparted to all of us by the Constitution. There are such centers in all 50 states, including Colorado.
I could go on a lot longer about this, but there are plenty of online resources if you're interested in learning more. When I think of this, I am reminded of the now-famous assertions of a broadcast journalist fully 55 years ago, a reminder that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it:
"We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."Tea Partiers, if you think that you're somehow immune from this type of quasi-clandestine scrutiny, think again..