Right-Wing Firms Train Public Servants on Terror Threats
There is a sprawling hidden world of counter-terrorism organizations growing beyond control in the United States. Twenty-four of them were created by the end of 2001, including the Office of Homeland Security and the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Task Force. The next year, 37 more were created to track weapons of mass destruction and collect threat tips. By 2009, nearly 260 organizations were created as 854,000 civil servants, military personnel and private contractors with top-secret security clearances monitor national security concerns. However, according to a report from Public Research Associates, those same concerns have bolstered a class of self-proclaimed terrorism experts who decry Islam as an evil religion of terrorists and routinely brand Muslims as primitive, vengeful, duplicitous, and belligerent people who oppress women and gays, and have values irreconcilable with “western Judeo-Christian civilization.”
In fact, when PRA discovered earlier this year that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) had contracted with Security Solutions International to conduct a training on radical Islam, they notified the Muslim American Society, ACLU, and our other advocacy partners, who used PRA’s research to compel the MBTA to cancel the agency’s training.
- As part of the Homeland Security Initiatives and working with the FBI in other aspects of the national security apparatus, there was a need to train thousands as part of a local, state and federal counter-terrorism effort.
- Some of these trainings are quite good. The problem is that there are a handful of groups that train hundreds and hundreds of local, state and federal counter-terrorism experts, with rhetoric that is basically Islamophobic.
- In the late 1970s there was an attempt to restrain this illegal surveillance. I’d have to say right now it’s worse.
- What used to be done illegally and covertly is now done ostensibly legally and openly and in fact proudly by both Democrats and Republicans who should be ashamed.
- The whole strategic suspicious reporting initiative which basically is a pipeline for unverified rumor and innuendo through local police departments up through a chain of information agencies to the federal government. We know in Europe this kind of reporting is unconstitutional and bad for society.
- Now, everything that was considered illegal and unconstitutional for which there were Congressional hearings and reforms under Jimmy Carter, now we do it.
- In proper training you are actually looking for criminal activity, not people of color who wear garb that we’re scared of. What’s going on here is untrained, badly trained officers are reporting the names of people up into a huge infrastructure of information data storage, based on bias they’ve not been trained to resist or confront within themselves.
- We described this whole process as a platform for prejudice in a report by Tom Cincotta
- Tom has on his wall a chart of all the agencies of this information reporting system and it has 150 dots so inter-connected, no one can control this.
- I’m urging people to form broad coalitions across the political spectrum.
Guest – Chip Berlet, PRA senior analyst, is a veteran freelance writer and photographer who specializes in investigating right-wing social movements, apocalyptic scapegoating and conspiracy theories, and authoritarianism. A PRA staffer since 1982, he has written, edited and co-authored numerous articles on right-wing activity and government repression for publications as varied as the Boston Globe, the New York Times, The Progressive, The Nation, The Humanist, and the St. Louis Journalism Review.
For our Lawyers You’ll Like series, we’re delighted to have with us attorney, activist and Drake University law professor Sally Frank. Sally specializes in family law and domestic violence. Her activism began when she was a student at Princeton University. She filed suit against the Cottage Club, the Ivy Club and the Tiger Inn because they refused to admit her as a member based on gender. 13 years later she won the case and the three eating clubs became coed. Now Sally Frank lectures on women in law and encourages law students to be activists.
Attorney Sally Frank:
- Princeton had 13 eating clubs and 3 of them were all male.
- I sued three of the clubs and the University; it began when I was a 19-year-old junior at Princeton in 1979.
- My problem with it was they were very important institutions on campus, they ratified discrimination. A couple of them were the most prestigious clubs, if the most prestigious people discriminated, that kinda made it okay and it radiated it back onto to the campus in other aspects of life.
- The question was whether they were public accommodations or not.
- When I was in 5th grade I watched Inherit the Wind five times.
- Seeing William Kunstler and the Chicago 8 and how he supported the protesters and the rights of the people, and how Clarence Darrow did, made me want to be a people’s lawyer. Clerk for Emily Goodman as first job out of law school. I learned so much from her, I learned how to make a record.
- The Joint Terrorism Task Force began to investigate the peace movement in Des Moines, Iowa.
- There was question that my email was being watched. They subpoenaed 4 peace activists to a grand jury. Drake University was subpoenaed for information on the National Lawyers Guild members.
- After I found out about the Drake subpoena, there was a gag order on the subpoena.
- Leading up to 2008 RNC in Minneapolis, FBI leaving cards with peace activists in Iowa. What was going on here was an intelligence gathering that we were able to stop.
- Do not talk to the FBI, NSA, ICE. It’s very hard for people who were brought up to be polite, not to answer a question.
- We lived in a condo on the 8th floor and Bush came to the senior citizens center next door. We unfurled a banner from the balcony, a half hour before Bush was expected and we got a knock on the door by the secret service.
- I checked with the ACLU and they couldn’t bust in. Exigent circumstances.
- Most of what I do are civil cases.
- There’s certainly more government resentment and government attitude.
Guest – Attorney Sally Frank, longtime activist and law professor at Drake University. As a lawyer and law professor, Sally Frank represents protesters, victims of discrimination and poor people in housing cases. In her teaching and practice, Sally has helped the disenfranchised in family law and domestic abuse cases. “This is the work of the public interest lawyer. We see the problems of the system and work with our clients and others to achieve justice for them and for society as a whole.”