Dear The Guardian:

I don’t believe the FBI, and neither should you.

It seems like a dubious “error” — the FBI has a long history of surveillance of pacifist groups. My father was an SCLC activist with Dr. King. Fifty years ago this year, he was working a night security crew with the Salem-Montgomery march, and I got a briefing at age four on what to do if questioned or arrested. At four. Our tax dollars at work.

In fact, when Dr. King was murdered, COINTELPRO (an FBI surveillance group) justified that they had not hired King’s assassin to Congress (on the US Congress’ official web site, do note!) by the circumstantial evidence that they would not have had agents harassing King’s party in Memphis up to a short while before his death if they’d hired someone to off him. That would be inefficient and unprofessional.

Back then, being under surveillance (as a FOIA request later proved my family was) meant a friend of the family had a steno pad, and #2 pencil, and a bit of extra pocket change. Now as Mr. Snowden, The Guardian, and WaPo present, it means billions in blackline moneys in Crypto City and a bunker in the desert out west, and your GCHQ in on the bargain.

Likely, the gray lady of human rights, your Amnesty International HQ there in the UK and other dangerous radicals are also under watch. Can’t let these enlightenment project reformers have a loose lead.

And of course, The Guardian press room is under threat of these thugs coming in and breaking up the computers on you because you don’t have freedoms of press there (although I understand you pity us in the states for our lack of freedom of privacy — no one to my knowledge has come in to bust up presses since the Pentagon Papers were at Beacon Press here during Watergate, and you have David Cameron still bullying you, you should be so proud?)

Still, yes, we do have work to do here, see below. We are working on it. See and my g+ stream for more info. This stuff predates the Snowden, 9/11, and the net.

It would be lovely if good people would actually join together to reform the whole mess, rather than run screaming into their warrens the first time someone goes “booga-booga!” and yells “commie!” or “radical!” or “terrorist!” and maybe we could actually fix the problem someday.

We need good intel — it keeps us out of wars just as much as good diplomacy. We’ve known this since Suntzu. It makes the problem so hard to solve. We can’t get rid of the FBI or the NSA. We must reform them and put adequate trustworthy oversight in place. With nearly one and a half million Americans with top secret clearances (yes, that’s about half a percent of our total population!) we have two small congressional committees overseeing billions of intel budget items in twice-weekly meetings of a couple hours each, that only convene parts of the year.

As a result, companies such as Booz Allen (Snowden’s former employers) spends more time crafting one black-line project proposal than the Senate oversight committee spends all year overseeing the budget of the entire Intelligence Community including the FBI, the NSA, and fifteen other agencies.

We need a new oversight mechanism in the US, do you think?

What about you in the UK? Do people there even know what your oversight mechanisms are?

A little history, from 2005 and before:
Quaker Organization Calls for End to Government Spying; American Friends Service Committee Says Surveillance of Peace Groups Is ‘Outrageous’

12/20/2005 12:51:00 PM

To: National Desk

Contact: Janis D. Shields of the American Friends Service Committee, 215-241-7060

PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 20 /U.S. Newswire/ — An organization at the forefront of combating illegal FBI surveillance tactics in the seventies now urges Congress to undertake a complete and thorough review of reports that the Pentagon is spying on “peaceful anti-war and counter-military recruitment groups.”

Calling it a “new McCarthyism,” the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) also likened the troublesome revelation to the notorious COINTELPRO, an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program — the covert FBI project aimed at undercutting Vietnam anti-war organizing and the civil rights movement. COINTELPRO was publicly unmasked through congressional hearings in 1975, leading to stronger congressional oversight of federal law enforcement. Many of the protections instituted then have been eroded in recent years under the US PATRIOT Act and other domestic surveillance activities authorized by the President. Concerned Americans are encouraged to write their Congressional representatives in Washington.

“Clearly the constitutional right of free speech and peaceful assembly is not a criminal offense,” states Mary Ellen McNish, general secretary of AFSC, an international social justice organization and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. “It’s an outrage.”

[goes on at length]


NOTE:  thanks to Satyr Icon on G+ for catching my math error/misremembrance of the top secret stat — my dyscalculia caught me up in a late night blog article — oops…!