Illustration by Mr. Fish
The security and surveillance state does not deal in nuance or ambiguity. Its millions of agents, intelligence gatherers, spies, clandestine operatives, analysts and armed paramilitary units live in a binary world of opposites, of good and evil, black and white, opponent and ally. There is nothing between. You are for us or against us. You are a patriot or an enemy of freedom. You either embrace the crusade to physically eradicate evildoers from the face of the Earth or you are an Islamic terrorist, a collaborator or an unwitting tool of terrorists. And now that we have created this monster it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to free ourselves from it. Our 16 national intelligence agencies and army of private contractors feed on paranoia, rumor, rampant careerism, demonization of critical free speech and often invented narratives. They justify their existence, and their consuming of vast governmental resources, by turning even the banal and the mundane into a potential threat. And by the time they finish, the nation will be a gulag.
This is why the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was contested by me and three other plaintiffs before Judge Katherine B. Forrest in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Thursday, is so dangerous. This act, signed into law by President Barack Obama last Dec. 31, puts into the hands of people with no discernible understanding of legitimate dissent the power to use the military to deny due process to all deemed to be terrorists, or terrorist sympathizers, and hold them indefinitely in military detention. The deliberate obtuseness of the NDAA's language, which defines "covered persons" as those who "substantially supported" al-Qaida, the Taliban or "associated forces," makes all Americans, in the eyes of our expanding homeland security apparatus, potential terrorists. It does not differentiate. And the testimony of my fellow plaintiffs, who understand that the NDAA is not about them but about us, repeatedly illustrated this.
Alexa O'Brien, a content strategist and information architect who co-founded the U.S. Day of Rage, an organization created to reform the election process and wrest it back from corporate hands, was the first plaintiff to address the court. She testified that when WikiLeaks released 5 million emails from Stratfor, a private security firm that does work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Marine Corps and the Defense Intelligence Agency, she discovered that the company was attempting to link her and her organization to Islamic radicals and websites as well as jihadist ideology.
Last August there was an email exchange between Fred Burton, Stratfor's vice president for counterterrorism and corporate security and a former deputy director of the counterterrorism division of the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, and Thomas Kopecky, director of operations at Investigative Research Consultants Inc. and Fortis Protective Services LLC. In that exchange, leaked Feb. 27 by WikiLeaks, Kopecky wrote: "I was looking into that U.S. Day of Rage movement and specifically asked to connect it to any Saudi or other fundamentalist Islamic movements. Thus far, I have only hear[d] rumors but not gotten any substantial connection. Do you guys know much about this other than its US Domestic fiscal ideals?"
Burton replied: "No, we're not aware of any concrete connections between fundamentalist Islamist movements and the Day of Rage, or the October 2011 movement at this point."
But that changed quickly. Stratfor, through others working in conjunction with the FBI, soon linked U.S. Day of Rage to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
In early September, U.S. Day of Rage, which supported the Sept. 17 call to occupy Wall Street, received Twitter messages that falsely accused it of being affiliated with terrorist groups. The messages came from a privately owned security and intelligence contractor, Provide Security, managed by Thomas Ryan, who works for U.S. military and government agencies, and Dr. Kevin Schatzle, a former FBI, Secret Service and New York City Police Department counter-terrorism agent who is on the advisory board of a private intelligence firm that sells technology to profile and interrogate terrorism suspects. On Sept. 1 U.S. Day of Rage received three private, direct Twitter messages that read:
"Now you are really in over your head with this. Muslims from an Afghanistan Jihad site have jumped in. ...
"You seem peaceful, but #Anonymous will tarnish that reputation and FAST! They plan to hack NYPD and Banks for #OccupyWallStreet with #RefRef.
"Just a heads up. I watched your training videos, but do you realize the #Anonymous relationship/infiltration will cause you MANY problems."
On Oct. 14, 2011, Provide Security's Ryan published an article -- "The Email Archive of #OccupyWallStreet Movement," on the Andrew Breitbart Presents Big Government website page -- that tied U.S. Day of Rage to al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. Ryan said in the article that he had "recruited other people to help U.S. begin the collection of data" from social media sites that included U.S. Day of Rage. The article goes on:
"On August 10, 2011, the hacker group, 'Anonymous' announced that it would join the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. That's what sparked my interest in monitoring #OccupyWallStreet.
"I reached out to a colleague and asked if he would be interested in studying the protest with me. At first, it seemed disorganized, and we believed it would only be a few hundred protestors.
"As we engaged in monitoring its growth, we recruited other people to help us begin the collection of data available via social media. We began mapping out key players, and monitored Anonymous's efforts to organize protests in the San Francisco Bay area public transportation system (#opBART) in order to detect patterns of key influences.
"Then, at the end of August, we were alerted by a fellow researcher that information about USDoR (U.S. Day of Rage, to which Occupy Wall Street is connected) had been posted on Shamuk and Al-Jihad, two Al-Qaeda recruitment sites. We began to take the 'Occupy' protest more seriously, and dedicated more time to researching and monitoring.