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Lawless Spying in America to Obstruct First Amendment Freedoms

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Lawless Spying in America to Obstruct First Amendment Freedoms - by Stephen Lendman

The ACLU has released numerous reports of illegal spying. They include federal, state and local SARs (suspicious activity reporting) programs that encourage police, intelligence and homeland security officials, emergency responders, and members of the public to spy on neighbors, reporting any "suspicious" activities to authorities.

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In an environment of fear, commonplace activities may be misinterpreted, increasing chances to get innocent people on terrorist watch lists. As a result, their names and vital information will be in law enforcement/intelligence data bases, their personal safety and reputations jeopardized.

Using new intelligence sharing systems like fusion centers enables easy access of Joint Terrorism Task Forces and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Information Sharing Environment (ISE), as well as local police-collected information.

In Terry v. Ohio (1968), the Supreme Court established "reasonable suspicion" of criminal activity as the standard for police stops to investigate further. Under Title 28, Part 23 of the Code of Federal Regulations, law enforcement agencies getting federal funds "shall collect and maintain criminal intelligence information (on an individual) only if there is reasonable suspicion (of involvement) in criminal conduct or activity," and what's collected is relevant.

SARs, however, threaten civil liberties by encouraging indiscriminate spying, jeopardizing innocent people unfairly. They're similar to various Bush administration schemes, including:

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-- a signing statement to the 2006 Postal Accountability Act giving the president authority to order opening US citizens' mail without a warrant;

-- sweeping warrantless wiretapping and other surveillance in violation of FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), amended in 2008 to let telecom companies spy on their customers for the government;

-- Operation TIPS (Terrorism Information and Prevention System), encouraging private citizens, including postal employees, to report "unusual" neighborhood activities;

-- the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness (TIA), renamed Terrorism Information Awareness to monitor anyone suspected of terrorism or activities related to it;

-- the Pentagon's Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) program, amassing a huge data base by domestic spying, done spuriously against anyone suspected of terrorism; and

-- the Transportation Security Agency's SPOT program (Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques), using behavioral detection officers to identify threats by observing and reporting suspicious behavior based on unscientific behavioral indicators.

Policing Free Speech

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On June 29, an ACLU report titled, "Policing Free Speech: Police Surveillance and Obstruction of First Amendment-Protected Activity" highlighted the present danger. It also cited the long history of America's law enforcement agencies illegally spying on US citizens and obstructing lawful political activity. It "was rampant during the Cold War under the FBI's COINTELPRO, the CIA's Operation Chaos, and other programs," continuing now more obtrusively than ever under new names or none at all.

As a result, "Law enforcement agencies across America continue to monitor and harass groups and individuals for....peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights," eroding and gravely endangered.

In recent years, federal as well as in at least 33 states and the District of Columbia, Americans have been surveilled, otherwise monitored or harassed by police for engaging in marches, protests, organizing, having "unusual viewpoints, and engag(ing) in normal, innocuous behaviors such as writing notes or taking photographs in public.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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