Jeff Smith’s February 2006 column for Recoil Magazine has been posted. In this month’s column, Jeff discusses the media’s coverage of government spying and the history of such spying in the United States:
At this point one is tempted to just shake their head in disbelief or disgust over these documented instances, but that may be due to the fact that there exists a historical amnesia when it comes to US government spying on its own citizens. US government spying on its own citizens is not an anomaly, but a part of our country’s history. Nearly one hundred years ago several thousand US citizens and residents were targeted for harassment, surveillance, being thrown in jail, and in many cases even deported. In what were known as the Palmer raids many people were targeted either because they spoke out against the US entry into World War I or because they were associated with international labor groups, particularly the International Workers of the World (IWW).
Most of us are familiar with the McCarthy “Red Scare” years, but US government spying on its citizens doesn’t as easily bring to mind the round up of Japanese-Americans during WWII or the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign of the late 1950s through the 1970s. One reason for this indifference is because while the McCarthy hearings focused on White liberals, the FBI’s campaign focused on the Civil Rights movement, the Black Power movement, the Puerto Rican Independence movement and the American Indian Movement. When minorities are targeted as subjects of government spying or harassment, it seems to garner less indignation, even when this COINTELPRO campaign involved the wiretapping of Dr. Martin Luther King and the assassination of Black Panther organizers like Fred Hampton. The same seems to be the case today, where the monitoring of White anti-war organizers in Grand Rapids by the police raised some eyebrows, (even a feature story by Salon.com in February of 2004), but the profiling and government monitoring of Arab, South Asian, and Muslims doesn’t seem to rally sufficient public opposition.