On Wednesday, the FBI arrested Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old U.S. citizen from Ashland, west of Boston, on terrorism charges. The arrest came as a result of an undercover operation conducted by FBI agents posing as al-Qaeida terrorists. They provided Ferdaus with 25 lbs. of C-4 explosives, a remote controlled Sabrejet replica, six assault rifles, and three grenades. They financed his trip to Washington, DC and directed him to case specific target sites. Prior to being entrapped by the FBI, Ferdaus was disgruntled with the U.S. government’s policies towards Moslems; he perceived those policies as being prejudicial and hostile. According to the FBI affidavit, he stated that “Americans are the enemies of Allah.” The fact that he held such an adverse opinion against the U.S. marked him as a threat and made him a target of an FBI operation conducted by agents that greatly facilitated his transition from a passive grumpy idiot with no access to lethal aid and no contact with al-Qaeida to a fully operational terrorist with the assets and skill-set to engage.
It is easy to argue that if all Ferdaus needed to act on his negative emotions were opportunity and means, he deserves his predicament. I beg to differ. The FBI is not looking for a few bad apples; it is looking for good ones to rot. The “Moroccan Initiative” and the “Monteilh” case in southern California are not unique. The FBI, in conjunction with local police, has designed programs targeting Arab and Moslem communities across the country. Unconstitutional infiltration of mosques, cultural centers, universities, and other venues frequented by members of these communities has become a standard modus operandi.
The NYPD spokesperson justified the “Moroccan Initiative” as a crime prevention measure. I think that, since the enactment of the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001 and the Homeland Security Act a year later, the Bureau has seen the scope of its law enforcement authority expanded and investigative inhibitors, such as due process, greatly abrogated. The Inspector General of the Justice Department reported in 2007 that under the PATRIOT Act, “serious abuse of authority” by the FBI is “widespread.” It has become trendy for the FBI to conduct, what I call, patsy operations to spot and assess individuals within Arab and Moslem communities who not only hold dissenting opinions, but conform to a dependent personality disorder profile. The ideal FBI candidate is a politically opinionated Arab and/or Moslem who has a pathological need for approval and affection and is easily pressured to engage in activities he/she would normally abhor. Through these same operations, federal and local law enforcement agencies recruit sources with placement and access within the communities who, by virtue of their petty criminal activity, are susceptible to collect and inform on their localities. In this austere economy, the FBI has to justify the oversized budget it is allotted to finance its innovative antiterrorism and counterintelligence programs.
When George W. Bush attained the presidency in January, 2001, he had the favorable vote of over fifty percent of Arab Americans. In his first term, his administration, using the 9/11 terrorist attacks as a launching pad to fear mongering campaigns and a chauvinistic ideology, had shown no misgivings about ravaging the Bill of Rights and extirpating the fundamental tenets of freedom and openness that so many immigrants hold as a staples of their adoptive country. Many of the discriminatory policies adopted during those first four years specifically targeted the Arab and Moslem communities which have become, in the eyes of a post 9/11 U.S. government, fertile pools of potential national security threats. When the re-authorization of the Act was discussed in the Senate this year, senators Richard Durbin, Patrick Leahy, and Ron Wyndell proposed specific amendments to some of its sections to curtail the government’s intrusive methods. Unfortunately, President Obama, a critic of the Act as a Senator, is one of its staunch proponents today. It was approved as is.
The Justice and Homeland Security departments were not the only government entities encroaching on civil liberties then; Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), a Department of Defense entity created on February 19, 2002 by a directive from Donald Rumsfeld, initiated a data mining and intelligence collection program focused on domestic dissidence, peace groups, and activists. The program was exposed by the media and CIFA itself was dismantled in 2008 and some of its assets and missions were assumed by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
While the FBI’s operations are contemptuous toward liberty and do not dovetail with the constitution, they are not, from a judicial standpoint, considered illegal. I can see you scratching your head and getting dizzy, but consider this. The FBI, as a law enforcement tool, carries out the tasks set forth in the PATRIOT Act, Homeland Security Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and other legislative enactments. The PATRIOT Act and the Homeland Security acts were passed, albeit hastily, by lawmakers who, out of a misguided sense of nationalism, acceded to the administration’s wishes after 9/11, and signed by former president George W. Bush. The FBI relies on a secret national security court to interpret the statutes in these acts. While these statutes are public, the interpretations of the secret national security court are guarded from public scrutiny. Many observers and lawmakers, among them Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, believe that the secret court, under the shroud of governmental classification, skews its opinions on the law, or gives a broad reading to legal provisions to allow the FBI greater latitude in the conduct of anti-terrorism and national security investigations. The secret national security court authorized the “Moroccan Initiative,” “tripwire,” “the Monteilh” case, and other such operations we common mortals neither have the clearance, nor the “need to know” to be informed about; it allows agents to foray into the lives of innocent civilians and monitor their travel, business transactions, commercial purchases, financial records, and telephone and internet communications without fulfilling due process requirements – grand jury subpoena and warrants. While numerous U.S. District Judges have previously ruled that the FBI’s secret domestic surveillance activity eviscerates First Amendment’s freedom of speech, association, and right to petition, Fourth Amendment’s freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and Fifth and Sixth Amendments’ rights to due process and to discovery of evidence, the U.S. Supreme Court has either refused to publish its opinion on some of the statues, or upheld the constitutionality of others – Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project – because it believes they enable the Judicial Branch to act preemptively and disrupt terrorist activity against the U.S. while it is still in the planning stage.
The legality of the FBI’s operations will stand unless challenged through a motion and a court ruling against them is pronounced. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have multiple class-action lawsuits against the Bureau. But it is extremely difficult to evidence the FBI’s intrusion on privacy. Instead, the lawsuits focus on harassment charges which do not attack the root of the problem: the USA PATRIOT Act and other such authorities the FBI and local law enforcement agencies use as legal justification for their activities. In addition to legal action, the Arab and Moslem American communities need to mobilize political support to petition the Obama administration to rein in the overweening power of federal and local law enforcement agencies and reinstate limitations on the government’s extraordinary surveillance powers and unjustified intelligence collection against a U.S. person.
A. T. B. © 2011