Has our Government ever threatened the “rights of American citizens"?

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Fellow VT writer CWO3 Tom Barnes posted an article "Navy Lawyers File Motion to Halt Proceedings Against Alleged Terrorist" that I almost missed the point of until I read Tom’s comment quoted below that sums up why so many American Patriots are sincerely concerned about the excesses of our government over the past decade or so.

"There is a difference between arresting, apprehending and incarcerating a dangerous human being who poses a real threat to all of us and constructing an entire "judicial system" apart from American legal standards to more or less set him up to be executed. These "special courts" [at GITMO] are one of the very hallmarks of a totalitarian society. This is the sort of thing that the Soviets used to do.

I am swiftly becoming numb to this stuff. If this can happen to these people, innocent, crazy, guilty or religiously deluded, it can happen to all of us. You and I are in just as much danger of being subjected to "special courts" as these people are. I am not so much worried about their rights being abrogated as I am worried about my own rights. What in the hell is going on in my country? CWO3 Tom Barnes, USCG (Ret.)"

Tom’s commentary got us to THINKING, has our government ever threatened the "rights of American Citizens"?

According to Congressional Records from the 1970s, you bet your life and liberties our government has been a threat to American citizen rights. I must strongly agree with Tom not only in the case of GITMO but all the excesses and trampling on American freedoms during the Bush administration that continue into the Obama administration through failure to TAKE ACTION to correct them once and for all.

ROBERT L. HANAFIN, Major, USAF-Retired
Veterans Advocacy Editor
Veteran Today News Network &
Our Troops News Ladder

     Has our Government ever threatened the "rights of American citizens?

unclesam_01The answer to this is YES and the Bush administration IS NOT the first administration to threaten the rights of American citizens or are the Republicans the only political party to have done so. A 1976 Report to Congress on Federal Government Intelligence Activities during Vietnam sheds insight into real and potential 21st Century U.S. government threats to the rights of American citizens, especially First Amendment Rights [the Flag Amendment comes to mind].

When compared to the excesses of the Bush administration that threatened the rights of American citizens one would think that nothing was learned from this report or that our government found ways around what had been historically documented.

INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES AND THE RIGHTS OF AMERICANS
1976 Congressional Committee finds that Federal Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies threatened the rights of U.S. Citizens.

As Congress would later learn, but has failed to learn this lesson from Vietnam, the FINAL REPORT OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE TO STUDY GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS WITH RESPECT TO INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES DURING VIETNAM was reported to the U.S. Senate on APRIL 26, 1976 with findings that the FBI and other federal law enforcement and intelligence collection agencies went overboard in excesses against American citizens and organizations deemed subversive to both the Vietnam war effort and the nation. This behavior was an affront to many notable personalities back in the day including Dr. Martin Luther King, and of course within the anti-war movement Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) were favored targets.

spyglassIt is in this context that WE as Veterans must look at these twisted myths based on a fragment of half-truths for not only do political myths using us VETERANS remain relevant to Vietnam Veterans for the rest of our lives, but the political myth of liberals spitting on Vietnam Veterans is quite a different matter from Veterans actually getting spit on.

It is the political bias either left or right-wing that makes the myth of the spit on Veteran part of the overall myth of the liberals stabbed us in the back thus we lost a war concept that is still in use TODAY as right-wing media used isolated cases of documented proof (yes, we finally have documented proof of an Iraq War Vet or maybe two being spit on) these unfortunately lack credibility due to intent by one Iraq Vet and leader of Young Republicans on campus to seek out confrontation during a Peace demonstration. In comparison to the Iraq Veterans spit on in which one proactively instigated the incident, I do not recall one, not one, Vietnam Veteran intentionally instigating or inviting a target of opportunity to spit on us so that we could make a movie, video, write a story, or frame and image. We know of at least one Iraq War Vet who went out of his way seeking confrontation and taking the opportunity to actually be spit on by someone (a young female Lesbian at that) who was not typical of Pro-Peace demonstrators. (See the Video at Free Republic (FREEPERS).

spit_400_02Playing the Liberals stabbed our troops in the back card.

In fact, we strongly encourage readers to closely watch the above video and find out what politically motivated this young Iraq Vet to make the video, and who exactly he really was at the time – a Young Republican leader on the campus of UC Santa Barbara and member of the far right conservative group Young America with an agenda to prove on camera that liberals spit on our troops and stab America in the back. Pay close attention to his lead in, why he says he is at the rally, and especially the loaded questions he asks plus lastly his intent to instigate a response. Frankly, it was apparent to many being so-called interviewed by this kid that he was not a member of mainstream media nor did he have a press or media pass to cover the event. Their reaction on average was get your fascist camera out of my face – a natural and patriotic reaction.

You see not only does federal law enforcement today have the ability to make the same Unconstitutional Mistakes that they made during Vietnam and the Civil Rights movement, but they still had and have young right-wing Vets (Vietnam Era, Gulf War, Iraq War, and so on) to collaborate with them in such domestic spying, instigation, and creating confrontations to make anyone who disagrees with them look bad.

Veterans as such WE only make up what less than one percent of the current U.S. population, so our mistakes or political motivations can be written off. However, that part of the Legacy of Vietnam of course that remains most threatening is when our government uses or accepts excesses of Veterans or Law Enforcement to pose a threat to the American people.

The historic threat posed by federal law enforcement to American citizens by gathering personal data or implanting provocateurs [some in fact Veterans] and misinformation within civil rights and anti-war activists groups to ignite violence and confrontation. To me this is similar to what the young Iraq Vet in California did with this video. Although I don’t doubt nor question his military service for I’m not that far right-wing nor a Swiftie, so let’s still refer to him as an Iraq War Vet, he earned that distinction. However, the concept of what he intentionally did to get this target of opportunity the spitting lesbian is similar to the intelligence collection excesses of our federal intelligence agencies. I’m also not inferring the young man is a federal agent, but the background check he and associates were able to do on the Lesbian spitter from but a few seconds on camera was very sophisticated for some kid just coming back from Iraq.

Creating the Stabbed in the Back Image – Unconstitutional Federal Government Behavior

The report to Congress in 1976 focused on whether federal government intelligence activities threatened the "rights of American citizens." [You see the Bush Administration did not create the concept of threatening the rights of American citizens, they followed up on lessons learned from Vietnam. VT. Ed] Members of the U.S. Senate were told that the FBI [Under both Democrat Lyndon Johnson, and Republican Richard Nixon. VT. Ed] had conducted Intelligence Activity that were a misuse of government power to impair U.S. Citizens’ Rights.

The Congressional Committee looked at which governmental agencies besides the FBI had engaged in domestic spying, [No readers Domestic Spying is not a term exclusively related to the Bush administration] how many U.S. citizens had been targets of governmental intelligence activity, what standards governed the opening of an intelligence investigation and when were investigations terminated?

Members of Congress also looked at where targets of opportunity fit on the spectrum between those who commit violent criminal acts [the Weathermen for example] and those who seek only to dissent peacefully from Government policy, to what extent did the information collected include intimate details of the targets’ personal lives or their political views, and has such information been disseminated and used to injure individuals reputations (pretty much sounds like Karl Rove would never have survived this 1970s scrutiny).

What actions beyond surveillance have intelligence agencies taken, such as attempting to disrupt, discredit, or destroy persons or groups who have been the targets of surveillance [placing informants or provocateurs in the NAACP or VVAW comes to mind], and the one most pertinent to TODAY, had federal intelligence agencies been used to serve the political aims of Presidents (regardless of political affiliation), other high federal officials, or the intelligence and law enforcement agencies themselves considering that both Johnson and Nixon had aims not only in dealing with the civil rights movement but also the anti-war movement that sprung from it.

How did federal law enforcement agencies respond either to proper orders or to excessive pressures from their superiors, did federal agents question the appropriateness and ethics of what they were ordered to do, [the military guards at GITMO as well as the CIA or other interrogators come to mind today. VT. Ed] to what extent did intelligence agencies disclose, or concealed domestic espionage activities from, outside bodies charged with overseeing them? Frankly, there was NO outside oversight of law enforcement or intelligence collection organizations or even the psyops they performed. This would eventually lead to a now defunct Intelligence Oversight section within each arm of the federal intelligence community both civilian and military.

Lastly had intelligence agencies acted illegally or unconstitutionally outside the law, what was the attitude of the intelligence community toward the rule of law, to what extent has the Executive branch and the Congress controlled intelligence agencies and held them accountable?

In sum, how well the Federal system of checks and balances between the branches worked to control intelligence activity which of course remains just as pertinent today as it did way back in 1976.

Findings

guantanamobaytower1. The answers to each of these questions were disturbing, and food for thought Today for they may be just as disturbing.

2. Governmental officials — including those whose principal duty is to enforce the law –have violated or ignored the law over long periods of time and have advocated and defended their right to break the law.

3. The Number of People Affected by Domestic Intelligence Activity by both the CIA and FBI was staggering.

4. Too Much Information on the Intimate Lives of Dissidents Was Collected For Too Long including leaders of the "Women’s Liberation Movement," A prominent civil rights leader and advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the NAACP’s connections if any to the Communist Party.

[These excesses crossed party lines and affiliation of the President meant no difference, example: In the 1960’s President Johnson asked the FBI to compare various Senators’ statements on Vietnam with the Communist Party line and to conduct name checks on leading antiwar Senators. VT. Ed]

In the, late 1960’s and early 1970s, student groups were subjected to intense federal scrutiny. In 1970 the FBI ordered investigations of every member of the Students for a Democratic Society [SDS] and of "every Black Student Union and similar group regardless of their past or present involvement in disorders." Files were opened on thousands of young men and women so that, as the former head of FBI intelligence explained, the information could be used [to blackball them] if they ever applied for a government job.

5. Media Manipulation. — The FBI has attempted covertly to influence the public’s perception of persons and organizations by disseminating derogatory information to the press, either anonymously or through "friendly news contacts." [Today that would be considered Fox news or the right-wing media in general, however given that the Obama administration now runs the war efforts anyone in mainstream media could be subject to manipulation, the embedded media program supporting our troops comes to mind. Once again what this young Iraq War Vet did to get his video comes under this category. VT. Ed]

The impact of those articles was generally difficult to measure, although in some cases there were fairly direct connections to injury to the target. The FBI also attempted to influence media reporting which would have any impact on the public image of the FBI.

FBI reporting on protests against the Vietnam War provides another example, of the manner in which the information provided to decision-makers can be skewed. In acquiescence with a judgment already expressed by President Johnson, the Bureau’s reports on demonstrations against the War in Vietnam emphasized Communist efforts to influence the anti-war movement and underplayed the fact that the vast majority of demonstrators were not Communist controlled.

6. The aggregate budget for FBI domestic security intelligence and foreign counterintelligence [was] at least $80 million [in late 1960s dollars – a lot of money back in the day that could have been spent on the War on Poverty]. In the late 1960s and20 early 1970s, when the Bureau was joined by the CIA, the military, and NSA in collecting information about the anti-war movement and black activists, the cost was substantially greater. [Today that cost could rise into the trillions based on NSA and CIA surveillance of U.S. citizens and activists in the anti-Iraq War movement despite the number of pro-peace activists being miniscule compared to the Vietnam anti-war movement. VT. Ed]

As a people of conscience, ethical, and moral values not enjoyed by our enemies in Al Queda or the Talaban, we must ask the basic humantarian question about What Are We Figthing For? Do we really find it necessary to destory America’s Values in order to save them?

Suffice it to say that it is very hard to separate fact from fiction, and that the liberals stabbed us in the back and the spitting image are both part of this overall government effort to destroy America’s values in order to save them then in the nineteen sixties and seventies as NOW.

ROBERT L. HANAFIN
Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired
Veterans Advocacy Editor




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Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I've posted on Veterans Today, I've had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner. My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me. Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000. I've been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I'm now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house. I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.