FISA, Gun Control, And Occupy Wall Street

by lizard

Congress seems incapable of accomplishing anything, but when it comes to dismantling the citizenry’s civil liberties, Congress puts aside the play-acting of venomous partisanship to empower the federal government to invade our lives.

And lest we forget, back in 2008, it was Obama’s “evolving” FISA position that gave one of the first indications that Obama was just another deceitful politician willing to say one thing, then turn around and do the opposite. The link is to Greenwald’s piece, and it opens like this:

To this day, many people identify mid-2008 as the time they realized what type of politician Barack Obama actually is. Six months before, when seeking the Democratic nomination, then-Sen. Obama unambiguously vowed that he would filibuster “any bill” that retroactively immunized the telecom industry for having participated in the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program.

But in July 2008, once he had secured the nomination, a bill came before the Senate that did exactly that – the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 – and Obama not only failed to filibuster as promised, but far worse, he voted against the filibuster brought by other Senators, and then voted in favor of enacting the bill itself. That blatant, unblinking violation of his own clear promise – actively supporting a bill he had sworn months earlier he would block from a vote – caused a serious rift even in the middle of an election year between Obama and his own supporters.

Democrats have proven themselves worthless when it comes to standing up to the continued assault on civil liberties, so it shouldn’t have surprised anyone who pays attention when Diane Feinstein led the attack on three modest amendments that put a few meager safeguards in place. Here is how Greenwald describes what went down (read the whole article for descriptions of the amendments):

The Democratic Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, took the lead in attacking Wyden, Merkley, Udall and Paul with the most foul Cheneyite accusations, and demanded renewal of the FISA law without any reforms. And then predictably, in virtually identical 37-54 votes, Feinstein and her conservative-Democratic comrades joined with virtually the entire GOP caucus (except for three Senators: Paul, Mike Lee and Dean Heller) to reject each one of the proposed amendments and thus give Obama exactly what he demanded: reform-free renewal of the law (while a few Democratic Senators have displayed genuine, sustained commitment to these issues, most Democrats who voted against FISA renewal yesterday did so symbolically and half-heartedly, knowing and not caring that they would lose as evidenced by the lack of an attempted filibuster).

In other words, Obama successfully relied on Senate Republicans (the ones his supporters depict as the Root of All Evil) along with a dozen of the most militaristic Democrats to ensure that he can continue to eavesdrop on Americans without any warrants, transparency or real oversight. That’s the standard coalition that has spent the last four years extending Bush/Cheney theories, eroding core liberties and entrenching endless militarism: Obama + the GOP caucus + Feinstein-type Democrats. As Michelle Richardson, the ACLU’s legislative counsel, put it to the Huffington Post: “I bet [Bush] is laughing his ass off.”

The ever-expanding power of the federal government to invade our lives is one reason I cringe at the potential results of the clamor for gun control. There is already so much surveillance and profiling going on, adding more layers of suppression doesn’t seem like something that would be used to actually keep average people safe from average gun violence, which we seem to be suddenly realizing happens every day in America, like 6 different people getting shot over a 24 hour period in Newark.

Before new legislation is considered, it might be important to ask why existing safety measures, like a federal database already in place is not being utilized:

A federal database with the names of mentally ill people barred from buying guns still lacks millions of records it needs to be effective. A new report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns points to gaps in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).

The problem is that 14 years after NICS was put in place, states still aren’t submitting all the required mental health records.

“I think that those states are doing a disservice to their citizens,” says Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was injured in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. “They’re not doing what they can to protect public safety and to keep firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous people.”

The problem may be one of prioritizing threat assessments correctly. While the systems in place to track people who shouldn’t have guns atrophies, new systems of local/state/federal integration are flourishing, as exemplified by the collaborative crackdown on Occupy Wall Street, brought to you by FOIA and alternative media like Democracy Now:

Juan González: We begin with a look at newly revealed documents that show the FBI monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement from its earliest days last year. Internal government records show Occupy was treated as a potential terrorism threat when organizing first began in August of 2011. Counterterrorism agents were used to track Occupy activities despite the internal acknowledgment that the movement opposed violent tactics. The monitoring expanded across the country as Occupy grew into a national movement, with FBI agents sharing information with businesses, local police agencies and universities. One FBI memo warned that Occupy could prove to be an “outlet” through which activists could exploit “general government dissatisfaction.” Although the documents provide no clear evidence of government infiltration, they do suggest the FBI used information from local law enforcement agencies gathered by someone observing Occupy activists on the ground.

So, just to be clear: actual militants who employ terrorism as a tactic in places like Syria get US government support, while a hodge-podge of domestic activists who gathered together in various encampments get the integrated jackboot from the US police state.

More from the link:

AMY GOODMAN: The heavily redacted FBI records were obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund through a Freedom of Information Act request. We invited the FBI to join us on the program to discuss the latest revelations, but they declined. Instead, spokesperson Paul Bresson issued a written statement saying, quote, “The FBI cautions against drawing conclusions from redacted FOIA documents.” He also said, quote, “It is law enforcement’s duty to use all lawful tools to protect their communities.”

Well, for more, we’re joined by Mara Verheyden-Hilliard. She’s executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, which obtained the documents showing how the FBI monitored Occupy Wall Street, joining us now from Washington, D.C.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Mara. Tell us what you found. We’ve got time. Tell us what you found in these documents.

MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD: Well, the documents, as you stated, show that the FBI and American intelligence agencies were monitoring and reporting on Occupy Wall Street before the first tent even went up in Zuccotti Park. The documents that we have been able to obtain show the FBI communicating with the New York Stock Exchange in August of 2011 about the upcoming Occupy demonstrations, about plans for the protests. It shows them meeting with or communicating with private businesses. And throughout the materials, there is repeated evidence of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, American intelligence agencies really working as a private intelligence arm for corporations, for Wall Street, for the banks, for the very entities that people were rising up to protest against.

If that ain’t corporate/state fascism, then I don’t know what is.

Anyway, while Congress tries to figure out how badly regular Americans are going to get fucked by the fiscal fist, their “progress” with FISA is getting predictably buried by corporate media, along with the cointelpro 2.0 mobilized against Occupy Wall Street (read Kevin Gosztola’s deconstruction of an AP story to understand the mechanics of manipulation)

My prediction for 2013: drones over the homeland.

God bless America!


  1. The find by the Partnership was serendipitious. They apparently received some duplicated fruits of an earlier broader FOIA request by another researcher who has yet to release his findings.

    The small number of documents the Partnership obtained and publicized reflects a much more benign involvement by the FBI than I would have imagined prior to the acquisition of these documents. While assuredly corporatist, it sure ain’t Jedgar’s FBI, when 20% or so of CP members were actual salaried agents, and anti-war protester groups were infiltrated by agents provocateur.

    I don’t think the Partnership, in its rush to print and appearances in the media, did a very good analysis of what little it had.

    All that said, I don’t disagree with Greenwald at all. The surveillance state has become a behemoth under that moron Bush and has grown even more under Obama.

  2. The NRA is currently pretending that it doesn’t want lunatics to have the ability to purchase and use firearms of substantial lethality.

    In fact 70% of its revenues derive from the firearms and outfitting industry. It doesn’t care if its guns are purchased by the Tim McVieghs, the Scott Roeders, the Eric Rudolphs, the James Edgar Holmeses, or the Seung-Hui Chos of the nation. All their money gets deposited to the same accounts as those receipts coming from “responsible” gun owners.

    In Alaska, ten years ago, the appeals court decided a case brought pro bono by the NRA, represented by its former Vice President, a guy so outrageous that the legislature overturned all precedents by refusing to confirm his appointment as Palin’s nominee for Attorney General.

    Alaska Court Rules on Concealed Gun
    Associated Press Writer
    January 10, 2002, 1:54 PM EST

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Judge Natalie Finn took away Timothy Wagner’s gun permit after he claimed someone had implanted a computer chip in his head and injected him with deadly chemicals.

    A state appeals court, though, ruled that Finn erred, saying Alaska’s concealed-carry law does not allow general concerns about mental illness to play a role in deciding whether someone should have a gun.

    Gun control advocates say the episode illustrates a dangerous accommodation to the gun lobby by Alaska’s Legislature. Gun owners, however, argue that Alaska’s law safeguards their Second Amendment rights and that the public is adequately protected.

    The Department of Public Safety has issued more than 18,000 such permits since 1995, when Alaskans were allowed to carry concealed handguns under restrictions that include an age limit and a gun-safety course.

    In 1998, the law was amended so that applicants did not have to prove they actually needed to carry a concealed weapon. Also, whether someone was mentally ill or had been treated for mental illness in the preceding five years was taken off the list of questions applicants were asked — a change cited by the appeals court last year in Wagner’s case.

    The Alaska law requires applicants to disclose only whether they have ever been committed to a mental hospital or found mentally incompetent by a court. “Yes” answers are grounds for denying a permit.

    “We wanted to remove the potential for arbitrary and capricious decision making on the part of the issuing agency,” said Brian Judy, Alaska liaison for the National Rifle Association.

    But Nancy Hwa, spokeswoman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, complained: “They are taking away the discretion of local law enforcement to make these decisions in the best interest of public safety.”

    Other gun-friendly states, including Texas, Montana and North Carolina, have much stricter standards when it comes to mental instability and concealed-carry permits, said Luis Tolley, the Brady Campaign’s state legislative director.

    In Montana, the law says a sheriff can deny a permit if there is reasonable cause to believe “the applicant is mentally ill, mentally defective or mentally disabled.”

    North Carolina applicants with a “physical or mental infirmity that prevent the safe handling of a handgun” can be denied a permit.

    Even Texas has a long, broad list under mental health, Tolley said. The restrictions include anyone that has been diagnosed with “a psychiatric
    disorder or condition” that is likely to cause impairment in judgment, mood, perception or intellectual ability.

    “Alaska seems more likely than many states to allow mentally ill people to carry guns in public,” Tolley said. “By establishing such a narrow definition, that is allowing an awful lot of people who are mentally ill to carry guns in public.”

    Wagner’s case began in 1998, when he entered the Alaska Mining and Diving store in Anchorage, dripping wet, and told a clerk he was trying to soak away chemicals in his body before they killed him. He also said a computer chip had been implanted in his head. Another employee overheard the conversation and called police.

    A background check revealed he had a permit to carry a concealed gun. When an officer asked Wagner if he had a gun with him, Wagner pointed to a briefcase next to him. In it was a loaded .357 and several bags of bullets.

    Alaska law requires permit holders who come in contact with police to tell officers immediately if they are carrying a concealed gun. Wagner was convicted of failing to do so.

    Finn sentenced Wagner to three years’ probation and ordered him not to possess guns during that period. She also ordered him to forfeit his concealed-gun permit until his mental illness was “either cured or improved.”

    The Department of Public Safety later revoked Wagner’s permit based on Finn’s decision.

    Efforts to reach Wagner were unsuccessful. He has no telephone listing in Anchorage. He told the court he was an “inventor” and designed guns and ammunition. The public defender’s office said it had not recently heard from him.

    Wagner had no prior convictions, according to court documents. After his arrest, police took him to a state mental hospital. Wagner testified that he was released after being interviewed.

    The amended law was enacted over the veto of (Democratic) Gov. Tony Knowles, who warned at the time that the measure could allow dangerous people to carry concealed weapons.

    The Department of Public Safety has taken a wait-and-see attitude in Wagner’s case. He has not again asked for his permit back and no court has ordered it returned, said Del Smith, deputy commissioner.

    “I think Finn was concerned about his behavior, and rightly so,” Smith said. “He made some pretty bizarre claims.”

  3. lizard19

    great talk on the surveillance state:

  4. petetalbot

    Interesting post, liz, but I don’t quite follow your disdain for the continued surveillance of U.S. citizens with your concern with the “clamor for gun control.”

    Modest changes in laws involving gun and ammo purchases could be a start in reducing gun violence. There are a lot of other issues that need to be addressed and gun violence isn’t going to disappear overnight, but limiting the arsenals available to everybody, everywhere, all the time might be a good beginning.

    I did notice that the libertarian site “Wake Up America” linked to your post, so you’re thoughts are resonating with some folks.

    • lizard19

      one of the most vocal advocates for gun control is Bloomberg, who has presided over the NYPD’s evolution into a spying paramilitary organization available for hire by private enterprise.

      Bloomberg was one of the first politicians to hit the cable channels after the Sandy Hook massacre.

      while I can see the practicality of his specific suggestions, I can also see the self-promotion involved. this from the New Yorker link:

      Tucked behind all of his policy recommendations, Bloomberg reveals another reason for his recent national appearances: congratulating himself on reducing crime in New York City. He has called his city “the safest big city in the nation” and has said, “we’re on course to record the fewest homicides in modern memory.” However the gun-control debate continues, Bloomberg will be seen as one of the leaders of the movement to limit access to guns.

      the article goes on to discuss one of the strategies Bloomberg’s NYPD have utilized, stop and frisk:

      New York is currently facing two class-action lawsuits that challenge the police department’s lawfulness in fighting crime with its stop-and-frisk program, which critics say targets minorities and infringes on their constitutional rights. The number of New Yorkers stopped under this program who actually are found guilty of any crime—only twelve per cent of stops lead to either summons or arrests and only two per cent find contraband—not only bolster the claims of racial profiling but also seriously question the program’s effectiveness. About eighty-four per cent of the New Yorkers stopped and frisked are Black or Latino; but that eight-four per cent of stops is no more likely to yield an arrest or proof of criminal activity than the nine per cent of Whites stopped owing to the program. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, eighty-eight per cent of the nearly seven hundred thousand stops in 2011 resulted in no further action. Only six per cent resulted in arrests.

      I just hope as personal energy and political capital is spent on the gun control issue, we don’t allow politicians like Bloomberg to justify programs that seriously infringe on constitutionally protected rights and are also NOT effective.

      • Bloomberg inherited statutory gun control in NYC. The Sullivan Act, more commonly known as the Sullivan Law, is 101 years old. I can testify from personal experience that it has severely constricted the proliferation of handguns in New York City, and no doubt sharply reduced the rate of homicide and mass killings.

        He also inherited the war on drugs, but NYC has recently become quite reasonable, in contrast to the bulk of jurisdictions in the U.S., by making the possession of small amount of marijuana no longer a cause for a criminal arrest.

        He inherited “stop and frisk” as well, a major part of the war on squeegee men initiated by Rudy “9/11” Guliani and Rudy’s corrupt police commissioner, Bernie Kerick, but going back to the days of my youth in the ’50s and no doubt long before then.

        Bloomberg has progressive instincts. I can’t think of another billionaire who has so visibly abandoned the Republican party.

        All that said, there’s lots of room of improvement, evidenced by the maltreatment of peaceful Occupy Wall Street protesters as well as the continuation of “stop and frisk.”

        I’m only suggesting a bit of perspective.

        Happy New Year!

        • lizard19

          I appreciate your perspective, and I try to not be too rigid with my own perspective, but where you see “maltreatment” of protesters, I see a system of repression that is becoming more militarized, sophisticated, and integrated with corporate interests. from the link:

          A nontransparent program called “Paid Detail Unit” has been set up so that private corporations are actually employing NYPD officers, who are in uniform and armed. The difference is that when these “public servants” are on the payroll of the banks, they are no longer serving you and the impartial rule of law in your city – despite what their uniform and badge imply.

          at the very least, it would be helpful if the cops could wear a TEAM WALL STREET jersey or something when they’re being employed by bankers, so it’s clear who they are actually serving and protecting.

          • It’s been quite commonplace for a long time in the U.S. for non-public actors to employ police. Some were off duty, moonlighting. Some were actually employed by police with non-public entities being charged for the extra services. This could be anything from sporting events to conventions.

            When Erik Rudolph bombed a Birmingham abortion clinic, he killed an off-duty policeman, for instance.

            The problem now is that the police are being ever more frequently used to represent private for-profit business interests. This can be to protect individuals or corporations who are clearly not acting in the public interest from protests of their behavior, creating a massive First Amendment issue. As Hodai points out in his article today, and Wolf touched on less so in her Guardian piece, there is also a reciprocity of intelligence gathering between business and law enforcement that is extremely upsetting. It’s more than simple sharing.


  5. Reporter Beau Hodai, mentioned yesterday, and PR Watch (published by the Center for Media and Democracy) put the first of his stories on line today. There is much more to come:

    There isn’t a true conflict between “gun control” and erosion of civil liberties and the surveillance state. It is impossible to eliminate the superabundance of weapons in this country.

    However, there can and should be a ban against weapons of extraordinary lethality, silencers, extended magazines for auto or semi-auto weapons, etc., and transfers of weapons should be registered and background checks instituted at gun shows.

    All of those common sense interventions, including the proliferation of silencers, are being fought against by the NRA.

  6. lizard19

    in the last post it was Alex Jones, in this post it’s Wake Up America.

    guilt by association I guess.

  7. lizard19

    according to FOIA obtained documents, it looks like the FBI wasn’t all that concerned that some group wanted to assassinate OWS members with “suppressed sniper fire.”

  8. Pogo Possum

    It appears the Feds may have had good reasons to be monitoring the Occupy Rape Camps, Lizard:

    “Greenwich Village couple busted with cache of weapons, bomb making explosives

    The privileged daughter of a prominent city doctor, and her boyfriend — a Harvard grad and Occupy Wall Street activist — have been busted for allegedly having a cache of weapons and a bombmaking explosive in their Greenwich Village apartment.
    Morgan Gliedman — who is nine-months pregnant — and her baby daddy, Aaron Greene, 31, also had instructions on making bombs, including a stack of papers with a cover sheet titled, “The Terrorist Encyclopedia,’’ sources told The Post yesterday.

    ….. Cops also allegedly uncovered papers about creating homemade booby traps, improvised submachine guns, and various handwritten notebooks containing chemical formulas.”

    • lizard19

      and how was this discovered? cops were investigating alleged credit card theft. and I’m sure they had a warrant to search the house.

      but I don’t think we need to worry about these “privileged” hippie terrorists getting in too much trouble. Mommy and Daddy will be able to afford expensive lawyers.

      • Pogo Possum

        Sounds like you are in denial, Liz, just like a lot of Occupiers. In spite of the fairytale spin, the Occupy movement attracted a lot of groups including rapists, child molesters, thieves, drug dealers, anarchists, and privileged budding terrorists. They were all embraced by the Movement to shore up the numbers until they were caught, revealed or arrested then everyone pretended they weren’t really part of the group in the first place to protect the fairytail image. There was a reason the police and feds monitored the Occupy movement. Inspite of these two being “privilaged” (didn’t the OWS have a campsite area set aside just for the rich protestors) you own ’em.

        • Steve W

          Haha, there’s a socialist under your bed dude. A black socialist under your bed. A black Spanish speaking socialist under your bed!

          What a crank! Lay off the booze and the speed, it’s making you really paranoid.

          How is Mitt? Ha ha ha ha.

          Pogo – Still wrong in 2013.

          Happy New Year Crazy Clown!

        • lizard19

          ok Pogo, just as long as you also support Napolitano’s Homeland Security department tracking the threat posed by returning US soldiers.

          • Pogo Possum

            I would never compare the Rape Camp protesters to US soldiers.

            • Steve W

              So the US soldiers I met at Occupy were cool? Good, I thought so too!

              How many different Occupy encampments did you go and spend time at, Pogo?

            • lizard19

              of course you wouldn’t, because doing so would defy your apparent partisan blinders.

              if you’re really all gung-ho about justifying surveillance, Pogo, I would think the Ft. Hood shooting and Sikh Temple shooting should be reason enough, not to mention the Oklahoma City terrorist attack.

              obviously, to keep America safe (and to be equitable in the abusive application of the police state) it would make sense to view returning soldiers as potential terrorists, especially the right-wing extremists kind who probably post their anti-government views on Facebook, and who may have enlisted just to get the US taxpayer-funded training.

              let me put it this way:

              • Pogo Possum

                OK……..Now I understand. You are now supporting Napolitano’s Homeland Security department tracking the threat posed by returning US soldiers.

              • lizard19

                no, I am not. but if you don’t, then it exposes your support of selective surveillance, not based on actual threat, but ideology.

              • Pogo Possum

                Fortunately, the FBI considers:

                ………….a “cache of weapons and a bombmaking explosive” , “instructions on making bombs, including a stack of papers with a cover sheet titled, “The Terrorist Encyclopedia,’’ ” , “papers about creating homemade booby traps, improvised submachine guns, and various handwritten notebooks containing chemical formulas.”…………….

                possessed by these Occupy participants as a threat. I am just happy they stumbled on to them before they could kill someone.

              • Pogo Possum

                On a more friendly note, Liz……….Happy New Year to you and to your family. As the Irish would say:

                ‘Go mbeire muid beo ar an am seo arís.’
                May we be alive at this time next year.

            • Still channeling Breitbart, it appears.

              The frog and the scorpion, I expect.

              But no, you’re Pogo.

              Come to think of it, you actually resemble a few of Pogo’s less appealing associates more than that unassuming possum.

              Simple J. Malarkey? Howland Owl? I’m guessing you’re a member of the Jack Acid Society.

              “Rape camps,” indeed.

  9. Channeling Breitbart, are we?

  10. cindy

    All I have to say is you take the guns away from the law abiding citizens what do you have? A lot more criminals with guns and the ability to kill the defenseless. Are you people ignorant or just plain stupid and blind and greedy or just killers yourself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My belief is that you are morbid killers yourself you just can pull the trigger, you have to have someone to do it for you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Damn! Now you’ve gone and used up our monthly ration of exclamation points.

      What’s the NRA definition of “law abiding citizens?”

      That would be someone who has yet to be convicted of murder. (Think George Zimmerman.)

      • Pogo Possum

        Debs…….your comments remind me of a line Winston Churchill once said about a critic with a knack for addressing others in a rude, nonsensical and childish manner.

        “You have the gift of compressing the largest amount of words into the smallest amount of thought.”

        This isn’t the Cowgirl site.

        • Surely you can come up with a better response than that, even if you do have to pilfer a quote.

  11. lizard19

    Pogo, I’m going to respond down here.

    first, we can agree that this trustifarian couple should be prosecuted, and that it’s a good thing they were caught before they hurt someone.

    the problem I have is that you can’t seem to step back from the hyperbole of “rape camps” to see that there is a level of surveillance happening against OWS that is deeply disturbing, and it’s just as disturbing when it’s directed at other broad demographic groups, like soldiers.

    for example, what happened to Brandon Raub, a former marine.

    I would suggest it’s worth examining the methods of state repression without letting the annoyance you may harbor against the message and the messengers cloud your judgement.

    anyway, I appreciate the comments, Pogo, and happy new year to you as well.

  1. 1 FISA, Gun Control, And Occupy Wall Street « 4&20 blackbirds | PAULitics.US – Wake Up America

    […] FISA, Gun Control, And Occupy Wall Street « 4&20 blackbirds […]

  2. 2 Senate Extends Warrantless Wiretapping 5 More Years Under FISA « Occupy Ventura

    […] […]

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