Thursday, December 22, 2005

Culture of government.

Spying on citizens is NOT just a hobby of Dubya's. NYTimes today reports:
December 22, 2005

Police Infiltrate Protests, Videotapes Show

Undercover New York City police officers have conducted covert surveillance in the last 16 months of people protesting the Iraq war, bicycle riders taking part in mass rallies and even mourners at a street vigil for a cyclist killed in an accident, a series of videotapes show.

In glimpses and in glaring detail, the videotape images reveal the robust presence of disguised officers or others working with them at seven public gatherings since August 2004.

The officers hoist protest signs. They hold flowers with mourners. They ride in bicycle events. At the vigil for the cyclist, an officer in biking gear wore a button that said, "I am a shameless agitator." She also carried a camera and videotaped the roughly 15 people present.

Beyond collecting information, some of the undercover officers or their associates are seen on the tape having influence on events. At a demonstration last year during the Republican National Convention, the sham arrest of a man secretly working with the police led to a bruising confrontation between officers in riot gear and bystanders.

Until Sept. 11, the secret monitoring of events where people expressed their opinions was among the most tightly limited of police powers.

Provided with images from the tape, the Police Department's chief spokesman, Paul J. Browne, did not dispute that they showed officers at work but said that disguised officers had always attended such gatherings - not to investigate political activities but to keep order and protect free speech. Activists, however, say that police officers masquerading as protesters and bicycle riders distort their messages and provoke trouble.

[for all the bruising their reputation as the "paper of record" has sustained, I heard it there first and it costs them to get and report the stories so I won't copy the whole article here.]

That is pretty disturbing. We aren't talking about Mississippi or Idaho here but an east coast blue state bastion. News like that might serve to nudge susceptible persons towards paranoia. What it wakes in me is the perception that we have suffered a reversion, a culture change, in our government at many levels that takes us back toward McCarthyism.

I know, given where I blog, that I am preaching to the converted but scary stuff like this calls for redoubled effort to stem this culture change: we need regime change before political freedom as I understand it erodes to mere lip service and labels pasted over state run spying, entrapment and the fostering of fear.

I should not need such reminders...I'm the one who said "our children will not live in the political climate we intended but the climate we tolerated"

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