By Glenn Greenwald | The Guardian | March 19, 2013 | [Original Article]
One of the major governmental abuses denounced by the 1976 final report of the Church Committee was the FBI's domestic counter intelligence programs (COINTELPRO). Under that program, the FBI targeted political groups and individuals it deemed subversive and dangerous - including civil rights activists (such as the NAACP and Martin Luther King), black nationalist movements, socialist and communist organizations, anti-war protesters, and various right-wing groups - and infiltrated them with agents who, among other things, attempted to manipulate members into agreeing to commit criminal acts so that the FBI could arrest and prosecute them. This program was exposed only because a left-wing group, the so-called "Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI", broke into an FBI office in Pennsylvania, stole the files relating to the program, and sent them to various newspapers...
Like most abusive post-9/11 trends, this tactic is now stronger than ever: "there have been 138 terrorism or national security prosecutions involving informants since 2001, and more than a third of those have occurred in the past three years."
As common as this tactic has become, it's vital to look at particularly egregious cases to see what is really at play. This week, a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 decision, affirmed the 2005 "material support" conviction of US-born Hamid Hayat, and it's one of the worst yet most illustrative cases yet (that's US justice: he was convicted 8 years ago, and his appeal is only now decided). Hayat was convicted for allegedly having attended "a terrorist training camp" when he was 19 years old. In the Sacramento Bee this week, Stanford Law Professor Shirin Sinnar wrote: "Even among anticipatory prosecutions, this case stands out for the fragility of the government's case and the rank taint of prejudice, raising the haunting prospect that a man who had done nothing was convicted for a violent state of mind."
Notably, the dissenting judge was A. Wallace Tashima, the first Japanese-American appointed to the federal bench; he was imprisoned during World War II in an internment camp in Arizona. As Professor Sinnar observed: "Perhaps as a Japanese American who was interned as a child, he remembered well the danger of preventative security measures founded on group-based judgments." In dissent, Judge Tashima wrote: "This case is a stark demonstration of the unsettling and untoward consequences of the government's use of anticipatory prosecution as a weapon in the 'war on terrorism.'" [Read More...]