Why would the attorney general of the United States responsible for federal law enforcement not testify under oath about America’s domestic spying program? The answers lie in his disingenuous legal arguments for the justification of the program itself. He states that Congress already granted the President the authority to spy on American citizens when it authorized the war in Afghanistan. Fascinating, especially as it is clear that Congress did not grant that authority. Gonzalez then makes the claim that the President has “inherent power as commander in chief” to spy on American citizens. Also a fascinating argument espoused by an administration that claims to want judges who adhere to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. A strict reading of the Constitution, a Constitution that entrusts limited power on the Federal government, would suggest that the founders did not empower the executive to spy on American citizens. The Bush administration in purposely circumventing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)(which requires a judicial warrant showing probable cause before wire tapping American citizens) may have committed a crime. No wonder the republicans did not want Gonzalez under oath. They did not want him subject to perjury.
The FISA act was implemented after the Church Committee hearing of the late 1970‘s which exposed America to the criminal actions of the FBI, CIA and NSA in its counter intelligence activities within the United States during the 1960’s and 1970’s, infiltrating and spying on Civil Rights organizations, such as SNCC, Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam and anti-War organizations.
One such domestic spying program was COINTELPRO, short for Counter Intelligence Program, begun in the mid 1960’s initiated by the FBI to “neutralize” what the FBI called “Black Nationalist Hate Groups”. The program was to prevent the unification of militant Black Nationalist groups and to weaken the power of their leaders in order to reduce that probability, as well as discredit the groups to reduce their support and growth. In September of 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described the Black Panthers as “The greatest threat to the internal security of the country,” and within the year the Black Panther Party had become the primary focus of COINTELPRO, becoming the primary target of the domestic spying.
As part of there tactics they infiltrated the organizations, fostered violence and distrust between black organizations and being implicated in violence itself. The most notorious of such actions involved a Chicago Police raid of the home of the charismatic Panther organizer Fred Hampton on December 4, 1969. The raid had been orchestrated by the police in conjunction with the FBI. In the raid Hampton was assassinated by the police.
Americans should let the lessons of COINTELPRO be a warning. What has begun as an investigation of terrorist will undoubtedly turn into an investigation of those who dissent, from peace activist made up of soccer moms to media organizations that do not fall in line to Congressmen who question the Constitutionality of such actions to YOU.
For more information on the domestic spying of American Citizens during the 1960’s and 1970’s review:
The National Security Agency Surveillance Affecting Americans Report to U.S Senate Intelligence Committee April 23, 1976 http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/churchfinalreportIIIj.htm
The FBI’s Action Program To Destroy The Black Panther Party Report to U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities April 23, 1976 http://www.icdc.com/~paulwolf/cointelpro/churchfinalreportIIIc.htm