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How Expansive Is FBI Spying?
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Cato Institute Research Fellow Patrick Eddington recently filed several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to find out if the Federal Bureau of Investigation ever conducted surveillance of several organizations dealing with government policy, including my Campaign for Liberty. Based on the FBI’s response, Campaign for Liberty and other organizations, including the Cato institute and the Reason Foundation, may have been subjected to FBI surveillance or other data collection.

I say “may have been” because the FBI gave Mr. Eddington a “Glomar response” to his FOIA requests pertaining to these organizations. A Glomar response is where an agency says it can “neither confirm nor deny” involvement in a particular activity. Glomar was a salvage ship the Central Intelligence Agency used to recover a sunken Soviet submarine in the 1970s. In response to a FOIA request by Rolling Stone magazine, the CIA claimed that just confirming or denying the Glomar’s involvement in the salvage operation would somehow damage national security. A federal court agreed with the agency, giving federal bureaucrats, and even local police departments, a new way to avoid giving direct answers.

The Glomar response means these organizations may have been, and may still be, subjected to federal surveillance. As Mr. Eddington told Reason magazine, “We know for a fact that Glomar invocations have been used to conceal actual, ongoing activities, and we also know that they’re not passing out Glomars like candy.”

Protecting the right of individuals to join together in groups to influence government policy is at the very heart of the First Amendment. Therefore, the FBI subjecting such groups to surveillance can violate the constitutional rights of everyone involved with the groups.

The FBI has a long history of targeting Americans whose political beliefs and activities threaten the FBI’s power or the power of influential politicians. The then-named Bureau of Investigation participated in the crackdown on people suspected of being communists in the post-World War I “Red Scare.” The anti-communist crackdown was headed by a young agent named J. Edgar Hoover who went on to become FBI director, a position he held until his death. Hoover kept and expanded his power by using the FBI to collect blackmail material on people including politicians.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the FBI spied on supporters of the America First movement, including several Congress members. Two of the most famous examples of FBI targeting individuals based on their political activities are the harassment of Martin Luther King Jr. and the COINTELPRO program. COINTELPRO was an organized effort to spy on and actively disrupt “subversive” organizations, including antiwar groups

COINTELPRO officially ended in the 1970s. However, the FBI still targets individuals and organizations it considers “subversive,” including antiwar groups and citizen militias.

Congress must hold hearings to determine if the FBI is currently using unconstitutional methods to “monitor” any organizations based on their beliefs. Congress must then take whatever steps necessary to ensure that no Americans are ever again targeted for surveillance because of their political beliefs and activities.

(Republished from The Ron Paul Institute by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: COINTELPRO, Government Surveillance 
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  1. It would be nice to hear from an insider what “targeting” amounts to and whether people are actually being spied on. Likewise it would be nice to know about FISA abuses going back, since it appears the problem is partly with the judges being happy to grant warrants on flimsy grounds rather than being innocent victims of deception.

    I guess Ron Paul doesn’t know any insiders. Neither does anyone else. So we must be content with vague worrying.

  2. All the information that can possibly be collected on Americans (and much of the rest of the developed world) is being collected. The ability to analyze all this data is way behind the ability to collect, but the gap is closing fast. It will not be too much longer before it will be possible to track almost everyone almost everywhere in real time. There is no need for that, but the ability will exist.

    From Ring doorbell cameras, to Alexa and Siri, to every smartphone and computer, to every smart tv, to every public camera, red light camera, cop car with a camera, camera on a building, in a parking lot, and on and on and on. They have all your tax and property records, almost all of your purchases. They know (or can find out if interested) your habits, likes, dislikes, partners, enemies, friends, medial issues, quirks, foibles, strengths and weaknesses. Everybody who collects this info from Visa and Master Card to your insurance company, utility supplier, auto mechanic, doctor, dentist, internet service company, professional organization, veterinarian, you name it, they all run the data through a pipe copied by Big Brother, and (likely, soon to be surely) stored on a server that Big Brother can look at any time, with full access.
    Is Big Bro watching you? Yes. Do you qualify for the effort to specially concentrate on and analyze your life, does Big Bro find you to be interesting, or a threat? Probably not. Are you completely screwed if he does? Yep. Will this latent threat grow to certainty in the near (5-10 years, tops) future? Absolutely. Is there anything you can do? No, not really. Doug Casey says you an move to Argentina or Uruguay or Singapore, but all you do is gather even more attention if that is your move. If he Big Bros. want you, you will be had. Maybe if you go completely of grid in the Amazon rain forest you can live “free”, but that ain’t much of a living.

    • Agree: Achmed E. Newman
  3. onebornfree says: • Website

    “Congress must hold hearings to determine if the FBI is currently using unconstitutional methods to “monitor” any organizations based on their beliefs. ”

    Yeah right! Like that’s ever gonna happen!

    In the first place, there is nothing even remotely “constitutional” about the FBI, fer cryin’ out loud!

    And expecting the crooks in Congress to do anything about the FBI makes about as much sense as me praying for a date with Angelina Jolie ! 😜

    The FBI must simply be completely “dismantled”- and the sooner the better, [along with 100o’s of other entirely unconstitutional federal agencies].

    “Regards” onebornfree

  4. Well, the US government asked the telephone switching system manufacturers for the capability to monitor international phone calls via the ingrained service observation capabilities of the switch. This was done so that they could see if international calls were involved with drug trafficking. Mind you, this was being done without any court warrants. That was done in the 1990s.

    As for widespread monitoring, in Chicago this was done underground downtown near the Prudential building. There used to be room there with communications cables going in there with an armed person on duty there.

  5. The Glomar response means these organizations may have been, and may still be, subjected to federal surveillance

    I’m afraid I have to disagree.
    The response means that you are still under surveillance, but we are not going to tell you that.

  6. KenH says:

    However, the FBI still targets individuals and organizations it considers “subversive,” including antiwar groups and citizen militias.

    The FBI is a rogue agency that now poses a threat to the civil liberties of Americans. It’s now the American NKVD.

    The long march strategy has no installed leftists throughout its leadership cadre and many of its rank and file agents. It’s essentially just an appendage of the Democrat party as we saw with Hillary’s servergate and Russiagate. Its nefarious agenda also seems to align with the ADL but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

    The FBI should be completely barred from spying on Americans engaged in Constitutionally protected activities and they should not have the right to arbitrarily declare a groups or individuals “subversive”. In fact, if the FBI can’t act in the interest of the American people and stop being hyper partisan then it shouldn’t exist at all.

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