the perp baked me a yummy cupcakeIn his 2002 book Secrecy Wars, the late poli-sci professor Philip Melanson described FBI records from the Cold War era that he had obtained through use of the Freedom of Information Act. Serious-as-a-heart-attack government agents spent those grim years watching television, Melanson reported, scrutinizing the talk shows to see if the likes of Zsa Zsa and Eddie Albert were broadcasting sneaky comsymp. The feds, shrewdly alert to any avenue of attack, watched Harry Belafonte like a hawk: "[Source deleted] viewed Belafonte's emceeing of the Johnny Carson show last night," read one report. "Belafonte has sufficient information of a blackmail nature on Bobby Kennedy that will result in Kennedy reacting as a puppet to Peking direction in the coming presidential campaign."
If only J. Edgar Hoover had had TiVo, ladies and gentlemen. Think how much faster we could have taken down the Soviets and the ChiComms, being able to put the Johnny Carson show on "pause" for closer analysis.
And this is my reaction to the revelation that the NYPD operated an extensive spy network to keep an eye on people suspected to harbor anti-Republican sympathies ahead of the 2004 GOP convention in New York City. Thank god they nailed that art student who made a bicycle that sprayed anti-Republican slogans on the sidewalk in water-soluble chalk. Thank god you can't start an Elderly Hippies Against War chapter without triggering a RICO investigation, or whatever. Imagine if a group of anti-war church ladies were to meet in a basement rec room, down at the local Lutheran terrorist headquarters, without the state keeping a close eye on them. I hope to god we're wiretapping every professor at Oberlin and Pitzer, because they probably mean to nuke the District of Columbia. They read books. Need I say more?
I've said this before, and I'll just keep saying it: The unrestrained state will not protect you. Big Brother is invariably an idiot, at least as ridiculous as he is menacing. Formal organizations centered on the premise of state security will always tend to muddle around in the picayune. They will always make themselves look useful by picking the low-hanging fruit, which allows them to generate more look-we're-doing-something paper than any difficult, sustained operation against a serious anti-state organization. From today's story on the NYPD intelligence effort, with emphasis added:
They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department’s Intelligence Division. Other investigators mined Internet sites and chat rooms.The NYPD's intelligence division proved to be really good at monitoring organizations that made their intentions known in advance on websites or through casual exchanges of email with strangers and newcomers. If this doesn't make you laugh out loud, there's nothing I can say to explain it to you.
From these operations, run by the department’s “R.N.C. Intelligence Squad,” the police identified a handful of groups and individuals who expressed interest in creating havoc during the convention, as well as some who used Web sites to urge or predict violence.