"The 'TEA Party' movement is an unhealthy mutation from public dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s economic policies."
— David Axelrod, Senior White House Adviser, April 2009
Since when is free speech, as personified by the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party grass-roots citizens movement, “unhealthy”? Since the leftward tilt of federal agencies accelerated during the first 100 days of the Barack Obama presidency.
Consider, for instance, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has moved far to the left on the political spectrum in record time under Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Consider also the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The once fabled and incorruptible FBI is showing signs of becoming a mere “yes man” for the Obama administration.
Evidence for the yes-man charge is found in a recent report by the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis Assessment (I&A), entitled, "Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment." The report names law-abiding U.S. citizens, who choose not to support the liberal agenda of the Obama administration, as prime subjects for FBI surveillance.
This Obama enemies list is a lengthy one, encompassing all “single-issue” advocates, including those who are pro-life, those who are gun owners, those who oppose illegal immigration, those who oppose “same -sex marriages” (such as Miss California), those who support third-party candidates, those who criticize free trade agreements, and, believe it or not, those military returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and those veterans still around.
A citizen-taxpayer who falls into several of these categories is even more likely to be targeted. The FBI appears to be following, in lockstep, the DHS agenda, in complete disregard for the constitutional rights of the citizenry. Lest the DHS, A&I, DOJ, and FBI forget, the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms, the right to peaceful assembly, and free speech.
A similar DHS report, also prepared by the I&A, was withdrawn within hours of its release. Dated March 26, 2009, and entitled, “Domestic Extremism Lexicon,” it was a dictionary of political incorrectness. Its senior author was transferred to the DHS Office of the Director of National Intelligence, perhaps to prepare more and more anti-citizen reports.
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has chosen to stand with those who would denigrate U.S. citizens by failing to denounce the DHS "Rightwing Extremism" report. Instead he actively supports the goals of this controversial DHS report as well as those of the withdrawn DHS "Lexicon." The question arises, Who is left on the left to watch those foreign nationals who have sworn to destroy the United States?
No congressional investigation is underway regarding the origins of the DHS report or the withdrawn DHS "Lexicon." Apparently the DHS guidelines for these reports were White House approved.
The worst aspect of this sad state of affairs is that the FBI historically has been a strong, disciplined, and effective bureau that lived up to its motto of “Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity.” For a century, countless books, articles, news accounts, movies, radio, and television shows have documented the Bureau as one of the world’s leading investigatory agencies. Now in 100 days, its proud history of crime fighting, spy-catching, civil-rights protecting, and domestic intelligence-gathering has been downgraded to political pandering and bureaucratic one-upmanship.
Extremists on the far left and on the far right have long found fault with the FBI for alleged privacy intrusions, especially when agents investigated wrong-doing by groups such as the U.S. Communist Party and the Ku Klux Klan. Ask any federal prosecutor, FBI agents were renowned for the quality of their background work in obtaining criminal convictions. But covering taxpayer protests? Come on.
The DHS "Rightwing Extremism" report admits that the I&A has no specific information that domestic rightwing terrorists (a term used in the report despite Napolitano’s new-think definition of terrorism as “man-caused disasters”) currently plan acts of violence. The report only suggests that “the election of the first African-American president presents unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.”
Armed with this baseless and biased assessment, the FBI under Mueller swung into action to place the Tax Day TEA Parties of April 15, 2009, under federal surveillance.
Mueller alerted FBI field offices throughout the United States to verify the date, time, location, and organizers of each TEA Party within their jurisdiction and to supply that information to seat of government, that is, FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. This request was issued two weeks before the DHS report was leaked to the California talk show.
Subsequently on April 6, 2009, FBI Headquarters advised its field offices to conduct cover surveillance and data collection of the protestors attending each TEA Party. The director’s advisory suggested that the surveillances were to be discreet and outside the purview of local law enforcement.
At the same time, the official FBI Web site carried the National Terror Suspect Watchlist, including the Most Wanted Terrorists, 24 of whom are foreign nationals, ranging from Osama bin Laden through Abdelkarim Hussein Mohamed Al-Nasser. Each person on the Most Wanted List is under indictment by federal grand juries in the United States. Not one of them was a right-wing extremist, and not one of them would waste their time attending a TEA Party.
The FBI Web site also posts the Ten Most Wanted Domestic Terrorists, again all of them under indictment by federal grand juries. At the top of the list is Ronald Stanley Bridgeforth, a member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA) wanted for killing a police officer and may be traveling in Africa. The other Top Ten include two more BLA members, several Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) members, a member of the May 19th Communist Organization, and several other domestic terrorists, among them Puerto Rican nationalists. All of them are to be considered armed and dangerous.
Note that the Ten Most Wanted domestic terrorists all lean left of center, with not a rightwing terrorist or TEA Party taxpayer among them.
The FBI, by carrying out the DHS directives regarding surveillance of each TEA Party held in March and April, 2009, diverted valuable resources, and more will be needed to cover each TEA Party being planned for the Fourth of July. The FBI owes U.S. taxpayers a detailed accounting of the human resources and monetary expenses required by TEA Party surveillances. President Obama has pledged transparency.
It is time to reassign FBI resources from TEA Party surveillances to updating the National Terror Suspect Watchlist. Mueller and his agency continue, however, to show signs of political correctness. Has the Obama administration so intimidated federal career officials that agencies, such as the FBI, have lost all sense of direction?
Federal resources needed to combat Islamist terrorists are being wasted spying on law-obeying, taxpaying citizens. Enemy list surveillances are the building stones of a dictatorship. U.S. citizens, awake! Do not let future historians say that this all happened while we slept.
James H. Walsh is a former federal prosecutor and former Associate General Counsel of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice.
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