Any time law enforcement is given expanded powers for some ostensible purpose, you can count on those new police state powers being used for purposes other than the avowed purpose of the original legislation. A good example is counter-terrorism legislation.
The U.S. government already had an animus against the anti-globalization movement, long before the September 11 attacks. After the Seattle demonstrations in December 1999, it replaced the militia/constitutionalist movement as the primary target of federal law enforcement. With a public much more disposed to give federal “authorities” the benefit of the doubt after 9-11, and with the formal extension of police state powers including the USA PATRIOT Act and the creation of Homeland Security, it’s not surprising that the feds interpreted their increased powers to “fight terrorism” broadly enough to include going after the anti-globalists.
An instructive example is the career of John Timoney, police commissioner in Philadelphia during the 2000 GOP convention. According to Paul Rosenberg, whose “The Empire Strikes Back: Police Repression of Protest from Seattle to L.A.” recounted incidents of police repression at anti-globalization demonstrations from Seattle through late 2000, Timoney had been one of the most fiendishly creative local law enforcement officials to date in unwarranted surveillance of activists, preemptive mass arrests of organizers before the beginning of demonstrations on every imaginable kind of trumped-up charge, and brutal police tactics against demonstrators. His trumped-up charges to take organizers out of action included classifying gaspacho as homemade pepper spray, and the rags from painting marionettes as raw material for molotov cocktails.
Timoney worked hand-in-glove with then Governor Tom Ridge, who provided political cover for the former’s wicked impersonation of Mayor Daley ca. 1968.
From the Seattle demo on, Timoney had had a personal vendetta against the anti-globalization movement reminiscent of police Red-baiting against Wobblies and socialists during the War Hysteria of WWI, or the local “Red Squads” of the 1920s. He was a fanatical proponent of using the RICO statutes to suppress the anti-globalization movement on “racketeering” charges.
With the nomination of Ridge to Homeland Security, Timoney was personally associated with the highest circles in federal law enforcement. He found time to serve as Miami police chief, meanwhile, outdoing his Philadelphia performance to reach new levels of police brutality during the anti-FTAA demonstrations in 2003. Since Ridge’s replacement, Timoney has attached himself like a leech to the growing security-industrial complex, the crony capitalist bonanza where the national security state intersects with “private” contractors, as described by Naomi Klein in “Shock Therapy.”
If you think Timoney was a fluke, think again. He was representative of the broad nexus where “counter-terrorism” overlaps with the drug war, the suppression of anti-globalist activism, and an increasingly draconian federal role in enforcing so-called “intellectual property.”
I recently across another example — although much more civil and personable one than Timoney — of the same coalition of law enforcement interests: Col. Jennifer Hesterman (USAF, retired). Her USAF career involved work as an analyst on issues of international terrorism, and particularly how international criminal activity like the drug trade and “intellectual property crime” contributed to it. On her personal blog (Counter Terror Forum), she recently commented on the demonstrations at the G-20 meeting in Toronto in the context of the blog’s broad focus on counter-terrorism issues. (No word, as far as I could see, on the comparative rates of violence and lawlessness between the cops and demonstrators; compared to the criminal thuggery of those in uniform, the demonstrators in my opinion were strictly small-time.)
Using Col. Hesterman’s work as a jumping-off point, I’ll be writing some follow-up columns on Homeland Security’s mission creep into the War on Drug and the Copyright Nazis’ war on file-sharing.
In the meantime, just bear in mind that if the primary image that comes to your mind when you hear the words “fighting terrorism” is Osama Bin Laden and the top leadership of Al Qaeda, you have a very different mindset from the people actually running our so-called war on terror. For those people, the boundary between Bin Laden and a guy selling a lid of weed, somebody committing civil disobedience and minor property damage at an anti-G20 demonstration, and somebody downloading a song at The Pirate Bay, is — let’s just say — quite indistinct.
If you give those people a big hammer, they’ll never stop finding new nails.