The Hunt for Red Menace: - 10

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Reagan and the New Right

Unleashing the FBI

Reviving the Witch Hunt

Rehabilitating COINTELPRO

The Return of the Thought Police

Reagan Takes Office

When Ronald Reagan took office in 1980, he arrived with a set of assumptions regarding internal subversion which he had developed and refined while leading a purge of alleged communists in Hollywood as head of the Screen Actors Guild in the 1950's. Like Ronald Reagan, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had cast itself in a central role during the 1950's political witch hunts, as had a network of right-wing political vigilantes who ferreted out subversion and publicized their findings in newsletters such as "Red Channels," which identified those it felt belonged on the Hollywood blacklist.

Reagan facilitated a concerted and successful attempt by the intelligence agencies and their counter-subversion allies to abolish the reforms which had restrained them during the late 1970's. The early 1980's also saw tremendous growth in the private security industry coupled with an authorization for the contracting of intelligence investigations to private firms outside the reach of Congressional oversight and laws protecting privacy. The FBI and other agencies also redefined the terms "terrorism" and "foreign intelligence" to reflect a broad and self-serving interpretation; and then argued their investigations into social change groups met the terms of specific legal language allowing the FBI greater investigative latitude in probes involving political violence and foreign spying. The result was that by 1983, FBI agents and private security specialists had launched broad intrusions into the lives of ordinary citizens engaged in otherwise legal activities.

Ronald Reagan showed his support for counter-subversion investigations when, on taking office, he pardoned two FBI agents convicted in 1980 by a federal jury of criminal burglaries of activists homes and offices in what became known as the "Graymail" case. "Graymail" because former FBI director L. Patrick Gray successfully blocked prosecution by threatening to expose embarrassing "national security" secrets, a tactic also tried by Oliver North. But the Reagan pardon of two individuals was just the beginning, he went on to pardon the entire U.S. intelligence establishment which had come under fire during the Carter years. This came as no surprise, given the support for Reagan organized by the New Right, which embraced the counter-subversion network as an important and patriotic force protecting internal security.

Reagan and the New Right

The grassroots nativist forces recruited by the New Right became part of the coalition that sent Ronald Reagan to the White House. That fact did not go unnoticed. Drawing from the latter-day disciples of nativism, elitist reactionary conservatism and mainstream Republicanism, Ronald Reagan forged an unusual coalition packaged in a friendly "just folks" style. The Reagan agenda shifted the American political scene far to the right, and legitimized the return of active counter-subversion campaigns in the public and private sectors. Yet the Reagan coalition still was able to unite with mainstream liberalism around anti-communism, often under the banner of "bipartisanship". Thus, during the Reagan administration, the anti- communist theory underlying cold war ideology ultimately served to feed both militarism and interventionism abroad, and surveillance and repression at home, leading to a further institutionalization of the National Security State.

While the Reagan Adminstration gave mainstream Republicans a green light for lucrative trade with communist countries such as the Soviet Union and mainland China, Reagan gave the meager markets in Central America, Africa, and Afghanistan to the ultra right as a testing ground for their paranoid plans of fighting communism through covert action.

On the domestic side, conservative single issue right-wing constituencies that supported Reagan received promises on abortion and school prayer, and saw Reagan launch a campaign to destroy the Legal Services Corporation. More significantly, the nativist ultra-right saw their people receive appointments to executive agencies, where they served as watchdogs against secular humanism and subversion.

Paranoid anti-communism, political witch hunting and red-baiting all saw a revival during the Reagan Administration, and while they never became the dominant themes, they resonated throughout the nation's capital. Still, not all of the nativists were happy with Reagan, and within a few months of his taking office, there were grumbles that Reagan had alreadly sold out to the Washington insiders. From time to time the press would report the complaints of the more ultra-right figures in the Reagan Administration as they suggested global thermonuclear war as a serious alternative to arms control. It was these more zealous nativist paranoid forces who finally went public in 1988 and branded Reagan a "useful idiot" and dupe of the KGB for negotiating with Gorbachev over arms control. <$!Add lineup of CIS victims of Christic fundraiser>

Unleashing the FBI

Reagan apparently agreed with the Heritage findings on national security becasue he quickly unleashed the FBI. In December 1981 Reagan issued Executive Order 12333 which authorized the FBI to use intrusive investigatory techniques, such as mail openings, wiretaps and burglaries, when there was probable cause to suspect a "terrorist" threat.

Reagan also authorized the FBI to contract with and rely on private sources of information in national security investigations. Public sections of the mostly-secret "Attorney General Guidelines for Foreign Intelligence Collection" require the FBI not to question "individuals acting on their own initiative" how they obtained information. Thus right-wing zealots could conduct their own intelligence operations and thefts and provide the fruits of their mission to the FBI without fear of reprisal.

After only a few months in office, Reagan had legalized the same techniques condemned when COINTELPRO was revealed.

According to Margaret Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, "When President Reagan signed Executive Order 12333. . .he opened the door for the intelligence abuses evidenced in the CISPES files.

=== "Executive Order 12333, permits the FBI and CIA to surveil individuals even if they are not breaking the law or acting on behalf of a foreign power. Foreign intelligence is defined to include "information relating to the capabilities, intentions and activities of foreign powers or persons," including anything that a any foreigner is doing. Under such a definition, anyone who has any contact with a foreign person or organization may be subjected to a foreign intelligence investigation. The order does away with the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving the Attorney general, rather than a neutral judicial body, the power to approve the use of "electronic surveillance, unconsented physical searches, mail surveillance, or monitoring devices" once he determines that there is "probable cause to believe that the technique is directed against a foreign power." === "If such a technique is "directed" against a foreign power, it can be utilized against hundreds of unwitting targets. Searches need not be limited to offices, or to premises under the control of a suspected agent, nor need they be linked to the alleged commission of an unlawful act.

Ratner noted that the FBI further justified its use of intrusive techniques when it claimed to have the "inherent authority" to conduct secret entries in national security cases. Ratner noted with irony that the FBI's remarkable claim of this unconstitutional inherent authority came after the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court "turned down an FBI request for a warrant to conduct a black bag job, holding that Congress had given it jurisdiction only over electronic surveillance."

Reviving the Witch Hunt

The conservative and far-right also began to reconstruct the counter-subversive apparatus soon after Reagan took office. Ultra-conservative Strom Thurmond was named head of the Senate Judiciary Committee which oversaw the work of the newly formed Senate Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism. SST was chaired by ultra-conservative Sen. Jeremiah Denton, who quickly began re- kindling the Congressional witch-hunt. One notable SST staff member was Samuel T. Francis, who after authoring the security section of the Heritage Foundation Reagan transition study, became legislative assistant for national security to ultra- conservative SST member Senator John P. East.

If there was any doubt the Subcommittee would avail themselves of McCarthy period and private spying data, it was laid to rest in an article by Samuel T. Francis in a 1982 issue of the conservative newspaper, "Human Events."

In an article titled "Leftists Mount Attack on Investigative Panel," Francis sought to discredit SST critics by labeling them "far-left, revolutionary, or pro-terrorist." To bolster his charges, Francis reached back to the Witch Hunting committees to note that SST critics such as the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee had been "identified as Communist Party front groups." The National Lawyers Guild, Francis reported, "was cited in 1950 as the `legal bulwark of the Communist party' by the House Committee on Un-American Activities." The Center for Constitutional rights is called a "far-left...appendage of the National Lawyers Guild" and staff counsel Margaret Ratner is described as "associated with the legal defense of a number of political violence groups and terrorists." Francis also told Human Events<M> that right-wing Birch Society spy John Rees was "authoritative" on the subject of internal subversion. Early targets of SST included alternative media such as Mother Jones<M> magazine and the Pacifica Radio network. Luckily the SST Committee's hallucinatory hearings on the "Red Menace" soon discredited that forum, at least among mainstream journalists, and an attempt to restart the old House Un-American Activities Committee failed. Despite these setbacks, the views of the paranoid right wing had made serious inroads at the White House.

Reagan himself joined the Red Menace alert in 1982. That was the year Reagan charged the nuclear freeze campaign was, "inspired by not the sincere, honest people who want peace, but by some people who want the weakening of America and so are manipulating honest and sincere people." Reagan saw freeze activists as dupes or traitors. When asked for proof, reporters were told much of the information was secret, but that one public source was a "Reader's Digest" article by John Barron. Barron had based the allegation in part on an article by right- wing spy John Rees. Rees had based his article on unsubstantiated red-baiting allegations made during McCarthy period hearings. Reagan later openly criticized those who brought down Joseph McCarthy. A State Department charge that the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom was a "communist front" was retracted when traced to a Rees report published by Western Goals Foundation. <$FAn excellent discussion of Rees's role in these matters can be found in the Village Voice, August 16, 1983, "The Spy Who Came Down on the Freeze: Rees, Reagan, and the Digest Smear," by Seth Rosenfeld.>

At a June, 1982 SST hearing on how the FBI had been crippled by well-meaning liberals duped by communists. Denton called the National Lawyers Guild the "ideological allies" of terrorism and murder, and said "the support groups that produce propoganda, disinformation, or `legal assistance' may be even more dangerous than those who actually throw the bombs." The NLG promptly produced large buttons with the Guild logo and the phrase "More Dangerous Than Those...Who Throw the Bombs."

Rehabilitating COINTELPRO

On March 7, 1983 Attorney General William French Smith finished erasing any civil liberties gains made in the post-Watergate era when he released "Guidelines on General Crimes, Racketeering Enterprise and Domestic Security/Terrorism Investigations." According to Mitchell Rubin, a law clerk who authored a lengthy analysis of the Smith guidelines for Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Law Report, "Three authorizations granted to the FBI under the Smith guidelines. . .[included] the FBI's right to conduct surveillance of peaceful public demonstrations, to use informants and infiltrators, and to investigate persons or groups advocating unlawful activities." These were three areas where the FBI had systematically abused Constitutional rights in the past, and had been restrained under the guidelines issued in 1976 by President Carter's Attorney General, Edward Levi. <$F"The FBI and Dissidents: A First Amendment Analysis of Attorney General Smith's 1983 FBI Guidelines on Domestic Security Investigations." Mitchell S. Rubin, Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Law Report, Clark Boardman Law Publishers, New York. Two parts: Vol. 1, No. 14, March-April 1986 and Vol.1 No. 15, May-June 1986. (edited under the auspices of the National Lawyers Guild Civil Liberties Committee)>

Rubin questioned the Constitutionality of the Smith guidelines citing past court cases which raised concerns over the chilling effect of such police surveillance procedures. Rubin also noted the "Smith guidelines are ambiguously written so that they can be read to explicitly sanction knowing interference with First Amendment rights by an infiltrator." The fears expressed by Rubin and other critics of the Smith guidelines appear to have been well-founded. The CISPES investigation by the FBI showed an unsavory mixture of surveillance, political harassment, and public attack on CISPES by the FBI, Reagan Administration officials, and private right-wing groups and individuals.

The Return of the Thought Police

By late 1983, widespread FBI harassment of Latin American support and anti-interventionist groups began to be reported nationwide. Other intelligence agencies, and right-wing groups also began stepping up their campaigns warning of communist or terrorist subversion, which also smeared exile, emigre, sanctuary, and other groups with an international focus.

Reported incidents included: · FBI agents visited the employer, friends and co- workers of an activist, asking: "Did you know that your friend works with communists and KGB agents?" · FBI agents appeared in the evening at the home of an activist, and said: "We know you are sincere, just tell us the names of the KGB agents." · FBI agents attempted to interview activists about the "lawbreakers" involved in the sanctuary movement. · FBI agents threatened exposure of an undocumented activist to Immigration officials unless the activist talked. · FBI agents threatened activists with jail unless they revealed their "plans" for "terrorist" attacks on the 1984 summer Olympics and political conventions. · Military Intelligence agents, starting in the mid-1980's, began appearing at reserve weekends to interview co- workers of activists saying "tell us about your friend at work who hangs out with Soviet spies."<$F All of the incidents of visits by FBI agents and Military Intelligence agents are based on interviews by the author with activists during 1983- 1984. See "FBI Harrassment: Vaguely Reminiscent of the 60's" The Mobilizer, Mobilization for Survival Newsletter, Summer 1984, by the author; For general FBI return to surveillance and disruption, see "Harrassment Monitored: Big Brother Returns," Public Eye Magazine, Summer 1984 pp. 7-8.>

At the same time, a campaign by ultra-conservatives and the New Right to portray dissidents as traitors was well underway. Starting in the late 1970's, this campaign circulated millions of direct mail letters and tens of thousands of magazines and newsletters warning of a leftist plot to take over America and pave the way for a Soviet takeover.<$F Numerous examples of this type of rhetorical direct mail are on file at Political Research Associates in Cambridge, MA. One classic was from the Council on Inter-American Security which contained a questionaire asking "In your opinion, should we crack down harder on revolutionary groups already inside our borders? Yes/No/Undecided" >

Some activists in the mid-1980's received written threats of violence signed by far-right anti-communist groups such as the anti-Jewish white supremacist Posse Comitatus or neo-Nazi National Socialist Liberation Front.

The heavy-footed presence of federal gumshoes became so obvious and irritating around 1984 that a loose coalition of civil liberties groups, including the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), Center for Consititional Rights (CCR), National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (NCARL), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Fund for Open Information and Accountability (FOIA, Inc.), began distributing pamphlets and conducting workshops to advise activists how to "Just Say No" when the feds dropped by to ask for an interview about life in Managua. Workshops were held in over ten cities including New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. 1984 also saw the creation of a political rights education project by the National Lawyers Guild Civil Liberties Committee which later was subsummed by the The Movement Support Network (MSN) sponsored by the Center for Constitutional Rights in cooperation with the NLG.

Nearly 100 reports of mysterious break-ins of activists offices have been compiled by the Movement Support Network since 1984. In Boston, where numerous unexplained break-ins of movement offices have been reported, a symposium on surveillance and dissent in 1986 drew over 300. At that meeting, Police Misconduct Manual co-author Michael Avery and long-time civil liberties activist Frank Wilkinson of NCARL both explained how the term "terrorism" had replaced the "communism" as a justification for intrusive government surveillance and predicted the term would be the excuse the FBI used to justify spying on activists.

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