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We live in the age of inefficient paranoia - Thoughts for sharing [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
darkskywatcher

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We live in the age of inefficient paranoia [Mar. 25th, 2007|10:15 am]
darkskywatcher
Here's the article that's got me ranting:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/25/nyregion/25infiltrate.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

And here's the rant:

My first thought was "Huh, that sounds illegal as hell." Of course, as it pans out, it isn't. Or more accurately, monitoring potentially criminal organizations isn't illegal. Apparently, to the NYPD this seems to include groups that have absolutely no criminal history or malevolent intentions. Still, might as well write it all down and mark it secret. You never know when those pacifists might suddenly turn violent, do you? (note: this is sarcasm)
This then forms a nice vicious circle, since the City's Law department used the intelligence to justify detaining people with files from this surveillance program for fingerprinting. Disgusting.

The other thing that really gets me about this (though I'm sure you understand that it doesn't provoke righteous anger in quite the same way) is the NYPD has no role in this kind of monitoring. We already have the FBI, NSA, CIA, and whatever other bogeymen are hiding under the aegis of Homeland Security. But no, apparently the NYPD isn't content with these organizations, and they feel they need to deploy detectives to gather intelligence of their own. Including overseas. Wasn't Homeland Security supposed to stop all this BS?
I really only think there are two conclusions here: 1. They were ignorant of it at the time. This seems unlikely (especially since at least one of the groups the NYPD was watching asked the FBI if they had a file, which must have tipped somebody off), but then again the administration's departments have a track record of displaying or talking about their massive incompetence, so I could be wrong. It's not a good sign, and a further bad sign that nobody has mentioned that the program has been stopped 2. They were aware of it at the time, and willing allowed the NYPD to gather intelligence. For organizations that have turf wars as an apparently integral part of their identity, this also seems unlikely, but I can think of three reasons. 1.They didn't consider defending their institutional identity to be important compared to the goal of actually stopping terrorism. I think this is the best scenario, of these three. Shame that they have a history of not acting at all in this fashion. 2. They were too mired in their own dope to stop somebody else from getting into the game. If this is the case, I wonder who else is realizing how easy it is to form national intelligence networks. 3. The scare tactic answer is they wanted the information collected, but didn't want to do it themselves. Letting the NYPD haul in a bunch of info wraps it up nicely for the rest of the intelligence community, who if they get asked about it can deny knowing anything, while at the same time having convenient access to all the records in New York. And if watchdogs come sniffing around, they go for the PD, since they are the ones that have really done the wrong in collecting the information. Scary, yes, but I wonder if their smart enough and organized enough to pull it off.

I think I'm running out of steam. Comments welcome, as always.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: kate_the_bear
2007-03-25 04:20 pm (UTC)
What ticks me off about it (aside from the whole going against everything I tend to think of America standing for thing) is the money wasted. How much cash is going into investitgations with less of a lead than most of McCarthey's inquires. The time, effort, man power, and money don't got into petty crimes or sometimes serious violent offenses. I would rather pay beat cops more to wander around the Bronx just wearing their uniforms than pay for these sort of invesitgations- I understand that money doesn't come from the same places and all that jazz but i think it's the dollars and cents that pisses me off the most.
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[User Picture]From: dragonflyknight
2007-03-25 05:13 pm (UTC)
Hmm.. obviously i'm angry that the police department was given free reign to monitor outside the city, i'm angry that people were detained after the event, however, i'm not angry about having people investigate peaceful groups. There are certainly plenty of groups that claim to be peaceful and still promote violence.

They took it too far though, arresting a bicycle artist is ridiculous, there was absolutely nothing illegal about what he was doing. I have a feeling there would have been even fewer arrests had they excercised a little judgement in just who they were arresting.

Again though, within New York City boundaries, investigation, security, and crime are the purview of the NYPD. So long as they are not stopping people from speaking or holding them unfairly, I have no problem. Unfortunately in this case they did both, so yes, i'm peeved. I wanted to make the distinction though that investigating groups of protesters (even peaceful ones) is understandable during such an obviously high risk event. It is perfectly within everyones right to gather and protest peacefully, it should be encouraged, but in an evironment where mob mentality is prevelant, and violent protestors could do a lot of damage I think it is reasonable for the NYPD to at the very least look into the groups that plan on being present in the hopes of keeping violence from happening.

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[User Picture]From: darkskywatcher
2007-03-26 02:27 am (UTC)
I'm going to go out a thick, sturdy limb and suggest that almost all of these groups probably already had files with groups such as the FBI, and for international groups the CIA (who are theoretically responsible for gathering such information and disseminating it to law enforcement). The FBI has a well established history of investigating the heck out of peaceful movements, too. So why wasn't that enough? Did they not have access to those files? Why did they think they needed to go national with their investigation?

Also, while I agree that violent mobs are a bad idea, I also don't think that these protesters were particularily likely to generate one. Why? 1. It seems to me most of them will have been middle class (or better) people, who might be willing to risk arrest, but don't have much to gain from violence or vandalism. 2. The NYPD would obviously have been jumpy, and protesters would have realized that any perceived threats would have gotten a violent overreaction. I don't think people would have been willing to fight a beliigerent police force. Sure, there were some minor provocations, but that's inevitable. I don't think most of those protesters wouldd have been hucking plastic feces at the PD.

Last note: While I do think the convention was entitled to some protection, the massive security spread the Republicans insisted on was completely unnecessary. I remember thinking at the time that it was like they weresetting up a green zone inside an occupied city. That kind of paranoia pervaded the whole thing, I am not pleased to see that the PD did their part, and then some.
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[User Picture]From: nathan_lounge
2007-03-26 07:57 am (UTC)
Okay, first off, I totally called the NSL issue in the term paper I wrote for Ann in her terrorism class. So I put on my best "shocked" face when people started getting negative about the FBI. Second off, the activity at the justice department isn't new and doesn't really surprise me either. So then this morning I read the very article you cite (NYT seems to be one of the few cites my flaky internet connection will let me read these days). I found it to be interesting, but not particularly compelling. This is not to say that I've reached a level of cynicism such that personal invasion is just a huff and haw. Rather, that with the expansion of governmental access to information and political control of those access points being what it is, I didn't find any of this shocking.

All that said, I do have a couple of opinions on that matter:
1) I'm curious as to what degree organizations outside of NYC were investigated and to what degree there was interaction with local authorities on the matter. The article is vague and I think that makes all the difference. The "appropriateness" of the question (in my mind) is all about whether or not there were undercover NYPD agents conducting investigations in other areas of the country/world without explicit interaction with local authorities.
2) I have no problem with the level of security at the GOP convention. In recent years, as their alignment with the christian conservative movement has grown, they have garnered some very radical opposition. If there were death threats on the internet about my organization, I sure as hell would want significant police protection from the public.
3) I'm very curious about the relationship between possible over-funding and this kind of activity. I mean, a common thing with governmental organizations is that they will bid for money, and when it's allocated, will forcefully use it without regard to the need in order to maintain budget levels. So if the money is there, it's going to get used and often times wasted (in my humble opinion) in order to make sure it's there next year when they do need it for some other program. I'm kind of amused at the idea of some middle manger asking a higher up what he should have his staff of thirty people investigate and the captain tell him to just start googling for random organizations and their members.
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[User Picture]From: darkskywatcher
2007-03-26 09:25 pm (UTC)
I didn't mean to suggest that what the NYPD was doing was particularily novel for an intelligence organization. I am well aware that other organizations have done things that are far more questionable. On the other hand, this kind of thing does make me angry, and so I use this space to rant about it.

Also, one of my points is that the NYPD is not a national intelligence organization, and I am highly suspicious of any activity that causes them to send detectives outside of their jurisdiction, especially on non-criminal investigations.

2) Looking through convention histories on Wikipedia, the Republicans aren't the ones that need to worry about protests turning violent. Also, the internet, in its role as the ultimate bathroom wall, isn't exactly a credible source for a death threat.

3) Money is an issue that I don't know enough details to address, beyond saying that you're probably right and that it's unfortunate that the system works that way, especially since we created a bureaucratic monster that was supposed to solve that problem.
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