, the NSA has surely picked up their signals and crunched their metadata). American high-tech surveillance is not, however, the only kind around
. There’s also the lower tech, up-close-and-Recently, as Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency revelations about the high-tech gathering of global (and domestic) communications of every imaginable sort began unspooling, Gitlin’s work came to mind again. I had certainly been aware of how many post-9/11 “terror” cases against American Muslims rested on the acts and testimony of government informers, who sometimes even provided (fake) weaponry to hapless plotters and the spark to begin plotting in the first place. I began to wonder, however, what we didn’t know about the low-tech side of America’s massive intelligence overreach. So I picked up the phone and called Gitlin. The answer, as his piece today indicates, is one hell of a horrifying lot. Among the few outfits to pay significant attention to spies and informers in the ranks of groups opposed to some aspect of Washington’s policies, the ACLU stands out. In fact, in a map that organization created, “Spying on First Amendment Activity -- State by State,” you can take a Mr. Toad’s wild ride through what’s known of the universe of the twenty-first century American informer. TomDispatch is pleased to follow up with a Mr. Todd’s wild ride through the thickets of American intelligence clearly on the march domestically.
Only Martians, by now, are unaware of the phone and online data scooped up by the National Security Agency (though if it turns out that they are aware personal kind that involves informers and sometimes government-instigated violence.
Just how much of this is going on and in how coordinated a way no one out here in the spied-upon world knows. The lower-tech stuff gets reported, if at all, only one singular, isolated event at a time -- look over here, look over there, now you see it, now you don’t. What is known about such surveillance as well as the suborning of illegal acts by government agencies, including the FBI, in the name of counterterrorism has not been put together by major news organizations in a way that would give us an overview of the phenomenon. (The ACLU has done by far the best job of compiling reports on spying on Americans of this sort.)
Some intriguing bits about informers and agents provocateurs briefly made it into the public spotlight when Occupy Wall Street was riding high. But as always, dots need connecting. Here is a preliminary attempt to sort out some patterns behind what could be the next big story about government surveillance and provocation in America. The first is about surveillance. The second is about provocation. Modified from Tomdispatch