Wednesday, December 22, 2010

State Of The Police State

Nowhere in the mass media do I see it being reported that the US government is suppressing legal, peaceful protest activity, that the FBI and all kinds of other cop agencies are spying on activist groups and their members, that United States attorneys are issuing grand jury subpoenas to members of these groups in an attempt to intimidate and silence them.

I only know about this because there is still, for the time being at least, an open internet not under the complete control of the handful of corporations that control the rest of the mass media in this country. To be sure, Net Neutrality, the idea that the internet should remain open on an equal basis to everyone, is still under attack, despite FCC approval the other day of a plan to regulate internet providers, the FCC's latest attempt to strike a compromise between the interests of vast majority of us, that is, the need for we, the people, to be informed as so aptly recognized and protected by the founders of this country, and the financial interests of the handful of corporations that control government and dictate through their sher economic power what goes on in this country.

The latest instance of the government's attempt to suppress dissent was yesterday when Maureen Clare Murphy, a journalist based in Chicago and also a peace and Palestinian rights activist, was handed a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury. This is latest in a campaign of home raids and subpoenas the government has been conducting in the Midwest since September. Murphy is managing editor of the Electronic Intifada, a web-based news outlet that covers Palestine, but the subpoena apparently resulted from her activism on behalf of a Palestinian solidarity group, and with other, anti war groups. The government and its coercement arms, that is, the police and FBI, have long, shameful histories of harassment of, spying on, committing violence against and even murdering those who would protest those in power whether they be in government or private industry. Now they are armed with a recent Supreme court decision, a Supreme Court that is packed with very right-wing and activist judges,  that has redefined what it means to support terrorism. Supporting negotiations with Hamas can be construed to be supporting Hamas, which the government lists as a terrorist organization. Criticizing Israel can now be construed to be a crime.

Murphy and at least 17 other activists, by my count, have now been issued grand jury subpoenas from the office of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who apparently wants to get them in a grand jury room one by one and make them tell, under oath and threat of prison, who they know, what they know about them and when they knew it.

The Electronic Intifada has an editorial today that describes the situation and talks about the dangers posed by this kind of government abuse of power, and also summarizes some of the recently stepped up government harassment of people who are engaging in their constitutionally protected right to protest, including a link to the ACLU's state by state survey of this kind of activity. Yes, it goes on right here in New Mexico, too.

News of Murphy's being served with a subpoena spread quickly throughout the, as of today anyway, still-open internet. She put the word out via Twitter. I read about it at the Angry Arab News Service, where
part of the Electronic Intifada editorial and a link to it was posted. Where, incidentally, one can read excellent analysis of Middle Eastern affairs by As'ad AbuKhalil, a political science professor at Cal State Stanislaus.

 Murphy's case is one more small reminder of the importance of Net Neutrality, of the need to protect ways of disseminating information that are not controlled by and cannot be throttled by big corporations and their servants in government.

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