(Global Research) – The Biden administration may soon recruit an army of private snoops to conduct surveillance that would be illegal if done by federal agents. As part of its war on extremism, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may exploit a “legal work-around” to spy on and potentially entrap Americans who are “perpetuating the ‘narratives’ of concern,” CNN reported last week. But federal informant programs routinely degenerate into “dollars for collars” schemes that reward scoundrels for fabricating crimes that destroy the lives of innocent Americans. The DHS plan would “allow the department to circumvent [constitutional and legal] limits” on surveillance of private citizens and groups. Federal agencies are prohibited from targeting individuals solely for First Amendment-protected speech and activities. But federal hirelings would be under no such restraint. Private informants could create false identities that would be problematic if done by federal agents.
DHS will be ramping up a war against an enemy which the feds have never clearly or competently defined. According to a March report by Biden’s office of the Director of National Intelligence, “domestic violent extremists” include individuals who “take overt steps to violently resist or facilitate the overthrow of the U.S. government in support of their belief that the U.S. government is purposely exceeding its Constitutional authority.” Perhaps like setting up a private informant scheme to evade constitutional restrictions on warrantless surveillance?
One DHS official bewailed to CNN: “Domestic violent extremists are really adaptive and innovative. We see them not only moving to encrypted platforms, but obviously couching their language so they don’t trigger any kind of red flag on any platforms.” DHS officials have apparently decided that certain groups of people are guilty regardless of what they say (“couching their language”). The targets are likely to be simply people with a bad attitude towards Washington. That will include gun owners who distrust politicians who vow to seize guns.
The latest fuzzball standards (“narratives of concern”?) fit the post-9/11 pattern of wildly expansive threat definitions. Shortly after its creation in 2002, DHS warned local law enforcement agencies to keep an eye on anyone who “expressed dislike of attitudes and decisions of the U.S. government” as potential terrorists. DHS-funded Fusion Centers have attached the “extremist” tag to gun-rights activists, anti-immigration zealots, and individuals and groups “rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority”—even though many of the Founding Fathers shared the same creed. The Pentagon taught soldiers and bureaucrats that people who attend public protests are guilty of “low-level terrorism.” An Air Force report accused women who wear hijabs of “passive terrorism.” Endless enemies lists come in handy at congressional appropriations hearings.
Federal officials insist that those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear. FBI chief Christopher Wray perennially proclaims that the FBI never investigates Americans based solely on their ideas. But, as the Intercept reported in 2019, “Who the Justice Department decides to prosecute as a domestic terrorist has little to do with the harm they’ve inflicted or the threat they pose to human life.” But that claim is belied by the FBI’s beloved “informant loophole.” As Trevor Aaronson explained, “FBI agents must obtain supervisory approval to enter a group or gathering using an undercover agent, and to obtain that approval, the FBI must have a ‘predicate,’ or a factual basis to suspect criminal activity. But neither supervisory approval nor a predicate is required if the work is done by an informant, creating a loophole that allows the FBI to investigate Americans for virtually any reason.”
Any new informants hired by the Biden administration will operate under the same perverse incentives that have long subverted due process. Informants tend to be rewarded based on how much assets they help government seize or how many people they help prosecutors condemn. As a 2019 report by the American Bar Association noted, “The government pays cash for incriminating information and testimony. This is troubling because the financial incentive to make cases against others may be much greater than the personal integrity of the informants.” A report by the Justice Department Office of Inspector General slammed the Drug Enforcement Agency for failing to “document the reliability of informants” who helped the DEA to confiscate billions of dollars of private property. The DEA paid informants $237 million between 2010 and 2015, including $25 million shoveled out to only nine informants. DEA’s best paid informant, Andrew Chambers, Jr., was found to have given “false testimony under oath in at least 16 criminal prosecutions nationwide before he was exposed in the late 1990s,” USA Today reported in 2013. Attorney General Janet Reno banned the DEA from using him as an informant but in 2008, DEA re-hired Chambers and used him for at least the following five years.
Informants have become far more perilous to freedom and decency since the 1970s thanks to the Supreme Court effectively defining entrapment out of existence. Almost anything an informant or undercover government agent does to induce someone to violate the law is considered fair play. Craig Monteilh, an informant who was sent into mosques in southern California, was given permission by his FBI handlers to sleep with Muslim women he targeted and to secretly tape record their pillow talk. Other FBI informants browbeat their targets into discussing bombing government buildings, providing sufficient verbal rope to hang them. The vast majority of people charged with international terrorism offenses in the decade after 9/11 were not bona fide threats but were induced by the FBI or informants to behave in ways that prompted their arrest, according to Trevor Aaronson’s The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism. Read Full Article >