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New DHS Report Shows Why You Should Stay Mad

From Ruby Ridge to now, federal security agencies have not faced any consequences for their gross violations of Americans’ rights.

(Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Politico, the trade publication for swamp creatures, self-described their Monday report on the Department of Homeland Security’s domestic intelligence-gathering activities as “eye-popping.” Documents disclosed a program whereby DHS agents working for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis would make direct contact with persons—including mirandized prisoners—without consulting their legal counsel to garner “voluntary” interviews pertaining to DHS intelligence gathering.

Carrie Bachner, a former legislative advisor in the department who now, of course, runs a consultancy, commented: “I don’t know any counsel in their right mind that would sign off on that, and any member of Congress that would say, ‘That’s OK.’ If these people are out there interviewing folks that still have constitutional privileges, without their lawyer present, that’s immoral.” DHS employees reportedly shared these concerns; they also feared the program—called by the somewhat sinister name “Overt Human Intelligence Collection Program”—would be politicized.


Maybe it is eye-popping if you have been asleep for the past thirty years. The cavalier attitudes toward American civil liberties cultivated in the complex of intelligence and federal law enforcement—in a more seriously republican era, the combination of the two into an overarching state security apparatus would be a cause for alarm—is not only now coming to light. Just in August 2022, the FBI’s nighttime raid on a certain former president raised the hackles of the American right, which claimed it caught a whiff of the Stasi—or Gestapo—about the affair. Republicans Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, among others, have called for the “defunding” of the FBI in the raid’s wake. Subsequent lower-key visits to President Joe Biden’s Delaware residence and former Vice President Mike Pence’s home have not eased the sense that the FBI has become a political power center unto itself.

The real question is why there has not already been a campaign for the wholesale lustration of the federal security ecosystem. The National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs under the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama were surprising, if only because of their scale; we have known about them for going on ten years, and it remains unclear whether there will be any thorough reform of the system to prevent future illegal warrantless data collection. Indeed, the only person who seems to have suffered any consequences pertaining to the program is the whistleblower who revealed the program, Edward Snowden, who has expatriated to Russia to avoid American treason charges.

The NSA programs weren’t the only thing, either. For a “scandal-free” administration, Obama’s executive branch did a lot of dodgy stuff. The investigation of the IRS targeting scandal, which saw Obama’s taxman singling out conservative nonprofits for audits, concluded with an apology and a solemn promise never to do it again. More alarming still was that administration’s taste for extrajudicial killings. In 2011, the Justice Department justified the Department of Defense’s summary execution of Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, both American-born citizens, by drone strike. (The killing of al-Awlaki’s eight-year-old daughter, also American-born, would have to wait until the Trump administration.) 

The memorandum on the strike was released in 2010, and more or less amounted to the bald assertion that al-Awlaki’s alleged involvement in Al-Qaeda trumped his constitutional protections as a citizen. It is easy to say that al-Awlaki, an imam who repeatedly declared jihad against America, was a baddie who had it coming; but as the left beats the drum of civil war and “insurrection” hysteria, it seems preferable to keep the due process owed citizens sacrosanct.

But even before the War on Terror and its introduction of regular warrantless searches on anyone who dared to schedule air travel, due process didn’t mean a lot to the American political police. Randy Weaver, a retired Green Beret living off the grid in Idaho, came to the attention of federal law enforcement in the mid-1980s on suspicion of neo-Nazi sympathies. These went nowhere; despite the proximity of an Aryan Nations compound, Weaver didn’t join any groups or claim any cause. 


So in 1989 an undercover ATF agent persuaded Weaver to break the law by sawing off a shotgun to be shorter than the length mandated by the National Firearms Act; when he failed to appear for his court date, which was noted incorrectly on his summons, the American security state lurched into gear. In 1992, federal marshals, the FBI, and the ATF surrounded his homestead and shot his dog, his son, Sam, and his wife, Vicki. The only figure to be convicted of anything pertaining to the siege was Michael Kahoe, chief of the FBI’s violent crime division, who pled guilty to obstruction of justice for destroying an internal report on the Bureau’s conduct. 

The sniper who shot Vicki Weaver as she held her infant daughter, Lon Horiuchi, was not put on leave; he went on to serve in another successful federal law enforcement operation just the next year, the 1993 Waco massacre, where Uncle Sam decided to have an armed showdown with a group of heavily armed religious eccentrics instead of arresting their leader, David Koresh, while he was out and about in the town. As at Ruby Ridge, there were no real consequences for the agencies or personnel involved in the siege—just some stentorian exhortations not to do it again.

What is the point of this sorry catalog? Only to underline that the security state has no regard for the rule of law, has never in recent memory had any regard for the rule of law, and, in its current configuration, faces no consequences for its misdeeds.

And the security state is looking to put more grist in the mill. Rank-and-file FBI agents, reported the Washington Times, “are accusing the Biden administration of exaggerating the threat of White supremacists and pressuring agents to cook up domestic terrorist cases involving racist extremists.” It has gotten so bad, the Times quoted one unnamed FBI agent as saying, that the “demand for White supremacy” coming from bureau headquarters “vastly outstrips the supply of White supremacy.”

In other words, if they can’t find it, they will make it; and if they can’t make it, they will find something else. Russian collusion or improperly declassified documents; white supremacy or weapons charges. As we have written about more mundane elements of the American security apparatus, it is not about making you or your children safer; it’s just about will

The congressional GOP has launched a “new Church committee” to take on abuses of the FBI, CIA, and other federal organs. We hope they add the DHS domestic intelligence program to what should already be a long list. But Republicans’ track record on oversight is uninspiring, and these agencies have shown themselves resistant to consequences or reform. Freedom-minded legislators should consider radical solutions.  


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