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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Is the Federal Government Sponsoring Hate Speech?

On Wednesday, a federal judge ordered released on bail a supposed blogger who gained some notoriety by allegedly attempting to incite any listeners to kill three federal judges sitting in Chicago.  (See this Thursday article from the Record of Hackensack, NJ.)

When this man was first arrested this past June, I read that he was claiming to have been working as an FBI informant.   My first impulse was to assume this was another nut job conjuring up an implausible excuse for an inexcusable act.  (I was also wondering about his attorney's level of skepticism.) To my surprise -- and I'm sure to many of you -- the claim was true, as it was admitted by the Justice Department.   Just look at the following passage from today's report:
During hearings in Chicago in July, [Hal] Turner’s lawyers disclosed - and federal prosecutors confirmed - that Turner had worked on and off for several years as an informant for the FBI, passing along tips about violent threats against individuals and elected officials, including President Obama.   (Emphasis added.)
I add up this admission to the other reports calling Turner some sort of hate radio blogger.   (The contents of his communications are not the subject of this article and I do not wish to publicize them at all.)    Someone in Congress should ask what the FBI is doing, recruiting (and presumably spending money in the process) people on the fringe to scout around for other crazies.   Perhaps this is a well-intentioned, or productive, initiative to stop the next Oklahoma City bombing...or it is perhaps the first admission that the FBI is engaged in domestic surveillance of all manner of political/civic/community activists.   If it is the latter (and don't hold your breath for an admission here), then we've not advanced one bit from the excesses (or outright illegalities) of the J. Edgar Hoover days or the Nixon days, when executive branch agencies became de facto extensions of the then-current Administration's re-election committees.   In fact, if the latter is true, there is one less way to distinguish ourselves from many oppressive banana republic regimes.  What would Frank Church think?

Americans who participate in civic and political life should note the FBI's recruitment and use of such individuals.   Are local groups being infiltrated by government-sponsored "agents provocateur" who attend meetings to spout nonsense, stir up trouble, "gum up the works" of the group at issue and otherwise interfere with the organization? 

One action which concerned citizens can take is to "police their own."  This means confronting those people who attend meetings and shout out nonsensical, inflammatory, derogatory and in some cases, defamatory statements.   In community meetings, you are "involved" in public civic life and the bashfulness we may display in regular settings is not necessarily appropriate.   The "nuts" who seem to drown out other voices of reason need to be confronted. 

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