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28 Sep

9/11 Made It Easier For The Government To Goal

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Today, on September eleventh, many will probably be mourning the tragic lack of life in the course of the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. Nonetheless, we must also remember the tragedies that subsequently occurred in the course of the horrific wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And importantly, we will always remember the lack of constitutional rights and the rise of the U.S. surveillance state that has targeted non-white people in our post 9/11 world.

The surveillance state has existed because the inception of the USA. During slavery, Black Muslims were policed and compelled to convert to Christianity, for fear that Muslim slaves were more more likely to protest or revolt against their masters. As slave patrols morphed into police departments, so too did surveillance tactics adapt and alter, particularly within the aftermath of 9/11. Nonetheless, the targets of surveillance remain the identical: those that threaten the white supremacist order that the USA was founded on. 

One of the infamous examples of surveillance in history was the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. COINTELPRO was a counterintelligence program with the stated goal of disrupting the Communist Party’s activity in the USA. Its legacy is long-lasting, and it cemented—within the mind of the state—the concept political activism was tantamount to criminal activity. The agency, through the directives of this initiative, used surveillance to psychologically torment, blackmail, charge, prosecute, and smear activists—most of whom were Black. The mission of the US government was clear: destroy any social movement that threatened white supremacy, by any means obligatory. Though the horrors carried out during COINTELPRO were far-reaching and cruel, the federal government didn’t yet have the tech to implement the degrees of surveillance we’re contending with in more moderen years.

Within the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Bush Administration pushed the Patriot Act through Congress, making the most of the nation’s newly reignited fear of Muslims. The brand new laws was a devastating blow to the constitutional right to privacy, and in accordance with the ACLU, it “expanded the federal government’s authority to spy by itself residents, while concurrently reducing checks and balances on those powers like judicial oversight, public accountability, and the flexibility to challenge government searches in court.” 

In practice, the state was able to take a look at records on individual’s activities which were held by third parties and allowed law enforcement to go looking private property all at once to the owner, amongst other things. It’s hard to overstate the harm the Patriot Act has caused since its passage—and reauthorization in 2020. But perhaps the worst effect of the Patriot Act was its creation of the crime of so-called domestic terrorism, which paved the best way for the federal government to border protesters as terrorists, particularly those that are Black, Indigenous, Latinx, or belong to other racialized communities. They’ve taken every opportunity since its passage to achieve this. 

The US has continued to codify surveillance since 2001, particularly with the Obama-era Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program and Trump’s rebranded Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) initiative. CVE was piloted in lots of cities, including Minneapolis, where there’s a big concentration of Somali Muslims. In Minneapolis, that surveillance was so insidious that one in every of the partners for CVE was Minneapolis Public Schools, meaning even children were subjected to the targeting and profiling emblematic of this system. Though the FBI admits it might be difficult or inconceivable to predict someone’s radicalization, the federal government continues to fund these programs. And thus, the legacies of COINTELPRO and the Patriot Act are upheld, as law enforcement expands their surveillance efforts to the identical ends: stopping community constructing, squashing insurrection, and snuffing out protest. 

Quelling protest is a large priority of the surveillance state. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from 2015 revealed that the Department of Homeland Security had been monitoring the Black Lives Matter movement because the protests in Ferguson in 2014. In response to the report by The Intercept, “the department regularly collects information, including location data, on Black Lives Matter activities from public social media accounts, including on Facebook, Twitter, and Vine, even for events expected to be peaceful.” In 2018, highly redacted FBI emails and intelligence reports showed that the bureau was gathering intelligence on BLM protests, profiling, and keeping track of activists. They denied that they were surveilling people on the premise of exercising their First Amendment right to protest, however the evidence suggests otherwise.

Tech has made this sort of surveillance expand to previously unimaginable levels, all framed as a state’s defense against domestic terrorism. Targeted communities are surveilled through every avenue conceivable. Law enforcement used livestreams, comments, and posted photos to discover and arrest protesters in the course of the 2020 uprisings, oftentimes using facial recognition or statewide photo databases. In lots of cases, they posted pictures of suspects to their very own social media channels to solicit help from the general public in identifying them. These sites are increasingly getting used to charge individuals with crimes, from cyber harassment to illegal abortions, after the autumn of Roe. Technological innovations and tech-based reforms like facial recognition, bodycam footage, and license plate readers result in the surveillance state’s web growing larger. With this tech, its ability to trap protesters who express dissenting views becomes more efficient. And corporations like Amazon help the federal government, willingly handing over footage from their Ring cameras. 

Because the surveillance state expands, so does the federal government’s ability to oppress marginalized groups in the USA. As such, it’s our duty to think about the ramifications of surveillance as we reflect on our post-9/11 world—and to withstand its continued expansion. 

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