Bush’s Monitoring of Protests Belies His Stated Support for Free Speech

From the Daily Mislead

President Bush has expressed repeated support for protestors’
rights to express themselves, exclaiming to the Australian parliament in
October, “I love free speech.”1 But federal law enforcement is
showing up at political demonstrations, routinely monitoring such protests for
the first time since the 1970’s.

Last week, the president responded to
interviewer David Frost’s question about the protestors expected to greet his
presence in London, “Freedom is a beautiful thing, I would first say, and aren’t
you lucky to be in a country that encourages people to speak their mind. And I
value going to a country where people are free to say anything they want to
say.”2

The New York Times reported Sunday, however, that a
weekly bulletin published by the FBI and distributed to local law enforcement
included information about organizing tactics of anti-war demonstrators in
cities such as Washington and San Francisco. One FBI official was quoted as
saying, “We’re not concerned with individuals who are exercising their
constitutional rights. But it’s obvious that there are individuals capable of
violence at these events.”3

But the memo details and analyzes
legal activities, such as using the Internet for fundraising, and tactics used
by organizations to recruit demonstrators.4

Indeed, the
administration has sent mixed signals on free speech after September 11th. Weeks
after the attacks, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said that Americans, “need to
watch what they say, watch what they do.”5 And Attorney General John
Ashcroft, came under heavy criticism for saying that critics of the Patriot Act
“aid terrorists.”6

Reports of the FBI’s monitoring have drawn
comparisons with the program known as Cointelpro, created during the Cold War
and in effect until the 1970’s, when the FBI routinely sent agents to infiltrate
organizations protesting the Vietnam War.

Sources:

  1. target=_blank>Presidential Speech before Australian Parliament, 10/22/03.

  2. target=_blank>Interview with David Frost, BBC, 11/17/03.

  3. Ibid.
  4. “F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies,” The New York Times, 11/23/03,
    Sec. 1, p. 18.

  5. target=_blank>Press Briefing, 9/26/01.

  6. “John Ashcroft,” Associated Press, 2/26/03.

Keep in mind, that with the “no-fly” lists and the “extremist” lists…being noticed at one of these protests can mean that you will no longer be allowed to fly, or leave the country. And we thought the Communist Blacklists were bad. What is it going to take before people realize we’re living under the most fascist leader our country has ever seen?

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