2011-07-01 "U.S. government, FBI tighten squeeze on rights of workers" by BRIAN WILLIAMS
The FBI is revising its procedures manual to further broaden the powers of its 14,000 agents to spy on individuals and organizations, according to a recent article in the New York Times. The move comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s decision in May to renew provisions of the Patriot Act, which give the FBI wide latitude to wiretap and spy on individuals, gaining access to their bank records, medical histories, and personal papers such as diaries and letters.
The soon-to-be released new edition of the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide builds on earlier revisions made in 2008, which authorized agents to “proactively” begin investigations—euphemistically referred to as “assessments”—without even the pretense of evidence beforehand. More than 11,600 of these assessments were initiated by the FBI in a four-month period beginning in late 2008, according to the U.S. Justice Department. The 2008 manual also allowed agents to maintain information on individuals without any alleged justification and loosened restrictions on infiltrating groups and use of informants.
Aspects of the new guidelines—referred to by FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni as just some “fine-tuning”—were summarized in a meeting between officials and selected “privacy advocates,” the Times reported.
According to the Times, FBI agents are no longer required to record when they conduct an “assessment” using the massive network of databases at their disposal, leaving no trail. Spies can also now search the trash and use “lie detector” tests on anyone without even the most flimsy evidence of any wrongdoing, as long as they state such snooping could turn up information that could be useful in pressuring that person to become an informant.
Under the 2008 rules “surveillance squads” were to be used only once during the “assessment” phase. Agents will now be able to conduct physical spy operations repeatedly without any evidence of alleged criminal activity. The new rules also say FBI spies and provocateurs can attend up to five meetings of an organization without revealing their identity before special, secret rules governing that activity go into effect.
Wider latitude for FBI snoops is being put in place as the agency steps up probes and disruption operations against individuals and groups who oppose government policy. Last September FBI agents raided the homes of 14 antiwar activists in Chicago and Minnesota. The 14, along with nine other activists subpoenaed in North Carolina and California, have refused to testify before a grand jury.
“The Obama administration has long been bumbling along in the footsteps of its predecessors when it comes to sacrificing Americans’ basic rights and liberties under the false flag of fighting terrorism,” stated a June 19 New York Times editorial. “Now the Obama team seems ready to lurch even farther down that dismal road than George W. Bush did.”
2011-07-01 "Socialists respond to suit attacking workers’ rights" by JOHN STUDER
NEW YORK—Attorneys for the Socialist Workers Party and Róger Calero, the party’s presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008, filed a motion with the Supreme Court of New York in Brooklyn June 7 calling for dismissal of a legal assault against Calero’s right to stand for office and the party’s right to run the nominee of its choice.
Filed by Christopher Klatell and Daniel Reich of the firm Rabinowitz, Boudin, Standard, Krinsky & Lieberman, the motion argues that the complaint filed against Calero, the SWP, and others lacks “any merit whatsoever.” The lawsuit, filed by an individual named Christopher-Earl Strunk, targets Calero and two other 2008 presidential candidates—Barack Obama and John McCain—as well as their campaign committees and others.
Strunk claims that none of the three candidates is a “natural-born citizen” and thus should not have been on the ballot in New York. The suit echoes charges from so-called birthers and others that Obama is not a U.S. citizen. It alleges that since McCain was born on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone, he too doesn’t meet Strunk’s definition of a “natural-born” citizen.
“When I’ve run for president as the Socialist Workers Party candidate, our campaign literature has made clear I was born in Nicaragua,” Calero told the Militant. “The SWP never asks anyone we’re fighting alongside to produce a birth certificate, an ID card, or a diploma. The only ‘qualification’ any class-conscious worker needs to know is how well and how selflessly you fight.”
The motion filed on behalf of the SWP and Calero explains that regardless of whether he “would have been eligible to be President, SWP and its members are entitled to their choice of a nominee under the First and Fourteenth Amendments… . As the U.S. Constitution prevents courts from disregarding and undermining a political party’s decision to nominate a candidate, the Court cannot impose damages on Calero or SWP” for exercising these rights. Strunk is demanding $36 million in damages.
The motion notes that Strunk “has not alleged that Calero or SWP made any false representations.” Given the lack of any basis for the complaint, the legal papers ask “that Strunk not be granted leave to replead as such an exercise would be futile.”
The attorneys for the party and Calero also call attention to “the long and documented history of persecution of SWP” by government cop agencies. In 1973 the party filed a lawsuit in federal court against the FBI and other political police, documenting decades of government spying and disruption. The campaign waged by the party and supporters of political rights forced the government to reveal thousands of instances of the use of informers, wiretaps, “trash covers,” burglaries, and the unleashing of an “SWP Disruption Program.”
In 1986 the party won a federal court ruling declaring this spying and disruption illegal. On that basis, as well as evidence of ongoing attacks on the party by cops and rightists, the government since the late 1970s has been forced to grant the SWP an exemption from releasing the names of contributors to its election campaigns.
Given the lack of any factual basis for Strunk’s charges, Calero says, it would be easy not to take them seriously. But the SWP has had too much experience with harassing lawsuits dismissed by liberals as trivial but—once in bourgeois courts—become a weapon to deal blows to the workers movement. Working-class parties can be forced to spend substantial resources and leadership time responding to demands to turn over documents, submit to multiday interrogation, and prepare for repeated court hearings.
In 1979, for example, Alan Gelfand, a lawyer in California, filed suit demanding that federal courts expel the SWP leadership, claiming they were FBI agents. Federal judge Marianna Pfaelzer let Gelfand carry out this attack for 10 years before finally ruling when the case went to trial in 1989 that the suit “is groundless and always was.”
Nor should anyone make light of the harm to the workers movement as sections of the U.S. rulers take advantage of “America firstism” peddled by “birthers.” Bills have recently been introduced in more than 10 states to require presidential candidates to produce a U.S. birth certificate in order to be certified for the ballot.
In states such as New York, where Calero was on the ballot in 2004 and 2008, there is currently no requirement that a candidate be eligible to serve in elected office in order to have ballot status. This makes it easier for working-class candidates to run for office and gain a hearing for a course to fight the bosses’ attacks and advance a road to workers political power.
The bill introduced in Maine minces no words about its intended political targets. It requires only “independent” candidates to produce a birth certificate, not those of the two main capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans.
“Our attorneys have submitted the motion to have Strunk’s suit thrown out,” Calero told the Militant, “and we hope it will be. But we are ready for whatever comes our way.”