“New COINTELPRO campaign directed at Arabs, Muslims and South East Asians”
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
The Arab, Muslim and South East Asian communities are currently facing a new FBI counter intelligence program similar to the COINTELPRO operation against the African Americans during the 1960s, says Dr. Hatem Bazian, Professor at the Near East and Ethnic Studies Department, University of California, Berkeley.
COINTELPRO is the acronym for a series of FBI counterintelligence programs designed to neutralize political dissidents in the 1960s and 1970s. The program was directed against the civil rights movements, especially against the community leadership of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans. In the 1980s similar program was used against Central American solidarity groups.
In a speech entitled, the New COINTELPRO campaign directed at Arabs, Muslims and South East Asians, Dr. Hatem Bazian said that all sub-divisions - such as ethnic groupings, immigrants or indigenous and ideological orientations of the Muslims, Arabs and South Asians are included as target by the counter Intelligence operation in the name of national security.
He pointed out that four methods were employed by the FBI at the height of the Cointelpro operation during 1960s and the same methods are being employed now which are: 1) Infiltration in the community. 2) Psychological warfare from outside. 3) Harassment through the legal system. 4) Extra legal force and violence.
Dr. Bazian, an American of Palestinian origin, graphically explained how the community has been affected by the arrests, raids or search warrants against the Muslim, Arab and South Asian individuals, groups and organizations. In the hour long speech at the UC Berkeley campus on Feb. 3, 2005, he also exposed the media frenzy created by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security by pre-arranging media coverage of these arrests, raids or search warrants.
According to Dr. Bazian, the current infiltration program - under the premise of securing America from the sleeper cells - has a two fold goal: one, arrest those who might express support to Ben Laden; and second, which is more important these days, focusing on the pro-Palestinian sentiments among the targeted communities. However, he added, the overwhelming majority of cases after 9/11 have to do more with the Palestinian issue rather than Osama Ben Laden.
It may be pointed that a FBI secret report leaked to the press on March 10 said that the US Government efforts to date have not revealed evidence of concealed cells or networks acting in the homeland as sleepers as US recruits are hard to find. The report added that “US recruits are hard to find and al-Qa’ida detainees have reported that US citizens can be difficult to work with, one senior detainee claimed that US citizens and others who grew up in the West, were too independent and thought they knew more about US operations than senior planners.”
Dr. Bazian said that pro-Israeli groups are helping in infiltration in the Muslim and Arab communities with Arabic speaking persons who possibly served in some capacity in the occupied Palestinian territory. The pro-Israeli centric groups include the Front Page Magazine and Campus Watch of Denial Pipes and the Anti-Discrimination League (ADL) that has for a long time been engaged in collecting information.
He was of the view that the pro-Israeli members of the American society are offering their services for collecting information about the Muslims for their own ideological reason which is the security of Israeli political and economic interests in America. “Many Israeli centric individuals and organizations view with great alarm the increase in numbers and assertiveness of American Muslim and Arab communities. Since it has potential in the long run of causing the reconsideration of the existing policies vis a vis Israel and the Middle East.”
Elaborating on the legal harassment campaign of the government, Dr. Bazian argued that the arrests, raids or search warrants campaign is pre-occupying the Muslim individuals, groups and organizations with preparation for defense for the increasing number of legal cases which are draining resources of the community. He said that through the legal process the FBI immediately puts the individuals and organizations out of business.
He pointed out that currently the community is facing 266 legal cases which included the case of South Florida University Professor, Dr. Sami Al Arian, with 49 counts indictment that allows the Israeli intelligence agency to submit evidence against him. He said that the retainer for Dr. Al Arian’s case is more than 650,000 dollars and by time this legal battle will finish the legal cost is likely to rise up to 2.5 million dollars.
In another example of legal harassment, Dr. Bazian recalled that one person was arrested and the only thing the security agencies had against him was that in his address book the address of an Islamic website, Hizb-e-Tahrir was found. That was enough evidence to keep him in solitary confinement and to go through proceedings of deportation under the premise that he is engaged or sympathetic to terrorists.
He added that the legal harassment by the government would continue since at the present moment the courts have given all the needed leeway to the executive branch to cover steps and overstep various significant parts of the constitution while the high rate of public support makes it possible to affirm these steps.
Dr. Bazian said that another objective of the legal campaign is to create dissention in the community and destabilize their established organizations as people begin to doubt the integrity of those involved in legal cases.
In the post 9/11 a number of organizations have cropped up to challenge the leadership of well-established Muslim and Arab organizations such as Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), the Arab-American Institute (AAI) and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).
The Centre for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) has been formed with the specific purpose of “removal of CAIR and ISNA from monopoly status in representing Muslims to the American public.” The CIP is established by Stephen Schwartz, a former Trotskyite militant who became a Sufi Muslim in 1997. Daniel Pipes has provided initial funds to establish the CIP.
At the same time we see cropping up some other groups such as the Wake Up Muslim and the Progressive Muslim Union who wants to benefit from the present state of siege of the American Muslim community here.
Another major tool employed during the height of Cointelpro operation was psychological warfare from outside at the targeted group, Dr. Bazian said, which is now done through 24 hours negative campaign against the Muslims, Arabs and South East Asians and their core belief in the mainstream media.
Alluding to the anti-Islam campaign since 9/11 by the Christian right, so-called scholars of Islam, media columnists as well as some agenda driven think tanks, Dr. Bazian said: “The message from the negative campaign is that the problem is in what you believe and with whom you associate. And if you change it completely, leave those whom you associate with, then you will be accepted as normal and positive member of the American community.”
Here is an abridged text of Dr. Hatem Bazian’s speech at the University of California, Berkeley on Feb. 3, 2005
First method: Infiltration in the Arab, Muslim and South East Asian community
“In my opinion the period of recruitment was put into place immediately after 9/11 and is still underway, three years removed after the tragic events,” Dr. Bazian said adding that the Infiltration is underway, under the premise of securing America from the sleeper cells.
He believes that the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI arms have reached the limit in the recruitment campaign and every major Arab and Muslim and South East Asian organization or center must have someone on the job of collecting information for big brother. “The discredit and disrupt phase has just started and rest assure that it will kick into high gear in the next few years, considering the personnel inducted by the Bush administration in his second term.”
“One group that is offering its services for collecting information about the Muslims for its own ideological reason is the Israeli centric members of the American society for the benefit of the security of Israeli political and economic interests in America. Many Israeli centric individuals and organizations view with great alarm the increase in numbers and assertiveness of American Muslim and Arab communities. Since it has potential in the long run of causing the reconsideration of the existing policies vis a vis Israel and the Middle East.
“The infiltration program directed by the Israeli centric grouping has longer experience in this field and is also able to recruit from a diverse group of personnel that speak Arabic and served possibly in some capacity in the occupied territory. The Israeli centric groups include the Front Page Magazine and Campus Watch of Denial Pipes. The Anti-Discrimination League (ADL) has for a long time been engaged in collecting information as well.”
In his view, at this point that the Department of homeland Security and the FBI have already developed a database which contains the name of every local, regional and national leader in the Arab, Muslim and South East Asian communities. In addition, the database will contain names of individuals who are more than happy and ready to offer their services for the agency at a discounted rate or no fee at all.
Cointel program as a success model
Dr. Hatem Bazian pointed out that the goals of the infiltration have not changed much since the FBI and the US security agencies look back at the Cointel program as a success model even though it has been discredited afterwards. “The US security intelligence institutions took at the Cointel Operation as a success model. The measurement of success is the complete elimination of the radical movements of the 1960s and early 1970s and their replacement by political forces that were more relevant for the security program rather than maintain a mode of resistance. So the resistance of 1960s was eliminated by the 1970, it was already gone.” Now if we say well that the system has corrected or adjusted is not correct. The reality is that they see it as a success model, he added.
Infiltration program has a two fold goal
The current infiltration program has a two fold goal: one, arrest those who might express support to Ben Laden; and second, which is more important these days, focusing on the pro-Palestinian sentiments among the targeted communities.
“When we look at all the cases emerged after 9/11, the overwhelming majority cases that we are confronted have to do more with the Palestinian issue rather than Osama Ben Laden and the US while many of the pro-Israeli activists have been constantly trying to make that link, thus discrediting pro-Palestinian activists for speaking out for Palestine.
Alarmingly, in his view, “the perception that has already been developed by our government that underlies the security structure’s thinking which views that the Arabs, Muslims and South East Asians as extended pockets of ideological support and affinity to Al Qaeda.”
“And here the affinity with the ideological position, meaning opposing US intervention and presence in the Middle East and opposing continuous US support to Israel, continuous expansion of US power at the expense of Arabs, Muslims and South East Asians. If such pocket exists then it is easy for it to be transformed into active networks. Thus the infiltration program is warranted, if not demanded, by such an eventuality from the point of view of the Department of Homeland Security.
Second tool: Psychological warfare from outside
Second major tool employed during the height of Cointelpro operation was psychological warfare from outside at the targeted group, Dr. Bazian said, which is now done through 24/7 negative campaign against the Muslims, Arabs and South East Asians in the mainstream media.
Under the psychological warfare, during 60s and 70s, the security agencies planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists.
At present the security agencies provide negative stories about Muslims, Arabs and South East Asians that often have no connection to what is taking place. It is intended to maintain a siege mentality among members of targeted groups.
It is thought that constant external psychological pressure would lead to behavior modification in the targeted group. What we have here is a basic behavior modification program directed at the Arabs, Muslims and South Asians. The goal of which is to bring about a complete change in the world view, an essential outlook of the targeted group.
“The message from the negative campaign is that the problem is in what you believe and with whom you associate. And if you change it completely, leave those whom you associate with, then you will be accepted as normal and positive member of the American community.”
The leading cases of arrest of individuals, the exposure of some secret groups training in a hamlet and account of money movements, all intended to keep the psychological pressure on the targeted community.
Yet a number of these cases are real and the evidence was with the prosecution, but the overwhelming numbers of all others are nothing more than a psychological tool to employ for the specific purpose of containment.
The number of cases directly related to 9/11 are limited to one or possibly two. However the continuous stream of arrests and charges brought against Arabs, Muslims and South East Asians are intended to maintain the psychological pressure. We have 266 other cases that we are dealing with in the courts today. None of them have anything with the activities of 9/11. Three years since 9/11, we don’t have their actual names from the 1000 arrests and 266 cases.
Third element: Harassment through the legal system
Dr. Bazian argued that one of the most powerful tool at the disposal of the FBI and the DHS is the legal system which can be deployed as an instrument of control rather than basic adjudication of dispute between various parties, including the government.
“During the early days of the 20th century the Justice Department perfected the use of legal system in a campaign of harassment and intimidation directed towards anarchists and communists alike, presently we are witnessing once again the use of legal system in a well designed campaign directed against the leadership and activists in the Arab, Muslim and South East Asian communities.”
Dr. Bazian summarized the goal of harassment through legal system in the following 10 forms:
First: Through the legal process the FBI and the DHS structures immediately put the individuals and organizations out of business, since an arrest or search warrant is intended to halt all activities carried out by the identified subject.
When we examine the non-profit sector and community based organizations, we find that few individuals are responsible for keeping the group moving. And if they are suddenly removed from the scene then the immediate outcome is a state of paralysis which will take time to overcome. By tiding the leadership and activist segment of the in the Arab, Muslim and South East Asian communities the FBI and the DHS are essentially causing an internal collapse in many non-profit organizations providing a variety of services.
We must always be reminded of the harm and other destruction visited upon the Native American and the African American communities in similar process that has been underway since the early days of this country.
Second: By arresting or charging or serving a search warrant the FBI and DHS can immediately produce negative responses in the community towards those individuals and groups targeted. It is common to speak in private and they most likely to say that they must have done something otherwise the FBI would not have come after it.
Third: The legal process allows for media frenzy to take place, and a wider negative campaign permeated the society towards targeted individuals and groups.
It is important to note that often the media was contacted before a given raid or event in such a way to guarantee sensational coverage on the local channels. And if it is big fish caught in the raid then it is on the hour at the national news, Fox and CNN included. The intent of this pre-arranged media spectacles are to make the story of the arrest in raids or search warrants as widely known as possible and help generate more stories on the subject matter.
As they say, no one wants the old news, thus the breaking news stories create frenzy among the media sharks, thus further helping achieve the psychological part of the campaign.
Fourth: Through the arrests and raids and searches, the FBI and the DHS people are able to indirectly set the agenda of activities of the community organizations. Immediately after the arrest, the targeted communities, groups or individuals would begin to mobilize for some type of a legal response. Hire a lawyer and organize a committee to handle the situation, which might involve meetings face to face with the FBI and other security agencies.
What is relevant for us is the actual directing of the groups or individuals agenda away from what they are doing, towards the FBI and DHS people want them to do i.e. follow the legal track, follow the legal train leading to nowhere for the next 15 years. And instead of capacity building and future fund raising for school or community center, communities are instead overtaken by legal defense.
Five: Another more damaging outcome of the approach is the real possibility of split and fallout among the community members, who begin to point the finger at each other and those who are arrested, charged or searched. As the Arab saying goes, when the cow falls all the knives cut through the meat, which means that the legal scandal of an individual or group of the community creates an internal frenzy that leads often to self destruction.
In such a period and with the goal of infiltration already accomplished, the FBI and DHS might use the occasion to further existing differences into eventual split and internal hostilities among members of the community.
Six: The legal process allows for new and less experienced people emerge at the local community scene. And their initial task is figuring out who is who and what needs to be done when the group is under siege. These are the moments that make it possible for infiltration to take position and power in the community.
In some cases, we can see that the change of leadership is a welcome relief for the entire grouping that was empowered for several years in these organizations, but the manner in which it is achieved should raise the alarm for everyone concerned since change from the outside is not a healthy process.
Seven: The legal process is very expensive and if the community groups, for most part the second and third generation immigrants and their limited resources are required to mount a large number of legal battles then their financial position is greatly impacted.
On a national level, the resources committed for the legal defense funds and hiring lawyers is putting a strain on community and impacting schools and community projects.
In addition the legal campaign comes at a time when the economy is on the downturn and many Arab, Muslim and South East Asian professionals lost their jobs in the technology industry.
Take for example, Prof. Sami Al Arian’s case in Florida, where the retainer for the lawyers was upwards than $ 650,000 and the financial cost of the law suit is expected to go for about 2.5 million dollars by the end of this legal battle.
Dr. Sami Al Arian is the professor at the University of South Florida. The government handed him a 49 count indictment. And announcing the legal defense the government has 30,000 hours of taped material on him, from speeches of conferences, talks and some phone conversations. The prosecution translates 30,000 hours and the defense has to do its own translation because you don’t trust the government translation in prosecution. Therefore he has to translate that material.
And also the 49 count indictment allows foreign intelligence sources, Israeli sources, to be admitted into the court against him. He has not committed any crime whatsoever. He is in solitary confinement for three years and this is in a country where one is innocent until proven guilty, but they now changed it, guilty until we say you are innocent.
We have 266 other legal cases that are on the target right now. The cheapest one will cost about 30,000 dollars. We have Holy Land foundation legal case. We have almost 16 cases in Chicago, Ohio, San Diego, Los Angeles and here in San Francisco. All cases dealing with a variety of different matters.
In one case, one person was arrested and the only thing they had against him was that in his address book he has a piece of paper that have address of an Islamic website, Hizb-e-Tahrir and that was enough evidence to keep him in solitary confinement and to go through proceedings of deportation under the premise that he is engaged or sympathetic to terrorist.
Now if anyone knows anything about Hizb-e-Tahrir. Hizb-e-Tahrir does not engage in any politics, their position, just to understand what the Hizb-e-Tahrir is, that we should not do anything until the Khalifa, the Muslim grand leader is brought back and once he is brought back then he has to tell us what to do and until then you should not do anything but hope that this leader is back. How to get that (Khalifa back), they don’t tell you. They have not built a mosque in this country. They have not build a school, they have not done anything. They don’t engage in violence. They are not suppose to do anything until the Khalifa or Caliph returns.
So you could see the type of legal cases. Now for any of these you have to hire a lawyer, you have to be in court, you have to mount a defense, you have to go to the government back and forth, because the government brings all the evidence around Hizb-e-Tahrir and you have to refer to lawyers and many of the lawyers do not know what the Hizb-e-Tahrir is, let alone that their website is in Arabic. So they have to hire an expert that would read and give testimony for what this site is all about.
So this is what you are dealing with in real legal cases.
Another legal battle, the closing down of the Holy Lad Foundation and freezing its assets has already cost over two million dollars in legal fees and is likely that the court proceedings will go until all the funds are drained by the legal fees. In the Holy Lad Foundation the US government froze about five million dollars of the organization’s funds but in the legal process they don’t allow the (defense) lawyers to be compensated from these funds. Thus it is in the best interest of the legal team to possibility prolong the case until all money is exhausted from the account.
Eight: The legal harassment also leads to disrupting national networks built over years of trust and relationship developed over generations. Often immigrant communities developed state and national networks based on the needs to maintain some links between individuals and families from back home, which in due time begins to translate into alliances that serve as a bedrock for the emergence of political organizations.
When legal battle developed one of its outcome is the destruction of those relations and the planting of seeds of doubt and mistrust among people who had long standing relations for over a generation.
Nine: The regional and national panel of organizations and rules begin to take more of a localized characteristic, due to the pre-occupation with the legal battle governed by the specific association and reference to them. As such Chicago Muslims of South East Asia begin to focus mainly on their own field. While (Muslims in) Dallas and New Jersey will be pre-occupied with their own set of legal cases that will be against furthering the national networks.
Also connected to this is the need for resources begin to impact the level of openness to share and raise funds for other than the localized legal crisis.
Ten: Fear is a very important commodity and its introduction as an instrument of control is a strategic one. Fearful people will accept a variety of initiatives that under normal conditions will be considered unthinkable.
In the case of an immigrant who has a limited knowledge of the society, fear will have a profound impact and in some cases it will lead to complete case of hopeless which the government agent can use for their own interest.
The legal tools are intended to bring about fear and provide a lesson to everyone in the Muslim, Arab and South East Asian communities. If you dare to go out of line then what awaits you something ten times worst than what your friend down the street got. If you have money rest assure we will take away from you. Or you have some assets that you have been able after 10, 20, or 30 years of work in America, those will be taken away from you and you will spend every penny attempting to clear your name.
Lessons are that the government has the ability to use all power at its disposal to achieve a set of goal even be the unjust. And there is an increasing need to restrain the government power because it may render injustice and also make it a norm without recourse.
Courts give leeway
In our current period the court have given all the needed leeway to the executive branch to cover steps and overstep various significant parts of the constitution, if they ever read the constitution.
And the high rate of public support makes it possible to affirm these steps. As such the legal harassment by the government would continue and we should expect a limited number of our victories in the future which should not confuse us away from understanding the structure that has been deployed.
Fourth element: The extra legal force and violence
The extra legal force and violence happened in the 60s and 70s but not yet deployed against the Muslim, Arab and South East Asian communities. However one can argue that this has been used through the massive arrests and torture of prisoners in the US. This is something that we accept but we don’t have yet extra legal force and violence against the community directly but we should be watchful for this in the future.
Finally the positive developments
One the positive developments in encountering what has occurred, there is an increasing resistance that is emerging in the Muslim, Arab and South East Asian such as in Chicago, New York andTexas.
The 650,000 dollar retainer to Sami Al Arian lawyer was raised by the community on a national level. There is at least an attempt to resist on the legal trap as well as to be engaged in political process in response.
Another important development is coalition across racial and ethnic lines. A tremendous coalition that has emerged was the coalition of the Japanese community which was in forefront to the support of the Muslim, Arab and South East Asian communities initially. This was followed by the Asian Law office as well as many other ethnic communities which came to develop modes of collation building for the long term.
Also there is a movement towards studying law. Many the Muslims, Arabs and South East Asians for a long time will be studying hard sciences. We are witnessing a trend towards studying law, in the law school here where there were now 12 the Muslims, Arabs and South East Asians in law class. So there is a change and shift towards studying law which is reflected nationally.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is Executive Editor of the online magazine, American Muslim Perspective www.amperspective.com
Originally published on The American Muslim Perspective website at http://www.amperspective.com/html/dr__bazian.html