Saturday, July 02, 2005


The Eighth Annual Muzzle Awards

Boston Phoenix/Boston/MA/USA/30-Jun-05

...FBI Spying, infiltrating, and protecting us against Quakers

The Muzzle Awards were inspired by noted civil-liberties lawyer and Phoenix contributor Harvey Silverglate, and are named after similar awards given by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Freedom of Expression. They were compiled by tracking freedom-of-expression stories in New England since last July 4, and are based on reporting by various news organizations — especially the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Providence Journal, and the Portland Press Herald, as well as other local and national sources — and the Phoenix newspapers in Boston, Providence, and Portland.

This year, the main threat to the First Amendment isn’t necessarily censorship (although there is still plenty of that), but, rather, the state of surveillance that has arisen in post-9/11 America. In the name of protecting us from ourselves, the government has cast a wary eye on everyone who fails to march in lockstep with the agenda of our self-styled protectors. We are being followed. We are being watched. And we are being forced to give up even our precious bodily fluids, to quote from Dr. Strangelove, lest we be suspected of having committed terrible crimes.

No government agency has done more to advance this total surveillance state than the FBI. The Sons and Daughters of J. Edgar Hoover are still dealing with such dubious legacies as their harassment of Martin Luther King Jr. and their evil alliance with mass-murdering gangster James "Whitey" Bulger — but, by God, they’re going to make damn sure they protect us from the Quakers.

This past May, the ACLU took action to get to the bottom of the FBI’s activities. The national organization, as well as chapters in a number of states — including Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island — filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in an attempt to determine the nature and extent of the FBI’s spying. "We don’t want to return to the days when peaceful critics become subjects of government investigations," Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, said in a statement announcing the FOIA requests. "We think the public deserves to know more about the FBI’s secret spying agreements with the local police through the Joint Terrorism Task Forces."

Among the Massachusetts organizations and people on whose behalf the ACLU filed FOIA requests are the American Friends Service Committee, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the International Action Committee Boston, and such well-known local activists as former ACLU of Massachusetts director John Roberts, Boston city councilor Chuck Turner, historian Howard Zinn, and linguist Noam Chomsky.

Maine organizations that are the subject of FOIA requests include Peace Action Maine, the Maine Coalition for Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine, the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence, and the People’s Free Space. Among the individuals is Timothy Sullivan, who also makes a cameo in our Muzzle for the City of Augusta, which last year tried to charge Sullivan and his fellow peace activists nearly $12,000 for the right to protest against the war in Iraq.


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