Did everybody catch the big dog-and-pony show on February 24 in D.C.? Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge, flanked by New York City and California officials, proudly announced a new “Homeland Security Information Network,” a massive chat room linking cops throughout the country so they can share info on terrorists.
And that means protesters.
By this summer, just in time for the GOP’s coronation of Bush, 5,000 “authorized users” in 300 police agencies from every state, five territories, and 50 urban areas will have real-time IM, e-mail, and live chat with one another. As The Washington Post put it, “the system will flash information from a police officer on the street to Ridge’s office to across the country in minutes.” Ridge was practically creaming: “We’ll be able to send photos and maps, even streaming video. We’ll even be able to access data at the scene of a crime . . . through wireless laptops.”
This network is an extension of what’s called the Joint Regional Information Exchange System (JRIES), headed by Ed Manavian, whose California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC) has been blasted for feverishly collecting and distributing information on protesters. The “founding partners” of JRIES are CATIC, the NYPD’s Counter Terrorism Division, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Joint Intelligence Task Force Combating Terrorism. (Check out the slide show at dtic.mil/ndia/2003homeland/palmer.ppt.)
Manavian is a former narc whose title last year was CATIC director but who now has a more benign appellation: chairman of JRIES. He told Tuesday’s D.C. press conference that JRIES (rhymes with “scabies”) has already proved its worth, noting that last December, two LAPD cops separately identified suspicious people and alerted the network, through which D.C. cops recognized one of the names and immediately opened an investigation.
John Miller, the turncoat ABC journalist who’s head of the LAPD’s counter-terror unit, describes the network as “the ultimate chat room for the anti-terrorism business.”
They’re all so enthusiastic. But here’s the question: Who’s a terrorist?
According to Manavian and his CATIC crew, protesters are terrorists.
Last spring, after CATIC warned that anti-war protesters were gathering at the Oakland port, Oakland cops fired wooden slugs at the protesters. Afterward, CATIC spokesman Mike Van Winkle told the Oakland Tribune, “You can make an easy kind of a link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that’s being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that [protest]. You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act.”
Yes, protesting against the “war on terror” makes you a terrorist. Remember that this summer.
As the Tribune noted, causing a traffic jam is enough to stir CATIC and JRIES into warnings of terrorist activity. (That, of course, immediately puts all Manhattan cabbies in the “terrorist” category–even the ones who aren’t immigrants.)
“If we receive information that 10,000 folks are going to a street corner and going to block it, that’s breaking a law,” Manavian told the Tribune. “That’s the kind of information we’re going to relay.”
And Van Winkle added: “I’ve heard terrorism described as anything that is violent or has an economic impact, and shutting down a port certainly would have some economic impact. Terrorism isn’t just bombs going off and killing people.”
Civil libertarians have tried to point out that protesters aren’t necessarily terrorists. (Check out the Tribune‘s exhaustive story. Most of the paper’s “Protest at the Port” coverage can be found online. Civil libertarians’ reactions are in a Tribune story archived at Global Exchange.)
But CATIC’s fervent info-gathering has lumped all protesters, all dissenters into the terrorist category. There are no independent safeguards in place. And now this is a national network under the combined control of the NYPD, Department of Defense, and CATIC. Can this be happening here? Yes, this summer.