Falguni A. Sheth and Robert E. Prasch / Salon.com & Patrick Henningsen / Global Research – 2013-04-23 10:24:36
In Boston, Our Bloated Surveillance State Didn’t Work
Falguni A. Sheth and Robert E. Prasch / Salon.com
BOSTON (April 21, 2013) — The subtext of the official state view and media coverage coming out of Boston over the last week carried a crucial message to the American public: It was a vindication of the Counter-Terrorism Surveillance State and its massive expenditures and the associated erosion of American constitutional liberties.
To that end, the several days since the bombing of the Boston Marathon showcased a mesmerizing display of reality television mediated by the unquestioning officiousness of the fourth estate. On vivid display was “proof through performance,” a validation that the laws passed and massive expenditures incurred over the last decade were essential to the state’s “protection of the public.”
Multiple banners flashed across the scene with short, exciting spins about the status of the manhunt for the bombing suspects; they were accompanied by endlessly repeated images of Boston and Watertown police, SWAT teams and FBI officers, all carrying a dazzling array of complicated weapons, bordered by police cars.
There wasn’t a civilian in sight, since they all appeared to have accepted the “command” (which was in fact a request) to stay inside. These images alternated with breathless images of reporters “at the scene,” filibustering inanely, occasionally offering proud announcements about how they were asked to “move back” as the focus of the police search for the suspects shifted. It was as if they were children proudly reporting how they were asked by their teacher to help clean the blackboards.
The past decade has seen presidents, politicians — conservatives and liberals alike — champion preemptive policing laws such as the USA Patriot Act, FISA, NDAA 2012 and 2013, to Transportation Security Administration security practices and searches, to “See Something, Say Something” practices — all in service to fighting the War on Terror.
As a cable-news talking head cooed Friday morning: “There are cameras and social media everywhere. There is nowhere to hide!” That statement seemed indisputable: store cameras, street cameras, private cellphone cameras and videos could be integrated to give an astonishingly wide record of the tens of thousands of people who were at last Monday’s event.
Yet, the most important truth of that day seemed to be lost in the gush of self-congratulation: The explosion of the bombs confirmed that a massive extension of the surveillance-state did not protect people in Boston.
Remarkably, this message of the paramilitarized surveillance state was in no way challenged merely because it was inaccurate. By the time Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick ended the “shelter in place” request, the second suspect had still not been found. Suddenly, the Boston public was supposed to believe that they were magically safer after the lockdown ended than before.
But lest one come to conclude that this suggested a failure of the militant and closely watchful surveillance state, Rachel Maddow, Erin Burnett and other cable news heads happily rushed to its vindication by triumphantly exclaiming the insightful fruits of the years-long “See Something, Say Something” campaign by the Department of Homeland Security.
The rough description that the media had in common was this: A guy walked out to his boat to smoke a cigarette, saw something moving, and lifted the tarp — only to find the injured suspect. At which point, he retreated and called the police! Would the boat owner have acted differently prior to the “See Something, Say Something” campaign? Never mind.
Indeed, the vaunted magic of (decades-old) infrared technology, increased surveillance, and the absence of restraints on law enforcement, of this massive martial state could all be justified through the lens of the state itself, a breathless and supine media, and an ostensibly cowering but now relieved public. Yeah! The War on Terror is so successful! See?
But the show did not end there. As Erin Burnett crowed: “They took him alive! This proves that there is justice in America! Innocent till proven guilty.” Despite its nonsensical meaning, this oblique message was reiterated by the president, who cautioned us against a “rush to judgment” — certainly about groups of people. Apparently, “[t]hat’s why we have courts.” Hmmm. That’s going to be news to some folks still languishing in Cuba.
Not to be outdone by an illusory call for order by a president who has supported multiple renewals of FISA and pressured the Senate into approving an expansion of executive power to arrest and detain any suspected terrorist (US citizen or foreign national) anywhere in the world (in NDAA 2012 and 2013), Sen. Lindsey Graham insisted that we were seeing proof that the homeland was the battlefield.
And indeed, it’s hard to disagree with him — even if one is critical. Moreover, according to Graham and Sen. McCain, even a 19-year-old naturalized citizen (vaguely fingered as Chechnyan and Muslim) can and should be treated as an enemy combatant.
What further cements this view of the Homeland as a Battlefield is the public, collective and casual insistence that a 19-year old should not be read his Miranda rights — because an asserted “public safety exception” can be invoked in view of the fact that other IED’s or pressure-cooker bombs might have been set.
With this, we are halfway to Alan Dershowitz’ favored fantasy: next, let’s torture him — because we “know” a bomb might be set somewhere by him that threatens to hurt Americans. However, shockingly, even Dershowitz refuses to be fear-mongered, arguing instead that the only logical outcome was a civilian trial, insisting that “it’s not even clear under the federal terrorism statute that this qualifies as an act of terrorism.”
Moreover, there was nearly no element of the recently reinforced surveillance state that contributed to the capture or killing these two suspects. As an example, let’s assume every detail of the attack is the same except that it occurred in 1977 (to pick a random date prior to our ubiquitous Counter-Terrorism surveillance state; remember how we used to have “bad guys” before September 11?).
If the “bad guys” had put together such a plan in 1977, would events have unfolded any differently? Would there have been a lot of photography at the finish line of such a prominent public event? Yes, although in the pre-digital age, it would have taken a little longer to gather and sort through the pictures.
Hence, this aspect of this past week’s outcome can’t be ascribed to the massive expenditures and “federalization” of “homeland security,” but rather to a change in consumer electronics.
Would the two brothers have been flushed out by the police response to a nearby and unrelated robbery that led to the tragic shooting of a MIT police officer, the carjacking and ensuing chase that ended with the shootout in Watertown?
It is hard to credit this sequence of events, which were initiated by a mere coincidence, to the success of the modern surveillance state. Would the initial shootout in Watertown, the escape of one of the brothers, and the eventual spotting of blood on the side of a boat and the calling in of that observation have unfolded in more or less the same way in 1977? Probably.
Where is the added value? In what way have the massive expenditures, intrusive surveillance practices, and stripping away of our liberties been vindicated by the events of this past week? In fact, no one can truthfully say “Aha! This is where these new practices have made a difference! Thank goodness George W. Bush and Barack Obama have so little regard for the American Constitution or everything would have really gone badly at that particular point in these events.”
What we witnessed was a tragic — but sadly â€“ too familiar sequence of events. In a nation of over 340 million, we have a few demented or damaged souls with real or imagined grievances that cause them to wish to harm people whom they do not know. We also have good, brave, and competent local and state police forces that are able and willing to solve these crimes. It was true back in 1977 (and long before), and remains true today.
So what in fact did change? We now have a “War on Terror” that permeates every public news event and action. The immediate leap to the familiar “Terrorists In Our Midst” narrative is facilitated and amplified by a bovine mainstream media amped up by endless alerts issued by a Department of Homeland Security and two Presidential Administrations about insane foreigners here, there, and everywhere.
In other words, what’s changed is the presence of a fear-mongering narrative of the War on Terror, along with the billions in expenditures that are used to justify it, that reframe a centuries old story about crime.
The events of the past week in Boston do not vindicate the rise of the Homeland Security bureaucracy and certainly do not vindicate the stripping of our liberties, the shutting down of a major city, or the instantiation of a police state. But they certainly affirm the future as it was perceived by Orwell.
Falguni A. Sheth, a professor of philosophy and political theory at Hampshire College, writes about politics, race, and feminism at translationexercises.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @FalguniSheth.
Robert E. Prasch is Professor of Economics at Middlebury College.
This piece originally appeared on Translation Exercises.
19-Year-Old Boy Suspect: Why Does Boston Celebrate Martial Law with Chants of ‘USA, USA’?
Patrick Henningsen / Global Research
‘The people of Massachusetts now owe federal and local law enforcement a debt of gratitude.’
— President Obama
(April 20, 2013) — Last night in Boston, following the apprehension of a 19 year old student suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, crowds poured on to the streets of Watertown and surrounding boroughs, celebrating what they believe was an end of their terrible ordeal which began on Monday.
In what looked more like an post-game celebration following a Boston Celtics NBA championship, or a Red Sox World Series victory — major media reported the communal outpouring of national pride where resident could be seen with painted faces, brandishing American flags, and heard shouting “USA, USA”.
How did Friday become such a huge ‘patriotic moment’ for the people of Boston? Was this some kind of victory for America?
President Obama also emerged from ‘The Situation Room” in typical Hollywood fashion, to inform the people of New England that they “owed a debt of gratitude to federal and local law enforcement officers and officials”.
Was it really a success?
The Voice of America has called it, “A Week of Terror” in Boston.
But other than mustering en mass and on cue, many are still left asking this question of the 9,000 law enforcement, “What have they actually done so far?”
It seems that the biggest urban dragnet in US history could not manage to find the suspect, who was eventually found by a neighbor having a cigarette break.
What is obviously clear by the public reaction, and by the incessant grandstanding by a handful of officials at multiple press briefings, was that the people of Boston had been conditioned to believe that an overwhelming police and military show of force in Boston was necessary in order to ‘make them feel safe’.
For federal and local officials, this was their own personal ‘Katrina moment’, and the media circus scrum saw a number of individuals and departments almost competing for air-time in a bid to make their own corner of the crisis relevant while the national media spotlight was still fresh. The words of former White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel can be heard echoing through Boston:
“Never let a good crisis go to waste”…
The city of Boston was effectively closed down under military-style dictum that included the closure of the city MBTA public transport system, Taxis taken off the road, restricted curfews, bank closures, business closures, police taking over public areas for ‘staging’, door to door searches of homes, and something which was not reported, and unsurprisingly so, the military commandeering of Boston police scanner communications in the early hours of Friday morning.
Drivers heading in and out of city arteries could see the signs which read in bright letters, “Shelter-in-place in effect in Boston”, which was an order to stay indoors.
Boy held is still only ‘a suspect’
Here another major point, which seems to be lost on everyone from the President downwards — the 19-year-old held in custody is still only ‘a suspect’. After the largest man-hunt in New England history, with an estimated 9,000 local and federal police, hundreds of bomb squad workers and SWAT Team marksman, anti-terror specialists and a visible contingent of heavy military vehicles — all spread throughout Boston conducting house-to-house searches, patrolling city neighborhoods — the 19-year-old high school wrestling champion and University of Massachusetts Dartmouth student, fugitive Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was miraculously located only blocks from the original shoot-out on the evening of April 18th.
He has since been transferred to a local hospital and is said to be in serious condition due to gun shot wounds suffered some 24 hours before.
It was a bizarre spectacle — even by American standards, where under a federal mandate, the city of Boston went into complete lock-down for nearly 2 days, enacting what amounts to Martial Law, in order to apprehend one 19 year old suspect, who, based on the assessment of every pundit on every local and major network (as well as the White House) had already been determined to be the most dangerous fugitive in US history.
Even after being discovered nearly bleeding to death under a tarp covering a boat in someone’s Sommerville driveway, the feeding frenzy continued, along with accolades and tributes to the bravery of Boston’s 9,000 plus finest.
To call all of this over-the-top is an understatement for sure, but more than anything, it confirms what many already suspected — that faced with any threat — real or fabricated, and after pumping up with the corporate media machine and the new American police state, and in a macabre sort of fashion which has become almost unique to the post-9/11 American cultural mindset — they will clamour for Martial Law in their communities. Naturally, and with this Boston example offered as clear proof, authorities, technocrat and the architects of the new American police state now know this is indeed the case.
For all this it seems, the Commander ‘n Chief felts that America owes this new over-arching Police State a “debt of gratitude”.
Who benefits from this week’s events? Do the people of Boston, or the American people benefit from the events of the last few days? As the dust settles, there are a few clear beneficiaries of this regrettable incident.
MA Governor Deval Patrick took advantage of his own “Chris Christie Moment” (of Hurricane Sandy fame in New Jersey), no doubt with his eye on a Presidential run in the future. The Boston Chief of Police Ed Davis also managed to get in front of the national media, but with very little to say… that was worth saying.
After this event, the TSA and the DHS will almost certainly be given new jurisdiction over all major professional and college sporting events, as well as any large public gatherings, festivals and concerts.
In light of the recent budget sequester debate in Washington DC, you can also expect that their operating budgets will expand, which means many more billions will be awarded in federal contracts from those departments. The surveillance industry will also benefit.
In a segment which aired this morning on MSNBC’s Rock Center, a network ‘foreign affairs expert’ Richard Engel, claimed that the events of the last 48 hours somehow had serious “national security implications”.
Now Americans can expect new powers, passed by law or by executive order, that will give the state increased power to spy upon their private lives and to seize their property or assets under the ever-expanding banner of national security.
Living in the American bubble
Regarding national security implications, Americans and their media experts might consider that during this week alone: Terrorist bombs killed hundreds of innocent civilians including: 75 in Iraq, in 18 in Pakistan, 35 in Somalia — with hundreds of others currently dying, injured and maimed in those countries, as well as others in Syria, Bangladesh, Mali and Thailand. Over the course of a year, these figures can be multiplied by two hundred.
It should also be pointed out to the experts and the people of Boston, that much of terrorist activity in these foreign countries has been not only fomented, but financed and at least in the case of Syria — actively supported their taxpayer dollars, and cynically used for political leverage by local, state and the White House Administration in the United States — in order to secure terror funding in the US, which has become the biggest single gravy train in US domestic history.
Suspects already tired in media
Beyond all the hype and guesswork making its way through the US super-spin cycle this week, it seems that the major stakeholders have still yet to ask for any evidence proving that these two brothers were the actual bombers.
Neither of these two suspects fit anything resembling the profile of terrorist, not is it likely they would be able to execute the operation which took place last Monday.
For those who are awake to this fact, there is a lot of evidence here and here to suggest that they may not be the culprits of Monday’s Boston Marathon Bombing.
More interestingly, MSNBC expert Engel also let slip on air that suspect number two, Dzhokhar, who is now in hospital care, “was probably being debriefed”. This was an odd phrase to attach to an alleged terrorist fugitive.
There are too many question left unanswered by federal investigators and media who seem quite content to leave the story where it is right now…
Firstly, why was a Saudi national let go early on and flown to Saudi Arabia by federal authorities.
Why were the two brothers suddenly labelled as the prime suspects on Thursday replacing the previous two names being pursued by Boston police, which was immediately followed by a shoot-out… a mere coincidence, or is there more to this than meets the eye?
In addition to these four names, a completely different third set of names appeared early on Tuesday, and also disappeared the following day.
Why were security ‘contractors’ seen standing next to bombs at the finish line, only to be seen quickly leaving before the bombs detonated?
Also, why did the FBI fake the surveillance video they released two days ago of the Tsarnaev brothers?
Did older brother Tamerlan have a FBI handler before this event? The answer appears to be yes. The dead suspect mother claimed that her son was already being watched by the FBI for five years.
During an exclusive interview with RT yesterday the Tsarnaev boys’ mother explained, “He was controlled by the FBI, for three, five years”.
She added, “They knew what my son was doing, they knew what actions and what sites on the Internet he was going. They used to come and talk to me, telling me that he was really a serious leader and they were afraid of him.”
Obviously, the people of Boston, and America, have not asked any of the right questions so far.â€¨â€¨ And don’t expect federal officials to challenge their own packaged story either.
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