SNITCH CULTURE IS HERE!
rats are coming'' By Gabriel Ash YellowTimes.org
''Insanity or security?'' By John Chuckman
Feral House has just released the most important new book of the 21st Century
SNITCH CULTURE: HOW CITIZENS ARE TURNED INTO THE EYES AND EARS OF THE STATE.
Researched and written by award-winning reporter Jim Redden, SNITCH CULTURE
reveals how politicians, law enforcement agencies, private corporations,
politically-oriented non-profit organizations, and the establishment media
are working together to build the most sophisticated surveillance society in
history. SNITCH CULTURE traces the creation of this intelligence-gathering
network from the earliest paid informants to today s DNA databases and beyond.
SNITCH CULTURE covers such important developments as the Red Scare, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation s infamous Counter-Intelligence Programs
(COINTELPRO), the National Security Agency s high-tech ECHELON surveillance
system, and Project Megiddo, which incorrectly predicted a wave of domestic
terrorism at the beginning of the year 2000. The 235-page book also includes
a look at the government s newest intelligence initiative - the war against
the emerging anti-globalization movement.
SNITCH CULTURE (ISBN: 0-922915-63-6) is now available at local bookstores,
from Amazon.com, and from Feral House, 2554 Lincoln Blvd., Suite 739, Venice
CALIF 90291. It retails for $14.95.
Jim Redden is a professional journalist who has written for such diverse
publications as the Village Voice and Hustler. He has written about
anarchists, militias, skinheads and radical AIDS activists. Redden is
currently the Senior Staff Writer for the Portland Tribune newspaper in
Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Here is the introduction and chapter listings for SNITCH CULTURE. The
appendixes listed below will soon be available for free at the Feral House
Snitch Culture: Jim Redden Watches the
(Excellent article from Disinformation on the book.)
HOW CITIZENS ARE TURNED INTO THE EYES AND EARS OF THE STATE
LIVING IN THE SURVEILLANCE SOCIETY
As American enters the New Millennium, this country is in the grip of a
government-created surveillance system which permeates every aspect of our
lives. The economy is booming and things couldn' t be better for the vast
majority of citizens. Serious crime is at a 30-year low, with murder and
other violent felonies dropping in every region of the nation. Minorities are
earning more than ever before, and the schools have never been safer. And
yet, despite this good news, large segments of the population live in fear -
a fear created and exploited by opportunistic politicians and power-hungry
law enforcement officials to justify the most sophisticated police state ever
And at the heart of this nightmare is the snitch, the government's weapon of
choice against criminals and law-abiding citizens alike. People gather
incriminating information on us even before we re born. Pregnant women are
routinely tested to see if they' ve exposed their fetuses to alcohol or
illegal drugs, with doctors reporting "drug affected" babies to social
service and law enforcement agencies.
If we enroll in the public schools, we are spied on by other students, our
teachers, and our counselors. Many schools provide anonymous telephone tip
lines for students to squeal on their classmates. A growing number of school
administrators are paying for incriminating information. Teachers and
counselors are encouraged to report students with "anti-social
the police. Reports of typical juvenile schoolyard behavior now result in
suspensions, expulsions and arrests.
College campuses are riddled with informants. Politically active teachers are
monitored by students who oppose their views. Student political organizations
are infiltrated by undercover operatives gathering information on
controversial campus speakers and upcoming demonstrations. Foreign students
are targeted for surveillance, especially Muslims of Arab ethnicity.
Informants track us after we graduate and enter the workforce. Many potential
employers run background checks on job applicants, asking friends and
neighbors about their private lives. Some bosses hire undercover agents who
pose as workers and spy on everyone in the company, reporting on everything
from suspected thieves to employees with poor morale. If we own a business,
the government might send over fake customers to see if they can trick us
into breaking civil rights laws. These so-called "testers" report our
reactions to federal officials who can assess fines or even throw us in jail.
Our neighbors are encouraged to spy on us. If our children cry, they report
us to social workers for abuse. If we have a large number of visitors, they
call the police and accuse us of dealing drugs. If we drive a new car, they
call the Internal Revenue Service and say we're not paying our taxes.
Family members routinely turn each other in to the police, especially for
illegal drug use. Encouraged by government snitch programs, children rat on
their parents, parents squeal on their kids, and children report their
siblings to the authorities. Wives and husbands turn on each other in divorce
proceedings, triggering criminal investigations by accusing their former
mates of everything from domestic violence to child abuse to hiding their
Unconventional political and religious movements are also infiltrated by
snitches. Law enforcement agencies and private, politically-oriented advocacy
groups spy on liberal and conservative organizations alike, along with tiny
churches and obscure religious sects. No group is too small or
inconsequential to escape the prying eye of the government or its agents.
Discussions with doctors and lawyers are no longer confidential. Government
regulations require doctors to report patients with HIV and other contagious
diseases to health authorities. Medicare recipients who suspect their doctors
are padding their bills are encouraged to report them to Washington
bureaucrats. Lawyers have gone to jail for not telling the feds which clients
are paying with cash.
The intrusions don't even stop when we die. Government agencies routinely ask
doctors if drugs, both legal and illegal, contributed to the death.
Physicians must report whether their deceased patients smoked cigarettes or
drank alcohol. Passengers who die in car crashes are tested for alcohol, with
the results transmitted to transportation officials for their reports on
alcohol-related traffic fatalities. Police use the results of such tests to
justify their own brutality, arguing that unarmed people they kill were drunk
Obeying the law is no protection against informants. Snitches frequently set
people up, tricking them into breaking the law. Or they simply lie, making up
stories and swearing to events that never happened. Criminals routinely
perjure themselves in exchange for special treatment, sending innocent people
to jail and even Death Row. Many people have lost their jobs, been thrown out
of their homes, gone to jail - even lost their lives - because of lies told
We're so used to being tracked that we don t even notice how often we're
being urged to report our friends, neighbors, family members and complete
strangers to the authorities. A billboard in Harlem asks citizens to join
"Gunbusters Anonymous" and report "illegal guns" to the New
Department. Neighborhood "crime watch" programs send thousands of
the streets every night to look for "suspicious activity." Newspapers
the country publish weekly "Crime Stopper" stories, running
photographs of people wanted by law enforcement authorities. Public service
announcements on late night television urge neighbors to "take a bite out
crime" by watching each other. Police officers visit the public schools,
telling children to report their friends and parents for suspected drug use.
Wanted posters in post officers are so common we look right past them.
Snitching has become entertainment, a growing staple of network and cable TV
channels. America's Most Wanted serves up a half-dozen new suspects every
week, using hokey crime re-creations to make us pick up the phone and report
anyone who even resembles the actors and actress parading across the screen.
Tabloid programs such as The Jerry Springer Show use informants to shame
their guests, exposing hidden love affairs and embarrassing personal faults
for our amusement. Cheating husbands and two-timing wives are physically
attacked on stage when their darkest secrets are revealed by vengeful
ex-lovers, the studio audience roaring its approval like the Coliseum crowds
of ancient Rome.
More recently, "reality-based" TV shows such as Survivor and Big
offer up round-the-clock surveillance for our amusement. The constant
monitoring is said to reveal the true character of the people in stressful
situation. Viewers vote on who they don t like, punishing unpopular
participants with digital banishment.
But the modern surveillance society is not a passing form of entertainment.
And its consequences are far more severe than any passing humiliation. Our
most personal information is now being fed directly into a massive system of
interlocking computer databases maintained by government agencies, law
enforcement officials, for-profit businesses and private intelligence
networks. Our school, employment, medical, psychiatric, banking, credit,
automobile, housing, TV viewing, computer use and gun ownership records are
all stored electronically by people we' ve never met, accessible at the stroke
of a computer key.
And now the government is adding our DNA, the unique genetic code found in
our every cell, to their files. All 50 states have laws requiring that DNA
samples be taken from convicted criminals and sent to the National Offender
Database maintained by the FBI. By May 2000, about 280,000 samples had been
placed online and another 750,000 were still waiting to be processed. Some
politicians are already pushing for DNA samples to be taken from anyone
merely arrested for a crime. How long will it be before everyone s DNA is
simply tested at birth? And what will happen if a lab researcher tells the
government our genes say we're bad?
Such tips can trigger a broad range of responses by federal, state and local
authorities, from home visits by child care and mental health specialists to
deadly raids by heavily-armed SWAT units. Governments have spent billions of
dollars in recent years militarizing local police departments across the
country, and creating special federal units with overwhelming firepower. They
are all ready and waiting for an informant to send them on their next
mission. The result of all this snitching has been boiled down to a simple
bumpersticker that can be seen on cars and trucks in all 50 state: "I love
country, but fear my government."
The Snitch Culture did not come about by accident. It was deliberately
created by Democrats and Republicans alike, working with federal, state and
local law enforcement officials to build a nationwide intelligence-gathering
network which is impossible to escape. This surveillance system did not
spring to life overnight. It was assembled in pieces over the past century in
reaction to one manufactured threat to the American way of life after
another, each requiring new laws, new law enforcement agencies, and new
informants to enforce. Our political and law enforcement leaders repeatedly
seize on bizarre but isolated incidents to create the image of a country
under attack from all sides. The threats have ranged over the years from
anarchists to marijuana to Communists to heroin to Muslims to methamphetamine
to white supremacists, but in each case the government s response has been
the same - a new domestic war. The War on Crime. The War on Drugs. The War on
Terrorism. The War on Youth Violence.
The establishment press plays along with the charade, creating a parallel
universe where death and destruction waits around every corner. With the
advent of satellite trucks and 24-hour news channels, the result is a
constant media bombardment of ever greater dangers, all requiring us to spy
on our neighbors, friends and family members.
President Bill Clinton exploited the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to channel
hundreds of millions of dollars to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to
greatly expand its domestic political surveillance programs. The FBI opened a
new counter-terrorism center and established a series of multi-jurisdictional
task forces, working with state and local authorities to gather intelligence
on suspected dissidents in their regions. The far right neo-Patriot movement
was the original target but, by the end of the decade, the government had
shifted its focus to the left-leaning anti-globalization movement that
debuted at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.
The Columbine High School massacre became an excuse for America s public
school students, teachers, counselors and administrators to turn on any child
who didn't fit in. Within hours of the shootings, the press was running
in-depth reports about homicidal teenagers raised on a corrosive diet of
morbid goth music, violent video games and blood-drenched movies - an entire
generation of young people with no regard for human life. Clinton went on
national television and urged students across the country to report any
classmates who seemed anti-social. Hundreds if not thousands of students were
suspended, expelled and even arrested for typical adolescent behavior, or for
bringing something as innocuous as nail clippers to class.
The message is clear: Americans must spy on each other, reporting all signs
of suspicious activity or aberrant behavior to the authorities. And if the
people won't tattle, the government will monitor their every waking moment
anyway. Video cameras line the freeways. Bank transactions are monitored.
Even our computers are being used against us, collecting and sending personal
information through private companies to federal law enforcement agencies.
The ultimate symbol of this power is Echelon, a
massive system of space age
listening devices and supercomputers maintained by the U.S. government s top
secret National Security Agency. Created over the course of the Cold War,
Echelon is an information vacuum cleaner which can monitor virtually every
phone call, e-mail, fax, radio transmission, television broadcast, and other
form of electronic communication in the world today. Legal concepts such as
the right to privacy are a joke to this computer-driving monitoring system
which can eavesdrop on practically everyone at the same time.
The result is a society driven by manufactured mass paranoia, where personal
betrayal is seen as a virtue instead of the lowest form of human behavior.
And as the 21st Century begins to unfold, this perverse version of reality is
being exported around the world. Seamless global surveillance is the ultimate
goal. All it takes is a tip from a snitch to make you a target.
BIG BROTHER IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Chapter 1 - Instruments of Destruction
Chapter 2 - Choice of Evils
Chapter 3 - 24/7 Surveillance
Chapter 4 - The Digital Snitch
Chapter 5 - Corporate Origins of the Snitch Culture
Chapter 6 - Uncle Sam Wants You to Snitch
Chapter 7 -The Federal Intelligence Infrastructure
Chapter 8 - Private Intelligence Network
Chapter 9 - Mass Media Propaganda
THE NATIONAL SECURITY SURVEILLANCE STATE
Chapter 10 - America s War on You
Chapter 11 - Domestic Deniability
Chapter 12 - What Did The Know, and When Did They Know It?
Chapter 13 - Punishing Whistleblowers
Chapter 14 - Brave New Schools
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
Chapter 15 - Infiltrating the Anarchists
Chapter 16 - The Coming Global Snitch Culture
Chapter 17 - Stopping Snitch Abuse
Case Study 1 - The Real Legacy of McCarthyism
POLICE SPYING 101
by Jim Redden, author, SNITCH CULTURE
Activists are alarmed by a recent federal court ruling which eases
restrictions against political surveillance by law enforcement agencies.
The ruling was issued on January 11, 2001 by the 7th Circuit Court of
Appeals. It relaxed restrictions intended to prevent the Chicago Police
Department from spying on law-abiding political dissidents. The
restrictions were included in a 1981 consent decree stemming from a 1974
lawsuit by the Alliance to End Repression. The suit charged that the FBIıs
Chicago office and the Chicago police routinely violated First Amendment
rights when investigating dissidents. The suit particularly targeted the
police department Intelligence Division, dubbed the 'Red Squad' because of
its infiltration on communist, socialist and other left-wing organizations.
In its ruling, the court said todayıs political climate is so different
from the 1960s and 1970s that the rules need to be changed.
"The era in which the Red Squad flourished is history, along with the Red
Squad itself," the court said. "The instabilities of that era have
disappeared. Fear of communist subversion, so strong a motivator of
constitutional infringement in those days, has disappeared.
"Today, the concern, prudent and not paranoid, is with ideologically
motivated terrorism," the ruling continued. "The city does not want to
resurrect the Red Squad. It wants to be able to keep tabs on incipient
terrorist groups. And if the ... investigation cannot begin until the group
is well on its way toward the commission of terrorist acts, the
investigation may come too late to prevent the acts or identify the
Douglas Lee, a lawyer and legal correspondent for the First Amendment
Center, says the ruling is based on faulty reasoning.
"From a First Amendment perspective, no distinction exists between
'communist subversion' and 'ideologically motivated terrorism'," Lee wrote
in the January 1, 2001 edition of The Freedom Forum Online. "As long as
First Amendment conduct does not directly incite imminent illegal action,
it is protected, whether it advocates communism or some other
anti-democratic message. Conduct falling outside the freedoms of speech and
assembly never has been protected by the First Amendment and was not
protected by the decree. The effect of modifying the decree, therefore, can
only be to permit investigation of pure First Amendment conduct."
Lee is correct. And because the ruling came from a federal court, it
potentially applies to all police intelligence divisions. So political
activists across the country have a right to be concerned.
But the truth is, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies never
stopped spying on law-abiding political dissidents. That why the Washington
DC police department is able to boast that it successfully infiltrated the
protesters who demonstrated against the inauguration of George W. Bush on
Confused? You should be. The corporate press has long pushed the myth that
political spying in this country was substantially curtailed in the wake of
the Watergate Scandal. Many aging liberals have embraced this myth as proof
that they helped drive Richard Nixon out of office.
Reality is a little different, as I documented in my recently-released
book, SNITCH CULTURE: HOW CITIZENS ARE TURNED INTO THE EYES AND EARS OF THE
STATE (Feral House, 2000).
Hereıs what happened.
Despite all the press coverage it received, Watergate was not the biggest
political scandal of the early 1970s. A U.S. Senate subcommittee chaired by
Frank Church discovered far more serious examples of illegal government
surveillance than the botched break-in at the Democratic National Committee
headquarters and subsequent cover-up. Formally called the Select Committee
to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activity, the
committee documented such infamous surveillance operations as the FBIıs
Counter Intelligence Programs (COINTELPRO), the CIAıs Operation Chaos, and
the NSAıs Watch List.
The corporate media was so busy patting itself on the back over Nixonıs
resignation that it hardly covered the Church Committeeıs final report,
which was released in April 1976. But the revelations were so shocking that
the Department of Justice adopted new guidelines aimed at curtailing
political surveillance. State legislatures and city councils passed similar
restrictions, usually under threat of lawsuits by the ACLU.
But these victories were short-lived. For starters, the DOJ guidelines only
applied to the FBI. They did not cover such federal law enforcement
agencies as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is part of
the Treasury Department.
And federal, state and local law enforcement agencies quickly found ways
around the restrictions. Among other things, they established
information-sharing relationships with private organizations which spied on
political dissidents. The best example is the Anti-Defamation League, which
employs ³fact finders² in major cities to track suspected dissidents.
Although the ADL calls itself a civil rights watchdog, it was caught spying
on a wide range of both left and right wing organizations in the early
1990s. See for yourself. A list of the ADL spy files is posted on the Feral
Reporters looking into the ADL spy scandal confirmed the organizationıs
involvement with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. As the
liberal Village Voice said on May 11, 1993, "In fact, the ADL has become a
clearinghouse for law enforcement agencies. In the '70s and '80s, as many
police intelligence units that gathered political information on citizens
were shut down under court orders because they violated constitutional
guarantees to privacy and freedom of speech and assembly, their files were
often bequeathed to the ADL. The ADL, in turn, would often lend the files
back to their original donor or broker them to another intelligence
But law enforcement agencies also took advantage of a huge loophole in the
restrictions against political surveillance. The 7th Circuit Court of
Appeals is wrong when it claims that police cannot investigate a political
group until it is well on its ways towards breaking the law. Police are
always able to investigate anyone planning to break the law and the
planned crime doesnıt even have to be a serious one. In fact, police can
and do infiltrate groups who are merely planning peaceful civil
disobedience demonstrations, such as blocking streets, sitting on sidewalks
or occupying offices.
An example from my home town of Portland, Oregon proves this point.
In 1995, an anti-war protester named Douglas Squirrel sued the police for
opening a file on him. Squirrel had been arrested during a street clash
between the police and self-proclaimed anarchists outside a downtown rock
club on July 18, 1993.
When Squirrel tried to post the $5,000 bail required of everyone else who
had been arrested, Portland Police Captain Roy Kindrick, commander of the
bureauıs Central Precinct, called the jail and insisted that it be raised
to $50,000. Kindrick said Squirrel was the leader of the anarchists, and
responsible for 'planning' the riot.
Why did Kindrick think this? Squirrel had no criminal record at the time.
But he had participated in a local group of peace activists known as
B.E.I.R.U.T., which stood for Boisterous Extremists for Insurrection
against Republicans and other Unprincipled Thugs. The name was inspired by
former President George Bush, who called Portland a 'little Beirut' because
of its long history of protest movements. Squirrel and the others with
B.E.I.R.U.T. did little more than operate a telephone message line which
announced visits by Republican officials and other conservative political
figures. Although B.E.I.R.U.T. announced the visits, the protests were
organized by other, more established organizations. Central American
solidarity groups were especially active during the Reagan and Bush years.
Nevertheless, the police had not only identified Squirrel as a major
political organizer, but punished him for it by raising his bail.
After Squirrel got out of jail, he hired a lawyer and sued the police to
find out what they had on him. After a great deal of stalling and
stonewalling by the city, the trial finally took place on December 18 and
19, 1995. It provided a rare look at how police across the country use the
pretext of preventing crimes to spy on political activists.
The trial was covered by journalist Mitzi Waltz for PDXS, an alternative
newspaper I published at the time. During the trial, Squirrel learned that
the police had been spying on him and his friends since 1990, when
B.E.I.R.U.T. posted a notice about an upcoming visit by Bush.
The first witness was Officer Larry Siewert, a member of the Criminal
Intelligence Division, who admitted he routinely spied on political
organizations. "I was assigned to monitor subversive groups, the extremists
on the left and on the right," he testified under oath. "Also Earth
animal rights groups. I also monitored the anti-abortion movement and
provided all the dignitary protection."
Also testifying was CIS Sergeant Irv McGeachy, who said that he and Siewert
were regularly assigned to stake out political meetings, noting who comes
and goes, taking down license plate numbers and compiling physical
descriptions of everyone they see. McGeachy also said he and Siewart would
check out rumors of political gatherings. "Weıd receive information that a
demonstration or protest was going to occur," he said. "We routinely
would go out to bookstores and college campuses to see if this were
occurring. Then we would make a tactical recommendation", about whether to
send more officers or the riot squad.
Siewart and McGeachy also admitted that CID operated Confidential Reliable
Informants (CRI) within many political groups in the Portland area. The
trial revealed the Portland police kept dozens of informants on the payroll
to infiltrate political organizations and to report on their activities.
The police also used informants who are motivated by their opposition to
the groups they are infiltrating.
The police released five confidential reports which mentioned Squirrel at
the trial. They clearly showed that the police were gathering information
on a broad range of liberal organizations, including Greenpeace
International, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Womens
International League for Peace and Freedom, Northwest Veterans for Peace,
the Portland Central American Solidarity Committee and NO on Hate, a gay
rights group. Siewart and McGeachy testified that spying on these
organizations was justified under the law because all their protests
involve criminal activity which the two officers defined as including
such minor offenses as jaywalking and such traditional acts of civil
disobedience as blocking sidewalks. "Civil disobedience is some sort of
peaceful action that could be a criminal act," Siewert testified. "Itıs
still a crime."
According to the trial testimony, preventing such 'crimes' justifies a lot
of spying. Siewert testified that in the early 1990ıs, "It took our whole
unit just to keep on all the activities, all the different causes and
demonstrations that are going on."
At the end of the trail, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Michael
Marcus ruled that four of the five reports on Squirrel were legal, while
one had to be purged because it contained no allegation of criminal
activity. That report concerned a gathering involving a large number of
local peace and justice activists who met at Colonel Sumner Park on July
26, 1992 to discuss common issues. The meeting was infiltrated by a CRI,
who provided the names of the participants to Siewert. In his report on the
gathering, Siewert noted that many of the groups were concerned about the
lack of effective civilian oversight of the police. Although the city had
such a board [the Portland Internal Investigation Auditing Committee
(PIIAC)] the activists did not feel it had any real power. "[F]or the local
issues, the main topic was the need to push for a civilian police review
board," the report stated.
Testifying under oath at the trial, Portland Police Officer Greg Kurath
tried to justify spying on the Colonel Sumner Park gathering by saying the
activists might take over PIIAC and use it for some kind of 'criminal
activity.' Marcus responded by calling the theory "preposterous,"
"What on earth were you thinking here."
This report would have been legal if it claimed the activists were planning
a sit-down strike outside police headquarters, however. And this is the
same argument that law enforcement agencies are currently making to justify
spying on the emerging anti-corporate globablization movement.
After the World Trade Organization protests in Portland, law enforcement
agencies infiltrated the activists planning to demonstrate against the
World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, the Republican
National Convention in Philadelphia, and the Democratic National Convention
in Los Angeles. All of these agencies claimed their surveillance targets
were planning to break the law. The corporate press ran wild stories about
potential bio-terrorist attacks. But the police didnıt need to suspect that
someone was going to be killed to launch an undercover demonstration.
Even before the 7th Circuit Court ruling, all it took was jaywalking rumor.
SNITCH CULTURE (ISBN 0-922915-63-6) is available at local bookstores, on
Amazon.com, and from Feral House, PO Box 13067, Los Angeles CALIF 90013. It
by Jim Redden,
author, SNITCH CULTURE (Feral House, 2000)
More Americans went to prison or jail under President Bill Clinton that any
previous administration - proving the insidious growth of the Snitch Culture.
Informants helped convict many if not most of the 673,000 people who were
sent to state and federal prisons and jails during Clinton1s eight years in
office, compared with 343,000 during President Bush's single term and 448,000
in President Reagan's two terms.
According to a study by the Justice Policy Institute, the incarceration rate
at the end of the Clinton administration was 476 per 100,000 citizens, versus
332 per 100,000 at the end of Bush's term and 247 per 100,000 at the end of
African-Americans were especially hard hit under Clinton. The incarceration
rates for blacks increased from around 3,000 per 100,000 to 3,620 per 100,000
people during the pasat eight years.
Much of this increase is a direct result of the War on Drugs, a domestic law
enforcement initiative driven by thousands of informants and other government
undercover operatives. As sociologist Malin Akerstrom put it, "[T]he police
have a greater incentive to use informants in drug cases than in many others
because they are victimless crimes. Therefore it can be assumed that the
police try harder to produce more informants in a case in which drugs are
involved - particularly as it currently is prestigious to solve these
This has always been true, whether the illegal drug is moonshine, marijuana
or heroin. But the federal government specifically targeted crack cocaine for
special attention after it made inroads into the black community. Congress
used the cocaine-related death of a college basketball player named Len Bias
as an excuse for this decision. He had been drafted by the Boston Celtics,
the professional team in the home district of House Speaker Tip O'Neill. A
few weeks after Bias died, Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control
Act of 1986, dramatically increasing the penalties for crack. Under the
guidelines established by the law, the minimum sentence for someone convicted
of selling 5 grams of crack is the same as that for a person found guilty of
trying to sell 500 grams of powdered cocaine - a 100 to 1 ratio. According to
the U.S. Sentencing Commission, by the end of the 20th Century, the average
crack cocaine sentence was 122 months, compared to 79 months for powdered
cocaine. Suddenly, minor drug users were facing the kind of penalties
traditionally reserved for murderers and criminal kingpins, dramatically
increasing their willingness to snitch.
There was only way to avoid serving the new mandatory minimum sentences -
provide the government with what prosecutors consider "substantial
assistance" in arresting and convicting other drug dealers and users. In
other words, become a snitch. According to a 1995 study by the National Law
Journal, "Between 1980 and 1993, the number of federal search warrants
relying exclusively on an unidentified snitch nearly tripled, from 24 percent
to 71 percent."
Within a few years, inner city black communities were swarming with
informants desperate to rat out their friends, associates, even their family
members. A good example is Scott Tredwell, an African-American cocaine dealer
who worked as an informant in Minnesota, Washington and Oregon. The deal
Tredwell cut with the government is typical of professional informants. He
was not only paid a regular salary, but received bonuses for every bust he
helped set up. In addition, as long as he was informing, the government
allowed Tredwell to continue dealing drugs, and to break a number of other
state and federal laws, too.
According to federal court documents, Tredwell first began dealing drugs in
the St. Paul-Minneapolis area in Minnesota in the late 1980s. He was selling
kilograms of powder cocaine, and began doing business with a high-level drug
dealing family. Tredwell made thousands of dollars every week dealing
cocaine, eventually "fronting" cocaine to distributors who sold the
In 1987, Tredwell stole $20,000 from a member of the drug family and flew to
Los Angeles, intending to buy cocaine and bring it back to Minnesota to sell.
Unfortunately for him, the police arrested him at the airport with $11,000 in
cash. Tredwell originally gave a false name and lied to the police, but he
quickly struck a deal and agreed to work as an informant. The police bailed
him out, returned his $11,000, and paid to fly him back to Minneapolis.
After he returned home, Tredwell testified before a grand jury as a
"cooperating witness." He continued to sell drugs, but soon got scared
fled the area because the word was out that he was a snitch. Tredwell
eventually called the police for help and they agreed to continue working
with him, even giving him $4,000 to pay off his most recent "dope
Tredwell's next stop on the informant superhighway was Seattle, Washington,
where the police gave him a nice apartment, a Cadillac, and a bounty.
Tredwell was paid per buy, and his compensation - including car and expenses
- totalled over $30,000 within just a few months. During this time, Tredwell
filed a tax return that failed to report any of the money the government paid
After Seattle, Tredwell moved to Portland, Oregon for more of the same. He
signed on with the Oregon State Youth Gang Strike Force, which included sworn
officers and support personnel from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration,
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Oregon National Guard, the
Oregon State Police and the Portland Police Bureau. By 1991, Tredwell had
participated in nearly 50 buys, driving his total earnings to over $70,000.
The DEA paid Tredwell an additional $21,000 for his Strike Force work.
Tredwell continued breaking the law while living in Portland. According to
court documents, he sold cocaine and marijuana, assaulted his girlfriend, and
smashed up the car which had been provided for him. Although he was arrested
a few times, the charges were always dropped because of his status as an
undercover informant. After Tredwell finished testifying in the Oregon trials
that grew out of his undercover work, he moved to another state and started
The result of such operations has been a dramatic increase in the nation1s
prison population. The number of people locked up in federal, state and local
jails has quadrupled since 1980, nearly doubling during the 1990s, largely
because of drug busts. "In the Federal system, nearly 60 percent of all
people behind bars are doing time for drug violations; in state prisons and
local jails, the figure is 22 percent. These numbers are triple the rate of
15 years ago," the New York Times reported on March 7, 1999.
The vast majority of people arrested for drug violations are charged with
simple possession, not manufacturing or dealing. According to the 1998 FBI
Uniform Crime Report, 78.8 percent of all drug arrests are for possession.
Only 21.2 percent of the arrests are for manufacturing or dealing.
These trends were confirmed in early 1999 by the non-profit Justice Policy
Institute. According to a JPI, over one million non-violent offenders were
incarcerated in America in 1998. Over the past 20 years, the non-violent
prisoner population has increased at a rate much faster than the number of
violent prisoners. Since 1978, the number of persons imprisoned for drug
offenses increased eight-fold. By 1998, 77 percent of the people entering
prisons and jails were sentenced for non-violent offenses.
This is especially true in California, the nation1s most populous state.
According to the California Department of Corrections, as of June 1999, drug
offenders represented 28 percent of the prison population. At the same time,
a record 12 percent of prisoners were being held for simple possession.
Worse, according to criminal justice experts, many of the people who have
been convicted on drug charges are innocent. The pressure to snitch is so
great that a large number of informants simply make up accusations against
friends, associates - even family members - to escape the long mandatory
minimum sentences. "Our rights as citizens [and] the United States
Constitution [are] now in the hands of a group of about 15,000 wild,
out-of-control informants," Michael Levine, a retired DEA and Customs
told the National Law Journal for its 1995 article.
The results are now clear for everyone to see.
The previous article was adopted from SNITCH CULTURE:
HOW CITIZENS ARE TURNED
INTO THE EYES AND EARS OF THE STATE (ISBN: 0-922915-63-6) by Jim Redden, a
Senior Staff Writer for the Portland Tribune. SNITCH CULTURE is now available
at local bookstores, from Amazon.com, and from its publisher, Feral House,
2554 Lincoln Blvd., Suite 739, Venice CALIF 90291. It retails for $14.95.
send as far and wide as possible.
Editor, The Konformist
If you are interested in a free subscription to The
Konformist Newswire, please visit:
Saturday, March 10, 2001
Santana H. S.,
and the White House Spin Doctors
What you see is never what you get. The major news media follow CNN, and
CNN follows the will of the CIA. That's my theory and I'm sticking
it. So when CNN needs a lead-off item to distract the populace, they can
get it just about anywhere.
On a day with little news save one small horror in Santee, California,
where 13 students were wounded and two died when a kid -- a scrawny
or "geek" or "nerd" (all these terms were used) -- a little
misfit -- who
had told about 20 classmates he was going to bring a gun to school on
Monday -- brought a gun, and was evidently frisked and even had his
knapsack searched by his fellow students (they failed to find the gun) --
on a day when this trauma occurs, Dick Chenny suddenly rushes off to the
hospital with chest pains, and doctors conclude that his artery is 90%
occluded, and they go in and clean it out again. And CNN spent hours on
news conferences about it, but "another Columbine" was really what the
people wanted to hear about, the kitty-in-the-drain always being far bigger
news than CNN was giving it, and these were 15 middle-class students shot
by one of their own, far bigger news than your average kitty story. But
really, are heart problems and "routine" angioplasty in the life of a
vice-president, so near peril by this sort of heart problem, newsworthy at
all? Well, yes, in fact, this IS pretty serious. Listening to the
doctors, I was expecting them to come out and say "he'll be fine folks --
as long as nothing gets his blood pressure up, like exercise, or thinking
about World War III. So don't get the Veep excited, okay. That's
my prescription for his speedy recovery. You reporters -- don't ask any
tough questions. You rebels and terrorists -- just lay calm for a few
years because gosh, the vice-president has heart problems and just couldn't
Of course, mine is certainly the jaded view. I suppose the unjaded view is
that Cheney merely saw things the other way around, that is, knowing that
Santana H.S. would lead off the headlines, his handlers or his natural
political instincts told him this was a REALLY GOOD TIME to head in for the
surgery he knew he needed soon and he knew would make headlines, especially
at CNN which always reports the news fairly and evenly.
Then again, it may all be coincidence, no spin, other than the UCSD trauma
doctors reminding us again and again that hey, our trauma team did its
job. Only one kid died who made it to the hospital still alive. But,
doctor tells us repeatedly, if kids couldn't get guns, this wouldn't have
happened. And the gun industry reminds us that it's always the neurotic
ones that kill their classmates, and we need to identify them. Let's see,
no prior record, no known interest in guns, took life with a smile and a
joke, took abuse inflicted by others well, was constantly picked on, had
had two skateboards stolen in the past few weeks, was actually frisked and
searched by his classmates when he came to school that day.
Not your normal youth? Or just another day in the abandoned jungles we
How would the gun lobby propose to identify this "troubled youth",
than perhaps by the fact -- which he could evidently do nothing about --
that he was picked on by others? But who isn't abused and picked in some
way, by someone, to some extent, some time in life -- what kind of excuse
is that anyway? Even the king has his detractors and distractors.
youth doesn't suffer abuse from other youths? And if you force the kids
not to fight on school grounds, they will fight off the grounds, where the
fights are often far more brutal, if only because they can last longer,
with no one there specifically for the purpose of stopping fights (and
teaching the kids a thing or two between bouts).
Call me jaded, but are we going to blame the children, just like the Navy
is blaming the civilians on board the Greeneville for its sinking of a
Japanese fishing training vessel in internationally recognized public
waterways? If the Navy can't even surface a submarine without considering
the consequences of their actions, and then has the audacity to find fault
with the "distracting" policy of having civilians on board, who can
them to be able to handle a real war, when things are happening very fast
and everything is important? These guys are unfit for thinking -- how can
they be in command of a bunch of kids operating a two-billion dollar "race
car" as one of them described it for a show on the Discovery Channel?
Who pays the bills for nuclear waste released into the sea? Civilians
do. Who gets the blame when they have an accident caused by the grossest
of negligence? Civilians do. Who pays to decommission these naval
nightmares, assuming war, stupidity, miscalculations, or acts of God don't
sink them before their technological life-expectancy is finally reached?
Civilians do. Downwinders. Downstreamers. Down-to-Earth
The children are being brought up in a world without hope. A world at
war. A world in poverty and hunger. An estimated 25,000 people a day
of starvation and its side effects. Three quarters of these are
children. Not one of them lives in Santee. Yet these students too
being brought into a world without hope, where school funding is, like
everywhere, a pittance of what it should be. A world where they are
assaulted night and day by graphic violence on T.V., nearby, at home. A
world where they are told to snitch on their friends. Or what?
What do we offer snitches and whistleblowers anyway? The worst deal.
of them found dead in Mexico. That report came out as a distraction.
could have been reported any day, they knew about it for months or even
years, but there was no other major distraction news, and they needed a
distraction that day. And in the end, it turned out they only found about
seven bodies there after all. It wasn't the mass-mass-grave they
originally claimed. It's all spin.
The first four years are vital in a child's growth. The next few years
nearly as vital, and so on. By they time they get to H.S. if we as a
society haven't captured their hearts, we probably never will. What keeps
people from killing classmates likewise keeps them from killing coworkers
later in life. It's love of our fellow humans.
But they will try to teach our children to snitch. And that might work a
little. But if we teach them early on that they are each a part of a
society, and that bullying the geek is no more proper than rape or robbery
or theft or murder, or for that matter biting, kicking, nail-gouging and
that sort of thing -- perhaps we will finally help the trodden-upon youth
in our schools.
Am I an apologist for this youth? Aren't we all, except for those that
want him tried as an adult, and presumably then publicly hung or something,
aren't we all apologists to some extent? What is wrong with society
here? Is it that we don't have enough snitches? I think the fact
kids would not tell any authority-figures about what this kid had been
saying shows that those kids were afraid of the punishment their friend
would get if they talked -- maybe they were all too afraid of being
investigated themselves, or accused of false accusations, or, if nothing
else, of being snitches, which no one would like, least of all the kid they
snitched on. Snitching isn't easy, or fun. That's not a very good
solution. With 15-year veteran CIA guys turning out to be spies
themselves, you can't expect these kids to trust authority. We as a nation
don't trust authority, and we'd be fools if we did. Americans do not trust
authority! So we need to find a better way to get the kids to talk.
we get the moms and dads to say "Hi kid, did anyone threaten to bring
weapons tomorrow? Let's turn him in and he'll never be in school
again." Zero tolerance doesn't always fit the crime. "No
jokes about "Hi,
Jack!" at the airport either, son. They'll frisk you -- and worse --
the least little comment."
Welcome to America. Now tell us what you've learned. Incriminate
and join the culture. Don't bully. Leave that to the professionals.
One more thing. I heard the news reporters actually say that the kids
seemed to be holding up extremely well until the crises counselors got
there and started talking to them, and then they all almost immediately
broke down. Am I missing something or should those counselors be kept away
from those students? Time heals all wounds. Rushing in specialists
make the children cry doesn't sound like much sense. Wouldn't it make more
sense to simply make these people available to those who want them, not
force them onto everyone at the scene?
If you are interested in a free subscription to The
Konformist Newswire, please visit:
Redden, author Snitch Culture (Feral House, 2000) 10/19/01
The Global Surveillance
State predicted in the December 2000 edition of my book Snitch Culture is rising
from the ashes of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and
It is being done under the
guise of an international War on Terrorism orchestrated by George W. Bush, the
son of the former CIA director who ran the illegal Iran-Contra supply network
while he was Vice- President.
With the nation still
reeling from the apocalyptic attacks, Bush declared war on terrorism in general
and Saudi exile Osama bin Laden in particular. Although only Congress has the
power to declare war, Capitol Hill simply rolled over and applauded the crusade,
just like they did in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama and the Balkans.
And just as they did in
those conflicts, the mass media wrapped itself in the flag, stifled all voices
of dissent, and rushed to embrace "America's New War," as CNN dubbed
it in red, white and blue letters. With the talking heads calling for the nation
to rally behind Bush, U.S. bombers were pounding Afghanistan - bin Laden's
assumed home base - by early October. Even as much of the Muslim world rose up
to oppose the strikes, the talking heads gushed enthusiastically about the
accuracy of satellite directed missiles and "bunker buster"
Meanwhile, Bush turned
responsibility for securing the domestic front over to Tom Ridge, the former
Pennsylvania governor who oversaw the violent suppression of civil rights during
the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia - including covert
surveillance of lawful political groups and the brutal arrest of protest leaders
on trumped-up charges. As head of the newly created Office of Homeland Defense,
Ridge is in charge of the anti-terrorism activities of over 40 federal law
enforcement agencies. An early estimate put the cost of defending the country at
$1.5 trillion over the next five years.
If Bush and Ridge have their
way, within a few years everyone will be required to carry an official ID card
that will include a computer chip to allow the government to track their
movements. Facial recognition cameras will scan crowds at airports and other
public places, matching faces with vast databases that will include millions of
digital drivers' license photos. The FBI will plug its Carnivore computers into
the servers used by Internet Service Providers to route e-mail traffic. All
information collected by any government agency will be shared with every police
agency around the world.
More than that, the
government is apparently preparing to round up thousands of people. On October 4
the New York Post reported that the Federal Bureau of Prisons had just issued
requests for bids to build two prisons to hold "criminal aliens" in
Georgia, with three more prisons in the Southwest deserts that can hold 1,500
detainees to be built early next year. The article speculated that the Wackenhut
private security company could win the contracts because it has run immigrant
camps in Australian made out of converted military bases.
As U.S. Supreme Court
Justice Sandra Day O'Connor told a law school audience in Manhattan on September
29, "[W]e're likely to experience more restrictions on our personal freedom
than has ever been the case in our country."
Many of these invasive
practices will be authorized by the first major expansion of the Snitch Culture
in the 21st Century, the so- called USA Act of 2001 rushed through Congress with
little debate within weeks of the attacks on New York and Washington DC. Many of
the provisions enhance the power of domestic law enforcement agencies to spy on
Americans for "intelligence" as opposed to criminal investigations.
Among other things, the law:
* Creates the new crime of
"Domestic Terrorism" that could be interpreted to impose heavy
penalties on political protest.
* As part of a crackdown on
"Cyber-terrorism," computer hackers and virus makers will face life
imprisonment without the possibility of parole, even if no one is ever harmed by
* Allows information
obtained during criminal investigation to be shared with the Central
Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Immigration and
Naturalization Service, the Secret Service and the military without judicial
review, and with no restrictions on how these agencies can use the information.
* Authorizes covert
"sneak and peak" searches where the government can enter your home,
office or other private place and search your files, photograph your belongings,
and download your computer hard drive without telling you.
* Allows "forum
shopping" where law enforcement agencies can use friendly judges to obtain
"single jurisdiction" search warrants to use against suspects in other
parts of the country, making it almost impossible to challenge them.
* Allows the CIA to spy on
American citizens and requires the FBI to share its files with the spy agency,
including those on law-abiding American citizens.
* Allows indefinite
detention of non-citizens, including legal aliens, without meaningful judicial
* Requires colleges and
universities to open student files to law enforcement agencies.
* Expands wiretap authority
by allowing police to obtain the equivalent of "blank" warrants for
any phone in the country.
* Widens the scope of
subpoenas for records of electronic communications to include evidence such as
credit card receipts and Internet accounts.
* Authorizes U.S.
authorities to shire into about persons suspected of terrorism or money
laundering with financial institutions.
* Orders the Attorney
General to explore the feasibility of an integrated computer fingerprint
identification system that can be used at points of entry and US consulates.
"Most Americans do not
recognize that Congress has just passed a bill that would give the government
expanded power to invade our privacy, imprison people without due process and
punish dissent," said Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington
National Office, said on October 12.
The War on Terrorism claimed
many victims before the bill even passed, however. As always, the first victim
of this new war was the truth. George Bush flatly told the nation that much of
the government's activities would be conducted in secret and might never be
disclosed. "Watch what you say," White House press spokesman Ari
Fleischer warned within days of the attacks. A short time later, National
Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice personally told the heads of all major
television and cable networks to censor their newscasts - and they agreed.
Al Cross, president of the
Society of Professional Journalists, said the restrictions are preventing
reporters from doing their jobs.
"They're finding it
increasingly difficult to fulfill their roles as watchdogs," Cross said on
October 13. "It just seems that things have been done willy-nilly."
Other early victims included
foreign visitors. Over 700 people - mostly from the Middle East - were jailed in
the early stages of the investigation into the attack. Many were simply released
after being held in interrogated for weeks. A 20-year old student from Pakistan
said he was stripped and beaten in his cell by other inmates while jail guards
failed to intervene and denied him medical care. In three midwestern states,
U.S. immigration officials cut off all visits and phone calls for detainees for
a full week. Authorities refused to tell San Diego attorney Randall Hamud where
his three clients - Osama Awadallah, Modhar Abdullah and Yazeem Al-Alsami - were
But this new War on
Terrorism is not just another domestic law enforcement initiative. It is the
excuse to create an international surveillance society that will ultimately
monitor everyone in the world.
British Prime Minister Tony
Blair carried the message to receptive leaders throughout Europe. Dozens of
other countries promptly signed up, pledging all possible support. The United
Nations quickly passed a resolution requiring all member nations to cooperate by
opening up their banks to international inspectors - potentially affecting
billions of law-abiding citizens across the globe. The September 11 attacks
allowed governments in Europe and the Middle East to round up hundreds of
political dissidents under the guise of cracking down on terrorist networks.
History teaches us these new
powers will be abused. President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas
corpus during the Civil War. Foreign-born socialists and labor organizers were
deported during World War I. Japanese-Americans were interned during World War
II. The government spied on, harassed and even murdered political protesters
during the Vietnam War era.
As in the past, Americaıs
New War will benefit the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor.
Multinational corporations facing growing protests over their labor and
environmental practices will find it easier to do business. Fledgling labor
movements in developing countries will be shut down as terrorist organizations.
Dissident political organizations will have their bank accounts frozen and their
Meanwhile, the establishment
press is ignoring many troubling questions. Chief among them, what is the
governmentıs real relationship with bin Laden, the alleged mastermind behind
the September 11 attacks. The CIA admits that bin Laden was an
"intelligence asset" during Afghanistanıs war against the Soviets,
but insists he turned against America when the U.S. government turned its back
on him after the Cold War. Michel Chossudovsky, professor of economics at
University of Ottawa, insists the CIA never severed its ties with him and other
Muslim militants, however.
"Since the end of the
Cold War, these covert intelligence links have not only been maintained, they
have become increasingly sophisticated," Chossudovsky claims. "New
undercover initiatives financed by the Golden Crescent drug trade were set in
motion in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Balkans. Pakistan's military and
intelligence apparatus (controlled by the CIA) essentially served as a catalyst
for the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of six new Muslim
republics in Central Asia."
This raises an obvious
question about the September 11 attacks: What did the government know when did
they know it? Government agents infiltrated such previous attacks as the
Greensboro Massacre, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 bombing of
the Oklahoma City federal office building. Although intelligence officials
originally denied having any advance warning of the September 11 attacks, they
were soon forced to admit that "lots of signs" pointed to the plot,
including warnings of an impending "Hiroshima" on U.S. soil.
Three days after the
attacks, Newsweek, the Washington Post and the Knight Ridder newspapers reported
that five of the hijackers were trained at secure U.S. military installations
during the 1990s. The reports also claimed three of the terrorists had listed
their address as the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, and had
participated in military exchange programs for foreign officers at the Pensacola
Naval Air Station in Florida.
The Pentagon denied the
reports and the stories went away. But in fact, the FBI raided the private
Florida flight school where several of the suicide pilots trained within hours
of the attacks, proving the government knew more far more about the terrorists
than it is admitting.
Likewise, the media is
ignoring even bigger questions. Five Israeli citizens were arrested and held in
isolation after accusations surfaced that nearly 4,000 Jews mysterious skipped
work at the World Trade Center. Who are they? George Bush Sr. is in business
with bin Laden's family through the Carlyle Group, a private Washington DC
equity firm that has essentially become the nation's largest defense contractor.
What is real relationship between these two powerful families?
And what is the role of oil
in the equation? According to published reports, the U.S. and Pakistan decided
to install a stable regime in Afghanistan around 1994 to ensure the safety of a
Unocal pipeline project. Is Operation Enduring Freedom just the final step in
this effort to tap the region's oil reserves?
Don't look to the CNN or any
other mainstream news outlet for the answers. They are too busy playing their
roles as cheerleaders for the Snitch Culture, gleefully pumping the $5 million
rewards offered for what they dubbed, "The World's Most Wanted
If you are interested in a
free subscription to The Konformist Newswire, please visit:
rats are coming''
Tuesday, July 16, 2002 @ 00:03:11 EDT
Ash YellowTimes.org Columnist (United States)
(YellowTimes.org) - One of
the current Administration's "anti-terror" initiatives is slowly
taking shape, and it isn't a pretty sight. TIPS, Terrorism Information and
Prevention System (www.CitizenCorps.gov/tips.html)*, is a government plan for
recruiting millions of Americans to spy and snitch on their neighbors. The
recruitment focuses on people with access to homes and businesses, including
letter carriers and utility employees.
According to Ritt Goldstein,
who broke the news, the Justice Department plans that "the U.S. will have a
higher percentage of citizen informants than the former East Germany through the
infamous Stasi secret police." One in every 24 Americans will be a snitch,
which means that, assuming your acquaintance list is 150 names long, you will
know six rats personally.
This is an unprecedented
level of government spying on citizens. But such spying has a long pedigree,
which helps to make the new initiative seem almost innocuous. Bill Redden
describes in his book Snitch Culture, the frightening extent to which Americans
are addicted to snitching.
The scope of snitching goes
way beyond direct governmental spy operations such as COINTELPRO and Senator
McCarthy's "Unamerican" hearings. In public schools, students are
invited to place anonymous calls and rat on other students, while teachers and
counselors are encouraged to report "anti-social" tendencies to the
police. At work, employers require workers to report on other workers, hire
detectives to spy on workers and question neighbors on workers' private lives.
Neighbors are asked to call the police if they suspect someone's child is crying
too much. Hospital workers are asked to inform the police about the drug habits
of patients. The IRS wants to know what you think of your neighbor's new Lexus,
The media endorses the
snitching culture with reality television shows in which participants assess one
another for the camera, or shows like the Jerry Springer Show, in which guests
are publicly humiliated by revelations from relatives and old lovers. Crime
shows invite the public to report suspects they might know, and stories about
relatives or spouses ratting on each other to law enforcement agencies are given
prominent and sympathetic coverage in the news.
Snitches and informants are
usually associated with authoritarian, and often totalitarian, regimes. The
infamous Stasi police in East Germany has won notoriety for their extensive
snitch files. Other brutal regimes invest in large secret police forces that
specialize in recruiting and handling informants. The regimes of Iraq, Saudi
Arabia, and Israel all rely extensively on such methods.
The official explanation is
always that informants are needed to foresee and prevent security threats or
violence. The justification for TIPS is no different. But there is another
aspect of snitching that is equally important to the rulers, an aspect that
George Orwell explored in depth in his acclaimed novel, 1984.
Snitching creates a culture
of paranoia. It isolates people, breaks down social solidarity, and prevents
exchange of information between members of society. Everyone becomes obsessed
with watching their own back. Nobody is a friend. Nobody can be trusted.
Snitching creates a culture
in which every encounter between two citizens is mediated by authority: Big
Brother is always in the room with you. And even if it isn't, you have to behave
as if it is. The ubiquity of authority is the essence of totalitarianism.
Many people, after reading
the official Citizen Corps web page, will say that TIPS is really no big deal.
After all, what can be so wrong about citizens notifying the government about
what looks to them as terrorist related activity?
A lot, actually. People
don't know what terror activity looks like. To the casual eye, preparing for a
terror attack can look like just about anything. Professional terrorists don't
look like professional terrorists. They look like me and you. Informants will
report instead on whatever fits their prejudices - odd haircuts, books in
Arabic, posters of Che Guevara, disparaging comments about the intelligence of
the President, etc. Some of them will invent stories to harm people because they
hold a grudge against them. Others will use their imagination to make themselves
loved by their handlers.
TIPS will create new
governmental files on citizens, useful for harassment and abuse, and not much
else. It will increase the paranoia and suspiciousness of American society,
driving it one step closer to George Orwell's dystopia. That is a high price to
pay for pretending to increase our safety. It is a suicidal response to the
terrorist suicide attack on September 11.
If TIPS doesn't seem
outrageous, it is because Americans have already accepted a significant degree
of totalitarianism and the decline of civil society that is totalitarianism's
essential counterpart. The breakdown of sociability and the "crisis of
trust" is one of the few things the left and the right in America agree
upon**. The culture of snitching is both a symptom and a precipitant of this
During the last election
campaign George W. Bush told us he found Jesus. If TIPS is any evidence, perhaps
he found Judas, and, being under the influence, mistook him for Jesus.
(Rats disclaimer: the last
sentence, and all other explicit and implied criticism of the government of the
United States, were made in jest only. The author is actually a great admirer
and fervent supporter of our great president and most pious leader, George W.
Bush, hammer of terrorists and slayer of evil states. God bless him.)
* On July 16, 2002, after
information on TIPS began attracting media attention, the content of the page
changed. In particular, information relevant to calculating the size of TIPS was
excised. This column as well as Goldstein's refer therefore to information that
is no longer public. The old page will remain viewable for a while in the google
** see Robert D. Putnam's
Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, and Francis
Fukuyama's Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity.
[Gabriel Ash was born in
Romania and grew up in Israel. He is an unabashed "opssimist." He
writes his columns because the pen is sometimes mightier than the sword - and
sometimes not. Gabriel lives in the United States.]
Gabriel Ash encourages your
its material to be reproduced, reprinted, or broadcast provided that any such
reproduction must identify the original source, http://www.YellowTimes.org
. Internet web links to http://www.YellowTimes.org
Chuckman YellowTimes.org Columnist (Canada)
Wednesday, July 17, 2002 @ 00:47:19 EDT http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=500
Chuckman YellowTimes.org Columnist (Canada)
Informing as part of an open society? Indeed, under Mr. Bush's proposed
Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS for short) - a kind of
national, atomic-mutation of Neighborhood Watch - an estimated four percent of
Americans will join a long and glorious tradition of state-security informants.
The tradition of citizen
informants has roots going back at least to the French Revolution. During the
terror, citizens were encouraged to inform on neighbors and even children to
inform on their parents. More than a few harmless people went to the guillotine
just on the basis of a hateful neighbor denouncing them.
Of course, there was
Stalin's immense bloodbath over two continents. Informants played an important
part in his heavy industry of organized murder. And one recognizes other
suggestive similarities to what's happening in America. When Stalin was ready to
announce another purge, he often spoke indirectly of "wreckers,"
wreckers of the Revolution. Just this suggestion from his lips was enough to get
the thugs and psychopaths busy about their work.
Has anyone noticed the
paler-but-still-similar sense of the term "terrorists"? With the
heavily-biased press in America, we have all been conditioned to have an
immediate mental image of a terrorist: He's a swarthy fellow with a difficult
Arabic or Persian name and a strange religion. Remember, if there is one thing
America is good at, one thing at which it has no equal on the planet, it is
marketing. And America has intensively marketed this image for years.
The informing tradition was
carried on in societies as diverse as Nazi Germany, the East German Stasi, Pol
Pot's Cambodia, and the horrific youth brigades of China's Cultural Revolution.
My right-wing readers, yes I
do have some, sometimes question how I can possibly ever associate America with
ugly things like fascism. Well, the TIPS program and the Patriot Act, both
deliberately bland names for insidious, dangerous things, is the word made
flesh, so to speak.
I have in the past
humorously observed the prevalence of insanity in America. I admit to using that
term in a rather loosely-defined sense, but America is the land of Black
Helicopters, alien abductions, Aryan churches, rattlesnake worship, speaking in
tongues, and Texas.
You cannot live in America
without discovering there also are a lot of angry people there. You see them on
the streets, you meet them in stores, you experience them as neighbors. In your
face. Mind your own business. Foul language. Indeed, I can attest to a fair
sampling of such language in e-mail from my more perverse readers. Odd, don't
you think, to send a person you've never met a disgustingly foul letter only
because you don't agree with his column? And although I receive mail from many
countries, the only source for this kind of stuff, I'm sorry to say, is America.
I believe Social Darwinism,
whose roots now deeply vein American society, is largely responsible for this.
We should never forget that Social Darwinism was the underlying philosophy of
Adolf Hitler, and, while America's version is not quite so poisonous, there are
similarities. It is a philosophy that breeds an atmosphere of contempt for
others, especially the less fortunate. A sense of "I'm alright, Jack!"
It raises the shabby idea of winners and losers to an exalted status. This
breeds a lot of human misery in the midst of a very prosperous society.
Of course, the tender
ministrations of America's fundamentalist Christians only add to a
pressure-cooker climate. If you're not of the correct profession, something must
be wrong with you. And for sure, if you're anything unusual, any kind of
non-conformist or person born with the wrong genes, then your life may well
qualify as an abomination. "Oh, how we love the sinner but hate the
sin," making it extremely difficult for the recipients of such bounteous
love to distinguish which of the two is being hated at any given moment and
always forgetting the Good Lord's claim to the exclusive right of judgment.
Despite all the rhetoric
about good neighbors in America, you are pretty much on your own when something
goes wrong. The anarchy of urban decay, brutal police, racism, rotten public
schools, large numbers of functional illiterates, unethical and predatory
business practices, a lack of decent health care for many, a pervasive invasion
of individual privacy for the advantages of corporate marketing, love-
it-or-leave-it attitudes, guns and the influence of the military's culture of
death everywhere - these things generate resentment, division, loneliness, and
anger. Lots of anger.
A friend, recently returning
to America from a long stint in Europe, provided an excellent, illustrative
anecdote of institutionalized insanity in America when an airport security man
held his laptop computer upside down and started shaking it. My friend naturally
enough asked what he was doing, and the security man's reply was, "You
never heard of anthrax?"
Now I ask, in view of these
readily-observed characteristics of American society, does anyone in his right
mind believe that it is a good idea to promote institutionalized informing? Why,
something like one-half to one percent of the population suffers from
schizophrenia. Another equal slice suffers from various forms of depression.
About three-quarters of a percent is behind bars. Many times that are ex-
convicts. Huge numbers of Americans are addicted to booze or drugs. Taking into
account the amount of Americans who are fundamentalist Christians, around ten to
twenty percent believe the end of the world is imminent, or that people walk
around with the "Mark of the Beast" on their foreheads.
And any of them may just be
of a mind to inform on you.
[John Chuckman is former
chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. He has many interests and is a
lifelong student of history. He writes with a passionate desire for honesty, the
rule of reason, and concern for human decency. He is a member of no political
party and takes exception to what has been called America's "culture of
complaint" with its habit of reducing every important issue to an
unproductive argument between two simplistically defined groups. John regards it
as a badge of honor to have left the United States as a poor young man from the
South Side of Chicago when the country embarked on the pointless murder of
something like three million Vietnamese in their own land because they happened
to embrace the wrong economic loyalties. He lives in Canada, which he is fond of
calling "the peaceable kingdom."]
John Chuckman encourages
your comments: jchuckman@YellowTimes.org
its material to be reproduced, reprinted, or broadcast provided that any such
reproduction must identify the original source, http://www.YellowTimes.org
. Internet web links to http://www.YellowTimes.org
this great web site with it's wonderful article "Brainwashing America"
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