Anatomy of Repression: Military Tactics And Corrupt Media Used To Destroy Protest Movements

Back in 2011, people (like Naomi Wolf) who said the Department of Homeland Security apparatus was being wielded against the Occupy movement, were scoffed at and undermined by self-important media figures. By 2012, it was proven that not only was Naomi correct, but the scope of the civil violations and/or crimes being perpetrated by the state agencies in an effort to quell any and all dissent, had been grossly underestimated, and that those agencies were in fact coordinating internationally.

Fast-forward to 2014 and the Black Lives Matter / Ferguson movement and 2015 in Baltimore, and independent media, protest organisers and protesters themselves are reporting similar experiences – namely, their lives being dismantled piece by piece at a whole-of-government level and their physical safety threatened as they are stalked and surveilled by shadowy groups of strangers hell-bent on intimidating their targets out of performing their legal protest and journalistic activities.

Democracy, indeed.

Well now we finally know not only that this IS happening, but also precisely how. And the implications for those in the media sphere are astonishing. Due to the for-profit nature of these crimes, which are perpetuated and facilitated by governments and therefore NOT recognised and prosecuted by those governments, the problem is snowballing into a situation where not only protesters and journalists are being stalked and intimidated but even doctors, researchers, scientists, educators, civil servants, and anyone at all who gets in the way of the establishment.

Integrated with the global mass surveillance apparatus, this Stasi-State-On-Steroids is now operational around the globe, and can only be leading us to something even more sinister.

Without further adieu, here is a full transcript of the recent ‘Occupy Interview: COIN’ (COIN being short for \Counterinsurgency) podcast by the Occupy America Social Network.

Host: Terry W. Bain (@TWBainusW)
Guest: Michael Gould-Wartofsky (@MGouldWartofsky)

HOST: Hi and welcome back to Occupy Interview, this is the Occupy America Social Network and we are back on the air! We had a domain hijack. Some of you may have had trouble finding us but, we’re here and obviously you found us so, you’re here… this is Episode 41: Occupy COIN, for Counterinsurgency. Our guest is Michael – can you introduce yourself please, Mike?

GUEST: Sure, my name is Michael Gould-Wartofsky, I was a Day 1 occupier at New York City and ended up writing a book on the movement, it just came out this year, called ‘The Occupiers: The Making of the 99% Movement’, documenting what was going on within the occupations and also between the occupations and the state, the power players, that severely repressed them. I recently came out with a piece in the Town Dispatch which was widely republished in The Nation and elsewhere called ‘The New Age Of CounterInsurgency Policing’. I’ve been studying some of this stuff as a PhD candidate in Sociology at New York University and also just as a rank and file activist and photojournalist, for some time, trying to figure out what was going on, on the other side.

HOST: Can you give us a real brief look at Counterinsurgency 101? What do people need to know about Counterinsurgency?

GUEST: Counterinsurgency emerged as a strategy for control and containment of what was seen as enemy forces in foreign combat zones in the 1960s, as we know, and has really experienced a revival of sorts, a renaissance, since 9/11. It has been deployed in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in other conflict zones around the world, in the so-called Global War on Terror. More recently, we’ve seen counterinsurgency understood as a struggle for control over contested political space, political territory. We see this counterinsurgency strategy imported back to the homeland, back to domestic uses. So the counterinsurgency framework depends on the establishment and consolidation of control over a population and over a given territory through both military means, that is, security forces, in the case of domestic protests, political means, economic means, and then the base of this, is information control, and we can get to that in a second.

HOST: That would be great. We’ve really been trying to find some more information on that. One of our guests on one of our earlier shows, was with Doug Valentine, a historian.  He wrote the book on the Phoenix Program, during Vietnam, and was working with our audience trying to give us a basic understanding of the structure of Homeland Security as actually mirroring the Phoenix Program. Can you elaborate? What are you seeing on that?

GUEST: I think that a lot of the, if we’re speaking specifically about the information control that’s going on, on the one hand it looks like the control of information flowing to law enforcement, that’s one dimension of it, flowing to these paramilitarised forces, and that takes the form increasingly of an integrated series of platforms that spans both the public and the private sector, and one example of this is the Domain Awareness System, which is a program that draws on many, many, many datastreams across New York City, for example. It was created by Microsoft in partnership with the NYPD and the Federal Intelligence agencies to aggregate and analyse these datastreams, to analyse information constantly in real time from tens of thousands of sources. From criminal history databases and closed-circuit cameras to license plate readers to Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) as they call it – that is, information gleaned from social media and people’s everyday communications – so that’s one dimension of it. The flow of information to them. Another, is controlling the flow of information to us.  The information that we’re getting. So it’s not just about the intelligence gathering, not just about the sort of predictive policing, but it’s also about trying to control what data we’re getting about what they’re doing, and a lot of this has to do with cybersecurity, Kilcullen(?) talks about media ops and information ops – there are stories that are planted, there are people who are working in media that are also working for intelligence. The Associated Press recently exposed this – there are FBI agents working as Associated Press. There’s also efforts to counteract the motivations and ideologies of the people on the ground who are trying to protest this homeland security state and on other issues like police accountability. And they involve, basically a constant flow of funding and personnel into the movement itself so you have lots of people embedded within the movement who are actually working for intelligence agencies and spreading disinformation and at the same time, spreading questionable data about what’s going on. And part of this too is to marginalise the protesters, to deny them sanctuary, to deny them sources of support from the larger population. And so we’ll see this in places like Baltimore, in places like Ferguson, they will attempt to associate dissidents with domestic terrorism, they will associate dissidents with violent activity, and they’ll try to split the allies that these movements have, and to divide and conquer.

HOST: In the show that we did with Doug Valentine, he had a question for you, actually two questions. You hear the term counterinsurgency and you hear the term counterterror – what is the difference between the two?

GUEST: Well of course, there’s a kind of slippery slope and a spectrum. But it has to do with the justification that the powers that be give for these kinds of practices I think, more than any fundamental difference in what they’re doing. I think that counterterrorism campaigns traditionally do employ counterinsurgency measures as a piece of them. We saw both counterterrorism and counterinsurgency in effect in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Horn of Africa, you can even go back to Vietnam of course, and Latin America. So there’s a kind of dual face of this kind of security strategy. When it’s justified in terms of preventing actual terror attacks, as it has been since 9/11 they call it counterterrorism – when it’s justified in terms of control over a territory that may not belong to you, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, they’ll call it counterinsurgency.

HOST: I guess kind of an elaboration of that question too, Doug wanted to know, do you see any kind of a difference between the way the CIA handles an operation, and the way the military handles an operation, and the way the DHS – the Department of Homeland Security – handles a counterinsurgency program?

GUEST: Certainly. I think the military is certainly best trained and has the most experience in above-ground operations of this nature. So they have to follow very clear protocols, they have to answer for their actions at some level, there’s a very clear chain of command. Of course they’re subject to all the unpredictability and uncertainty that arises in battlefields and of course military tactics have now been imported to law enforcement agencies here but there’s still a kind of, there are military protocols that are followed. With the DHS and CIA it’s much more of a new frontier as to what they’re up to and I think they see much less need to answer to the public, there’s much less transparency around those activities and much of what the CIA has done, we don’t even know the full extent of that and it’s only due to some intrepid journalism and some leaks that we have any idea of what they’ve been up to since 9/11. Of course, they too have been deployed for some domestic counterinsurgency as we saw with some CIA officers embedded with the New York Police Department’s demographics unit and used against Muslim Arab Americans here in New York City so the CIA has definitely expanded the scope of its mission. And the DHS of course is a new creature, one that we’ve only had in the 14 years since 9/11 and DHS is a really vast infrastructure of, it’s hard to talk in generalities about them because it’s really such a world unto itself. But they are actively engaged in applying this domestically so they’re the ones who are thinking about ways to bring counterinsurgency home and are probably the most active in that endeavour right now.

HOST: There was a time when counterinsurgency implied warfare. And if you’re in the continental United States, in Ferguson, in Baltimore, in any of the cities across the country that’s having this going on – we are not at war. I never declared war on my government, why did my government declare war on me? What’s going on here?

GUEST: This is the kind of slippery slope I was talking about between counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. When the US government declared the Global War On Terror in 2002 it was a signal and it was also a green light for this to really get global and that INCLUDES the United States. So they see the battlefield everywhere. If the streets of Batlimore and the streets of Ferguson looked like a warzone that was no coincidence. We look at agencies within the Homeland Security state here, like the DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis – they regularly issue communications to other agencies around the country saying. look out for civil disobedience, look out for civil unrest, and they associate it in some cases with terrorism overseas. There was a memo that came out some time around the Ferguson protests that associated the Ferguson protesters with ISIS – the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. So they see this as a kind of spectrum of force that can be deployed anywhere at any time against almost anyone. They do see it as a piece of the larger strategy that they’re pursuing in what they do see as a global war that’s being waged on our own shores.

HOST: We’re about 14 minutes into the show. There were reports coming out, and this will kind of begin to get into our next segment here in a second, but you’ve been following what’s been happening in Baltimore, but it looked like from the people who were actually there at the time, it was almost kind of a set-up on a bunch of high school kids. They shut down the transport, they came in with a tank, an armoured car, and a SWAT team in riot gear and they taunted kids, they ended up throwing rocks at the kids and the kids were throwing rocks at them…  a comment that came out it looked like Gaza USA. What do you see there? Can you elaborate and try to give people a better idea? It looked like the cops were just trying to incite a riot? That’s what it looked like.

GUEST: That’s right, and it is actually a traditional strategy for law enforcement – we’ve had those officers known as agent provocateurs of course for over 100 years in this country who’d go and get things going and get people riled up, to start taking violent action that would then justify a counter-reaction which was actually planned all along. [TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE TO READERS: THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED AT D8 TPPA SHUTDOWN 2012]  So what’s presented as a reaction to a violent protest is often part of a preemptive strategy to preempt non-violent protests, as I argued in a piece for the Washington Post two weeks ago. But in Baltimore, what you saw was the Baltimore police firstly engaging in state-of-the-art surveillance of people’s Twitter feeds, of their social media streams and they learned that this group of high school students wanted to protest the case, the killing of Freddie Gray, with a high school walkout and a march to the Mall. The BPD, instead of preparing for a peaceful protest, they armed themselves for war. They suited up in full riot gear, they had military-style weapons at the ready, military-grade weaponry and military-style tactics. And they faced off with these high school students, refusing to allow them to go home. Denying them avenues of exit, denying them the ability to disperse. Of course, given that scenario, it’s almost inevitable what followed. They came at the students with assault rifles, shotguns with lead pellets, barricades, projectiles, military-style smoke grenades. All the things you’re more accustomed to seeing on the streets of Baghdad, were of course seen on the streets of Baltimore. This is the general tendency with empires – the wars always do come home.

HOST: Well the war has come home. It turns your stomach to watch the news every night. We’re 17 minutes into the show and it would be a really good time to take a look. This is the guy that may have given the blueprint for all of the things that are going on right now, the strategy picture anyway. There’s the Foreign Affairs magazine – the former Ambassador to Iraq wrote a piece that’s basically saying the counterinsurgency effort is doomed to failure – that it has always failed – but we’ve brought it back home to Baltimore.

GUEST: That’s right.

HOST: Could you give us a little picture? Of a gentleman named Lieutenant-Colonel David Kilcullen(?) and his three pillars, and that’s built on information control, which we began to touch on that, and I think we’ve just been given a pretty good learning moment for how it works. Can you give us a little picture?

GUEST: Sure. So Dr. Kilcullen elaborated his strategy at the US Government counterinsurgency conference in 2006. There were some questions at the time as to the effectiveness of the strategies that were being implemented in Iraq, strategies in Afghanistan. This was a moment when counterinsurgency really came back to the fore as an answer, as they saw it, to the question, ‘Well how do you actually secure this territory?’ which may or may not be yours. In the case of Iraq it was very clear – but in the case of some of our inner cities there is also a sense that these are occupying forces so I think that this counterinsurgency framework again came out of the military’s experience overseas but then they found it very useful at home. So those pillars that you’re talking about – it’s a visual model that he presents, Kilcullen. It’s a model as a base – three pillars and a roof. The base is information – that’s the information control that I’m talking about and also the messages that are sent with counterinsurgency actions to the population. And then the three pillars are security, political control and economic control. And the roof is the outcome of the control over all of those mentioned, the establishment, consolidation and transfer of the control from an insurgent part of the population to the state that is seeking to control them. So the security pillar is the one that my article was dealing directly with and that goes everything from the military and paramilitary forces that might be in play down to police who then receive the tactical and strategic orientations of the military in this context and then you have public safety officers and the private security sector and what’s called population security. So you have that pillar of control is the one that we traditionally associate with counterinsurgency, but it’s not the only one, there’s supposed to be a balance right, to give you the efficiency, the effectiveness of your operations, but also to give you the legitimacy, which is hard to come by in these battlefields right, where you’re occupying a foreign country. So to get this legitimacy you also need to combine your security forces and your security activities with political and economic efforts so this looks like building agencies of government that are subservient, that are willing to do the bidding of those directly above them, and those directly above them will do the bidding of those above them, answering to the authority that’s claiming control over the territory. And that can be a knotty problem when you’re faced with an occupied country, of course it’s a little bit easier to pull off when its within your own borders and you’re able to buy off politicians, you’re able to depend upon the criminal justice system to fall in line, you’re able to depend on police officers and intelligence agencies to back you up if the political pillar falls, right, but that is a key element, and one that they keep returning to to reestablish legitimacy, is to say, this is lawful authority, you better obey it. And then there’s the economic pillar which is everything from resource distribution to those who might be sympathetic to insurgents or sympathetic to the rebels. Humanitarian assistance, development assistance, and the management of resource and infrastructure. This is really important actually, in the years since 9/11 we’ve seen a real nexus of the public and private sector around the issue of security. So what’s called critical infrastructure by the Homeland Security has special councils that it has designated and given the power to sort of manage, and critical infrastructure, we’re talking about not just things you might assume like power plants, things that people actually need. They also take it to mean banks, they take it to mean large corporations. So the management of the critical infrastructure is also a key piece of the counterinsurgency strategy because those have to be defended at all costs from the threat of disruption, even if the disruption is coming from peaceful non-violent protesters as we saw during Occupy,

HOST: So we’re 23 minutes into the show and those three pillars that you’ve just described, when its operationally used overseas like Iraq, we hear the people in charge of implementing this plan, simplifying it down to Clear, Hold, and Build. Does that kind of fit with those three pillars or is that something else entirely?

GUEST: That fits with the three pillars, the three pillars are of course one way of conceptualising it that has become quite influential in recent years, but Clear Hold and Build of course has a longer lineage. It was developed by the United States Army, the three elements being civil military operations, combat operations and information warfare. So you’re talking about some of the same kinds of operational priorities but you’re talking about something that was designed specifically to deal with a guerilla force and of course that’s NOT what we’re dealing with in this country so they’ve had to adapt it somewhat to domestic uses.

HOST: Then again, that kind of goes back to the question of how do we see some differences when this is applied with a CIA operation like Phoenix operation, or Department of Homeland Security or military, there are certain differences that we’re going to see but there’s a lot of similarities too because when all is said and done it comes back to an occupation, an army of occupation, and it’s interesting to see how many people were observing that this felt to them, like occupied territory. Some of the tweets that were coming out were saying that they couldn’t believe that this was in their backyard, i guess after watching it in Ferguson and watching it all across the country. It does have a strange feeling when it’s, ‘now it’s here’. I guess that’s where we’re needing to get to from here cos I guess there’s a guy called Sun Tsu and he talks about if you can defeat your opposition’s plan then you’ll win the battle without ever taking casualties. So let’s go back to the plan again. We can see the three pillars, the pillars are resting on a foundation of information control, and that would appear to be how to defeat the plan. They have to control that information. And in the age of Twitter it doesn’t look like they’re doing that well. But it does seem to explain alot of the strange things we’re seeing, like we’re seeing tweets of them going into churches, Ferguson, which would be sanctuary I guess, and you can actually see the people tweeting from the areas saying everything short of sanctuary, safehouse. You can see the attack on the media, begins to make more sense.  So let’s zoom in on the microscope here, and there’ll be a picture that we’re talking about. But now we’re looking at the very base, that those pillars and the roof are sitting on. There’s six things there. The first one is intelligence. How does this apply to people having an occupation used on them in Baltimore? What’s going on with intelligence?

GUEST: They have all kinds of ways of gathering intelligence on the population, the target population. The poor black population of Baltimore in this case. They have everything from human intelligence, that is people embedded among the protesters, we saw this to great effect of course for many years, and they also have signals intelligence – they can gather through such newfangled devices as the Stingray which conducts wireless surveillance of enemy communications, allows them to jam cellphone signals, to force cellphones to connect to it, and to collect mobile data without people’s knowledge. And they’ve been using it, this is specifically something that was deployed in Baltimore. They also have Open Source Intelligence like I was talking about before; we think about social media as something that we can use to fight back in this information war but of course it’s also a tool that can be deployed by law enforcement for their own purposes. So in Baltimore you saw real-time tracking of protest events, you saw attempts to preempt the protest events by drawing on social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, You Tube, to paint a picture for them, gather intelligence for them about where the next protest was going to be, where the next crowd was going to gather. This is the new frontier, this is predictive policing, or PredPol as it’s known and this has a lot to do with counterinsurgency coming to the police, and it’s intended to basically predict where and when crimes or, let’s say, protests or riots are going to happen before they happen and who would be the most likely culprit to participate. And then to send, to basically have a search capacity, where you can send in forces to those targets to stop them before they even happen. So that kind of information control, through intelligence gathering, through predictive policing, is the new frontier when we’re talking about that information control base there. And that gets into information ops as well.

HOST: And that’s the other interesting point about this is it does not seem to be something that’s a simple little picture in a schematic. It’s not just intelligence, it’s how does the intelligence apply to the information operation. Or how does that apply on the media op. And again that goes back to the whole concept of the Department of Homeland Security and the Fusion doesn’t it?

GUEST: It sure does. So alot of these Fusion Centres use these means to good effect. To create a kind of unity of command but also an effort where intelligence can feed into information ops, and media ops, and can then be parlayed into actionable information for them and of course demobilising information – information that is denied to us. So the information ops can take many forms from sort of electronic warfare, you know when I was talking about the Stingray, Hellstorm technology – which is a form of psychological warfare, electronic warfare. Perception operations to disrupt – disruption of political communications on the part of protesters, and the corruption of the decisions that protesters take through this counterintelligence counterinformation campaign. Cos you can’t make informed decisions about what to do, how to protest non-violently if you have imperfect information. So that plays into all six of those pieces of the information control regime.

HOST: Would this apply to where the kids had rocks thrown at them by the riot police, the SWAT team? Was there an information operation probably – I don’t want to get into too much speculation cos we’ll know sooner or later. That’s the good part about this – it’ll all show up in discovery! But is that a form of information op when you put out a ‘there’s going to be an attack, a purge’ on some TV show – and have this complete story pre-made up and the pieces in place, the tank and the armour… I guess what I’m trying to say is, is that an example of an information operation?

GUEST: It’s certainly the product of an information operation – leading up to that of course we had operations already underway by Baltimore Police Department to neutralise these protests from the Saturday before. As to whether the purge was something that came from high school students just acting the fool or came from information ops, is still a matter of speculation.

HOST: Yeah nobody seems to be stepping up to claim where that came from. Which is another pretty good indication of usually a false flag – and I guess, would that be another type of media ops? So once again, this is like another way of looking at the same thing, but then the media operation would be again, I guess, if you had reporters with cameras in place to show pictures of the kids throwing the rocks – and this is a theoretical, this is not what happened in Baltimore because we still don’t have all the data yet – which would be, an information op! [Laughter] Media ops – could you give us a short view on what would be a media op.

GUEST: As they’ve gained quite a bit of control over our media without even having to do it in the name of the U.S. Government of course, they can do it through private corporations, with which they’re working very closely, so you know, somebody like Fox News is going to be there, ready to take pictures of the kids throwing rocks, whether they’re sent there directly by the U.S. Government or not, they’re ready to do it at the bidding of their employers.

HOST: That’s an interesting point to try to get out to people here too, is people want to portray this as, you could never have this big of a conspiracy. The conspiracy itself is driving it, that’s what it’s designed for. Once you set this machinery in place, it’s a go.

GUEST: I would hesitate to call this a conspiracy because just the normal operations of our security and intelligence apparatus would explain this. You don’t have to have a huddle in a back room with people twirling their moustaches for this to work, it can just happen because it’s set up to happen that way.

HOST: Again, Doug Valentine points out that this was created during the Vietnam war, the Phoenix program modelled after Ford motor company used a ‘command post’ system where they would have directors from on high and they had computerised statistics that would tell them whether or not they were meeting their goals or not – again, that’s what it was modelled on so that’s why you’re seeing the similarities. So on the other side of the box, first off do you think there’s a reason why they’ve got these three things kind of set – they’ve got three counters on the other side of the intelligence box – counterideology, countersanctuary, countermotivation. Again they’re all interlinked. What’s in each of those?

GUEST: Sure. So countermotivation, it basically denies people, it’s a sort of way of making it irrational for people to participate and its waging the cost at such a high level, such a high cost, for people to participate in a non-violent protest or a non-violent insurgency let’s say. Countermotivation is basically making it so that it’s almost impossible for people’s motivation to outweigh those costs. So to give people a disincentive to do anything really, to go out of their homes. This can be reinforced by the security pillar – as we saw when the National Guard was enforcing the curfews – but it also can take the form of psychological warfare – where you’re saying, okay, we’re going to expel all these high school students. We’re going to get all these high school students expelled for exercising their rights, for going out and protesting. So that’s a way of countering the motivation that people have. Counterideology is equally important. This was designed during the Cold War when they actually had this War on Communism – now they don’t have the same kind of singular ideological enemy, but they have seen fit to use propaganda, use denunciations of the ideas that people might have, who are out on the streets. You’ve seen this in Occupy, and more recently in the treatment of anarchists, you’ve seen this in the treatment of the Black Lives Matters protesters, portrayed as a sort of, an inherently violent ideology, and attempts to really deprive social movements of their base in the population by saying well ‘this is a foreign ideology’, ‘this is a hostile ideology’, ‘this is a violent way of thinking’. Countersanctuary of course is to deny them places to go, space to be in, just the space to operate in. This can take the form of, as we saw in Ferguson with the church, denying them physical space. They can also deny them their space in cyberspace. In recent years the technologies that are available to them, they’re using to deny people even their ability to operate and to communicate in cyberspace.

HOST: So we’ve got these six things – and again, you’ve really given a clear picture, of how they’re all interlinked, and interwoven with all the other pieces. I guess a lot of what appears to be random, may not be what it appears to be at all. And I guess that might be a really good way of saying that’s what information control is all about.

GUEST: That’s right, that’s right.

HOST: One of the most interesting things to all of this though, with Kilcullen, basically he was credited as doing such a good job in Iraq with this version of COIN which came with the idea that he and Valentine have a worldwide Phoenix program. At the same time, we have the person who was the Ambassador to Iraq who just now came out with the article saying ‘hey this is doomed to failure – it always fails – it failed in Vietnam – it failed in Iraq – it failed in Afghanistan’ – so it’s not like this is some kind of perfectly created machine that’s going to win, in fact it’s doomed to fail. So I kind of guess that brings us to our third section here. With all of this gloom and doom what do you see as the good news, of being able to identify, hey, we’re having counterinsurgency used on us? What’s the good news here? We’ve got twenty minutes to find that!

GUEST: There’s no success here for the counterinsurgency campaign. There can be temporary wins, there can be pacification, they can disrupt and deter people for a time, from going to the street or taking part in protests. All of that – that can look like success, but really in the long term it’s inevitable, it’s doomed to fail, and it’s inevitable that a population will not respond to this by embracing those it sees as occupiers, those it sees as an occupying force. As you said, you didn’t see that in Vietnam, you didn’t see it in Iraq or Afghanistan and you’re certainly not going to see it here in the United States, I think where people have higher expectations of some basic degree of democratic legitimacy, so once they have access to this information, once the information control is broken, then the other pillars are much more likely to fall. We have a crisis of legitimacy in this country right now and part of that is flowing from the fact that like never before – we’re seeing what’s going on, we have access through some of the new tools that we were talking about, to unprecedented information on the kinds of activities that our government is engaged in. Of course there’s much more that we don’t know, that is going on, but the information control I think is much more tenuous than it used to be, as is the control over the population in the sense of legitimacy, because they have power but they don’t have the kind of legitimacy that they’re used to having when they carry out these kinds of operations – you’re not just talking about fighting a foreign enemy anymore, you’re talking about targeting civilians – targeting citizens. So I think it sounds really dire today but there is a silver lining to it in that people I think generally are waking up to this and there have been successful attempts to contain the growth of the security state, there have been successful attempts to reign in some of these programs, some states, ones that you wouldn’t even expect like Montana have passed legislation saying that they don’t want the 1033 program, that is the program to funnel surplus military equipment to law enforcement. We’ve had states like Washington State, where there were drones that were going to be introduced to police protests there and they said no, we’re not going to have drones policing our protests. There have been efforts in New York City and elsewhere, and I think we’re seeing a real conflict over this now, in New York City and elsewhere to stop the over-policing of protests and to actually bring civil and criminal complaints against the police department and in the case of Chicago you’ve even seen reparations that were won for domestic dissidents and other prisoners who were tortured in previous decades and of course Chicago is where we saw that black site during the 2012 protests. So this stuff is hard but there are real local wins, that I think people can take heart that it is possible to put the brakes on this thing, at least at the local level, and if this crisis of legitimacy continues I think we’re going to see some developments at the national level as well.

HOST: We’ve got about 14 minutes left and one of the most crucial things I’ve seen that is good news is how much airtime you seem to have gotten with this counterinsurgency. You’ve been talking to The Nation magazine. The corporate media has actually been paying attention here, to me that’s a big change. What do you see as having driven this, what’s going on here? Why are the corporate media suddenly doing their job?

GUEST: Well I think it’s not that they’re suddenly doing their job, but they don’t really have a choice. This is something that everybody is talking about. It’s something everybody cares about. Everybody who knows about this, who learns about this, knows that it is an issue that is something that is of the utmost importance of their lives, whether or not they’re politically active or whether they’re out there protesting, this is something that’s going to affect all of us, it’s going to affect our children, our grandchildren and so on so forth. I think that there’s simply a demand for it, that there hasn’t been for some time. A demand for information, a hunger for information about this and for some sort of analysis of what’s going on. And I think people feel short-changed by the information that they had been getting previously and they’re demanding to know more.

HOST: I keep thinking back to the scenes in Baltimore, and Ferguson, where you’ve got people telling corporate media, go home. And basically if you’re following it on Twitter and seeing what the people who actually live there are saying and seeing, and seeing what’s going out on CNN, or some of the other corporate media, I don’t want to just single out their bad behaviour… Did you pick up any kind of a change when you’re talking to corporate people who are suddenly covering this story? Do you see any kind of, how do they seem to you? Do they actually seem to be understanding? Or, did they get it before but were just paid not to, or… what’s your impression from talking to the corporate media, what do you see changing there?

GUEST: So my feeling is that nothing fundamental has changed with the corporate media.

HOST: [Laughter] Well I was hoping you had some better news than that!

GUEST: Well nothing fundamental. Though I think at the margins, at the edges, you see some shift. One of the things I think of during Occupy, is actually, even the corporate media became a threat, because to have a camera covering what was going on, to have people seeing what was going on, even that was perceived as a threat even if it was CNN, even if it was the New York TImes. I was out there with a camera at the front lines in 2011 and they were beating up anybody. Including mainstream corporate journalists. So I think some of the individuals in the media have changed their view, and feel that this is a threat not just to protesters but to them, and they’re exercising their rights as members of the press, the so-called free press. There are many people who are questioning what the legitimacy these kinds of tactics have, these kinds of tactics that we see in the streets.  And I think as individuals, they’re covering it differently. I think as institutions, it’s going to take more for them to change in a more fundamental way, and for that you’re going to have to talk about new media, you’re going to have to talk about democratising our media on a more systematic level. But for now, I think there is a cultural shift. A shift in the discourse, a shift in the way that people are talking about these things. There’s a sense among many of the population that if the corporate media isn’t here to tell us the truth then we’re going to need someone else to do that. So I think it’s an existential crisis for them because it really gets down to the role of the media in a free society, and if this isn’t a free society, then what is the role of the media then.

HOST: Good point, got about 10 minutes left and you’ve really kind of touched on some interesting points. For those of us who’ve been around Occupy from basically Day 1, the issues that we’re raising today aren’t exactly news to us. Basically we have, in the former show with Doug Valentine, to a degree, this IS what drove Occupy underground, although that has been overblown according to some of the other experts we’ve been talking to. But it is breaking down. The media is beginning to have to cover this. You were there at the original… were you there at Occupy Wall Street in New York?

GUEST: That’s right. September 17th 2011.

HOST: I’m a newcomer. I didn’t come in til about October. [Laughter]. That’s when the rest of the country started going up for grabs. That was an interesting point in time. We’re still seeing people… are you following Decentralise Occupy down in New Zealand?


HOST: She’s one of the people who was basically… was never a journalist, never in her wildest dreams she even wanted to be a journalist, but she is a reporter because she saw it wasn’t being covered anywhere else.

GUEST: That’s right.

HOST: You were at the Battle of Boston – I guess that was a couple of months after, was that December?

GUEST: There were several… and the battle of Chicago of course, in May 2012, was really one of the places where we saw some of this new type of policing really deployed in full force. At the North American Treaty Organisation protest (#NONATO), the anti-war protest that Spring. But we saw it from the first I think, they’ve had this stuff under development and they’ve had it in the wings and a lot of the infrastructure I was talking about, the tactics and the weapons I was talking about, they were out there on the streets… they didn’t use them to the extent that they have in the past year. But they had the sound cannons, the long range acoustic devices (LRAD), the less-lethal weapons and all that. All the cameras, that they have, that they were integrating to try to surveil what Occupy was doing, you know I think the groundwork had been laid, of course, long ago and we’re just starting to see the full glory now.

HOST: The credibility is beginning to switch to our side since the other side has been caught lying, the corporate side, so many times. We talked right before we started recording… that a lot of the protesters who had been arrested in the battle of Chicago actually went to the black site that has just now been brought up into mainstream news and reparations even. That’s that same site.

GUEST: Yeah so the black site had been used for many years, to take prisoners of various sorts that the Chicago Police Department didn’t want to, or, didn’t have the goods on yet. They didn’t have the means to bring them up on normal charges so they would take them to this warehouse in Homan Square, in the case of the Chicago protesters, had them chained to a bench, in a wire cage and they apparently ended up charging three of them with domestic terrorism after they sent their own agents to set up this elaborate plot involving molotov cocktails and all this, it was an elaborate act of entrapment that they used to set up some of these protesters who didn’t know any better, didn’t know who they were dealing with. But in a lot of cases you’re seeing the counterterrorism campaigns as kind of having to invent terrorism, or terrorist plots to justify its own existence and Chicago is one example of that.

HOST: And one may well turn into another one, at the end of the day…

GUEST: That’s right, I wouldn’t be surprised to see those black sites turning up in Baltimore either.

HOST: I get the impression that you’re probably dead on target on that one too. In fact what’s really interesting is that when we were talking about this in Ferguson, we found not one but two Fusion centres operating in Ferguson, population 20,000 people. The numbers I keep seeing, it varies all the time. I don’t think there even is a clear picture of how many Fusion centres are operating at this point. That number doesn’t seem to be very realistic. With about 5 minutes left to go, there was something else I wanted to touch on… and I think I managed to forget it. There was one I was wanting you to remind me of…

GUEST: Well I know we were supposed to talk about… Chicago and…

HOST: Oh, that’s it! Infraguard! I was hoping you’ve got something on Infraguard, cos that’s the side of the Fusion centres that’s REALLY spooky. We’re not seeing much on Infraguard.

GUEST: That’s right, and this is actually just one piece of a larger puzzle, which is the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) for policing and for Homeland Security. Infraguard is just a link in that chain that the FBI is specifically responsible for. So they have over 55,000 members as of 2012, I’m sure it’s grown since then. But it’s an association of U.S. business, U.S. corporations, and the FBI, to put their minds together basically, to combine information sharing and intelligence functions with coordination and collaboration on efforts to prevent disruption and ensure business continuity as they would call it. But that can mean anything from, disruption can mean anything from an Occupy protest to a terrorist event but they don’t make any distinction, so, they’ve been using Infraguard, they’ve been using other councils like the Domestic Security Alliance Council and some of these advisory councils within the DHS; the Homeland Security Information  Network is another one, like Infraguard, that DHS is anchoring, that allow constant communication and coordination of public and private sectors to respond to what they see as the ‘threat environment’ that they face, as they call it. The threat environment makes no distinction between violent and non-violent activities so you’re seeing the use of these networks and organisations that were developed under the pretext of protecting Americans, actually being turned against them.

HOST: And again Doug Valentine’s observation here is that that basically parallels how the Phoenix program worked out in the 60s and 70s, the Vietnam War version. It’s a pattern that just keeps repeating until we stop it repeating but the difference is that very few people knew what the Phoenix program was in 1973 or 74. I think there’s a significantly larger amount of people who are beginning to get a handle on just how bad this situation is, as far as liberty. It’s interesting to see some of the tweets talking about the left-wingers on this one, but they’re divided from the right-wing. There’s been some observations like where’s the right-wingers on this one, where’s all the liberty people. And another classic example of that would be the Bundy Ranch situation, where the right-wing were there, on police militarisation, but the left-wing wasn’t too much there or showing up for that one. But the 99% – do you have any, in the last minute, how do we get the 99% to hang together so that we don’t all hang separate?

GUEST: Yeah, that’s the million dollar question.

HOST: Trillion!

GUEST: Yeah, trillion. There are some things that still unite us, no matter what the political ideology that might motivate us might be. One of those things is the desire to live our lives, free from constant government surveillance and constant government interference and control of what we do. There’s one kind of freedom that I think the ‘right’ takes for granted there, and that’s fighting for the right of businesses to do what they want, but what about the freedoms of individuals, what about the freedoms of communities like those in Baltimore, to just live their lives. That’s something basic right there that’s written into our constitutional laws, it’s supposed to be guaranteed to us. But I think this is one thing that the ‘right’ and ‘left’ have in common and that’s nobody wants to be followed around 24/7 and be a target of information ops or psychological warfare on their own block, or in their own country. That’s true of Iraqis, it’s true of Afghans and it’s definitely true of Americans. I think that, you know, if there’s one thing that’s going to unite us, in these final years of the Obama administration it’s the realisation that our democracy is under threat, our freedoms are under threat and it’s going to take collective action and some serious pushback to stop it.

HOST: Well, that pushback is underway and I can’t think of a better way to end this show. That pretty much says it all. I want to thank you for being with us, you’ve done a great job of making a really complex situation, by design, a lot clearer for us. Any last thoughts?

GUEST: Well, just, information is power. Whether it’s in the hands of the power players or in the hands of the rest of us. So the more information we have, the better equipped we’re going to be to wage this fight for our freedom. Everyone should be doing this work, this is work that everyone could be doing. Just keep an eye out cos they certainly are.

HOST: Michael, thanks for standing. To our audience: thank you for standing. And if we don’t get blown out of the air again, we’ll be back in another week with another story.

To view the original podcast blogpost including more than a dozen source links please click here.

Listen to the podcast here

[Transcribed by Suzie Dawson [@endarken]. This transcript was live-blogged. Thank you for watching!]

2 thoughts on “Anatomy of Repression: Military Tactics And Corrupt Media Used To Destroy Protest Movements

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