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Building Liberty | Repression

Frameworks for Understanding Repression

The Theories of Frank Donner

Frank Donner (1911-1993) was an attorney active with the American Civil Liberties Union who literally wrote the book analyzing how political surveillance and domestic repression are carried out by agents of US intelligence agencies. He argued that intelligence agents were often chasing scapegoats. Donner identified communism as the right wing's primary scapegoat during this century, and researched how rightwing paramilitary groups were encouraged by intelligence agencies and local police red squads to fight alleged collectivist subversion. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and statist communism in Europe, the proto-fascist militia movement has transformed the dysfunctional scapegoat of the "red menace conspiracy" into the "one-world government, new world order conspiracy." The government itself has become the new subversive collectivist enemy and a target for a heinous act of right-wing terror in Oklahoma City.

In response the countersubversion empire is trying to rise phoenix-like from the ashes of the Cold War by asking that its investigative talons be unsheathed to fight a paranoid rightwing movement it helped create. The anti-terrorism legislation proposed in Congress is a farce. The many lawsuits against political spying advised by Donner found scant evidence that widespread infiltration and bugging of social movements found terrorists or stopped acts of violence, but much evidence that the protectors of privilege use these repressive tools to undermine demands for social change. The weapons we give the FBI today to fight the right will inevitably be aimed at progressives and other dissidents in our society. It is a shame that Donner is not around to comment on these tragic ironies.

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David Kaplan of California's Center for Investigative Reporting called COINTELPRO "the largest known program yet in domestic suverillance."

Kaplan observed that "between 1965 and 1975, the FBI opened more than 500,000 intelligence files on more than one million Americans, according to a Congressional report."

"Among the Bureau's targets: Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam War Groups, and the underground press."



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