Saturday, March 11, 2006

"Informational interviews" 

Its been known for a while that the anti-war movement has been under intense survellience and has been infiltrated by the police. For example, in New York during the Republican convention in 2004 not only did they restrict where protesters could march and vidietape everyone who did march, but they had undercover police who posed as demonstrators only to jump out and arrest people when the oppurtinity presented itself. Such is the current state of civil liberties in the United States.

Venezuela has probably been an issue flying below the radar screen of domestic law enforcement. Not anymore:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. academic accused the FBI on Friday of trying to silence his criticism of Bush administration policy toward Venezuela, further straining ties between Washington and the major oil supplier.

Venezuela seized on agents' questioning of the professor, condemning it in a statement as "a violation of the freedoms of expression, thought and academic inquiry, and ... a desperate attempt to link Venezuela to terrorism."

The FBI did not address the accusations directly but said in a statement it had conducted an "informational interview" ofMiguel Tinker Salas, a history professor at Pomona College, a liberal arts university in California.

The State Department said the United States did not have a policy of targeting academics critical of U.S. policy.

Tinker Salas said two agents of an FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force questioned him this week at his offices about his contacts with the Venezuelan Embassy.

"The intent was to intimidate," the Venezuelan-born American citizen told Reuters.

He said the agents asked if his opinions about U.S. policy had been influenced by the embassy and told him Venezuelans living in the United States were "of interest" to the task force, whose job is to prevent terrorist attacks.

Jonathan Knight, who directs a national program to protect academic freedom, said that if the allegations were true, it appeared the FBI wanted to silence a professor using tactics that he had not seen since the persecution of academics perceived as pro-Communist in the 1950s.

"A faculty member being confronted by two law enforcement agents could have a cautionary effect because what he can expect is that the U.S. government is watching his views," said Knight of the American Association of University Professors. "This is treading very much on his freedom."

Tinker Salas, whose recent work includes a book analyzing Venezuelan politics since President Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1998, said he would not be cowed.

Notice that this is happening under the terrorism pretext. The officers were from the "Joint Terrorism Task Force". Yes of course, people who support the betterment of a country in Latin America are very likely to go around blowing up buildings in the U.S. Or maybe its that many of us who support what Chavez is trying to do in Venezuela also oppose the U.S. war in Iraq and don't buy the company line that Iraqis who resist the occupation are terrorists. I guess that "you are with us, or against us" bullshit also applied to everyone in the U.S. too. Well, it is just as absurd here in the U.S. as it was abroad. And just to help out these officers so they don't waste their time in the future: If you are looking for terrorists you might want to check out 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Capitol Hill, and the Pentagon. I think you'll find plenty of terrorists and terrorist apologists there to keep you busy.


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