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Infiltration of Political Movements Is the Norm in America

Posted on Mar 16, 2012
Flickr / AvoF (CC-BY)

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

A different version of this article appeared earlier on both Truthout and the website of Occupy Washington, DC.

Earlier this month, several members of LulzSec, an offshoot of Anonymous, were charged with hacking, reportedly on the basis of reports from an FBI informer described in the media as a leader of LulzSec, notorious for its exploits against Sony, the CIA, the U.S. Senate, the FBI, Visa, MasterCard and PayPal.

One year ago, the British newspaper The Guardian published an article headlined “One in four US hackers ‘is an FBI informer.’ ” It told of how the FBI had used the threat of long prison sentences to turn some members of Anonymous and similar groups into informers. It also told why Anonymous was open to infiltration. On “Democracy Now!,” Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University who is an expert on digital media, hackers and the law, said: “There had been rumors of infiltration or informants. At some level, Anonymous is quite easy to infiltrate, because anyone can sort of join and participate. And so, there had been rumors of this sort of activity happening for quite a long time.”

In an earlier Truthdig article, we described reports of widespread infiltration of the Occupy movement. In this article we will deal with the history of infiltration of political movements in the United States and the goals of infiltration.

FBI’s COINTELPRO Spread a Wide Net

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In light of the long history of political infiltration, it would be surprising if the Occupy movement were not infiltrated. Almost every such movement in modern history has been infiltrated by police or others using many of the tactics we are now seeing employed against Occupy.

The most famous surveillance program was the FBI’s COINTELPRO, which according to COINTELPRO documents targeted the women’s rights, civil rights, anti-war and peace movements, the New Left, socialists, communists and the independence for Puerto Rico movement, among others. Among the groups infiltrated were the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP, the Congress for Racial Equality, the American Indian movement, Students for a Democratic Society, the National Lawyers Guild, the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground. Leaders including Albert Einstein and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were monitored.

The Church Committee of the U.S. Senate documented a history of use of the FBI for political repression. It described infiltration going back to World War I. In the 1920s, federal agents were ordered to round up “anarchists and revolutionaries” for deportation. The Church Committee found that infiltration efforts grew from 1936 through 1976, with COINTELPRO becoming the major program.

Although these domestic political spying and disruption programs were supposed to have stopped in 1976, in fact they continued. As reported in “The Price of Dissent,” Federal Magistrate Joan Lefkow found in 1991 that the record “shows that despite regulations, orders and consent decrees prohibiting such activities, the FBI had continued to collect information concerning only the exercise of free speech.”

How many agents or infiltrators can we expect to see inside a movement? One of the most notorious “police riots” was at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Independent journalist Yasha Levine writes: “During the 1968 protests of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, which drew about 10,000 protesters and was brutally crushed by the police, 1 out of 6 protesters was a federal undercover agent. That’s right, 1/6th of the total protesting population was made up of spooks drawn from various federal agencies. That’s roughly 1,600 people! The stat came from an Army document obtained by CBS News in 1978, a full decade after the protest took place. According to CBS, the infiltrators were not passive observers, monitoring and relaying information to central command, but were involved in violent confrontations with the police.” [Emphasis in original.]

Peter Camejo, who ran as a Socialist Workers Party candidate for president in 1976, as a Green Party candidate for governor of California in 2003 and as Ralph Nader’s vice presidential running mate in 2004, often told of infiltration in his mid-’70s presidential campaign. After campaign offices were burglarized, Camejo was able to get the FBI into court by suing it over COINTELPRO activities. The judge asked the FBI special agent in charge how many FBI agents had worked in Camejo’s presidential campaign; the answer was 66. Camejo estimated he had a campaign staff of 400 across the country. Once again that would be an infiltration rate of about one in six. Camejo discovered that among the agents was his campaign co-chair. He also discovered eavesdropping equipment in a campaign office and documents showing the FBI had followed him since he was an 18-year-old student activist.

Federal infiltration is buttressed by local and state police. Local police infiltrators have a tradition dating back to the Haymarket riots of 1886 and the 1904 Italian Squad in New York City. In addition to their political activity they have been involved in infiltration of unions, especially in regard to strikes. Common throughout the United States were the so-called Red Squads. A 1963 report estimated that 300,000 officers were involved in surveillance of political activities.


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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, March 20, 2012 at 7:38 pm Link to this comment

zoskia, they dont pay much for disrganized hackers like who cant put two whole sentences together. You know, like your last post.

Someone like me, who writes cogent barbed comments… we get top dollar!

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By jimmmmmy, March 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie . Every new generation must learn from the older ones mistakes , oherwise there is no progress. Based on anecdotal information this Iphone generation appears to be very slow learners. Having been subjected to massive amounts of propaganda. Fine articles like this need the historical references to point out errors in actions and judgements. Proceed by other means if you must. Been there ,done that!

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, March 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm Link to this comment

The article we are commenting on is old news to activists, except the author seems to think it’s a recent phenomenon, which is pretty silly.  If you belong to a group of more than a very few activists, then at least one of the group is likely to be an informer.  Hence, it is not at all obvious that practices like monkeywrenching are a good tactic when other options are still available.

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By jimmmmmy, March 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie .I’m afraid you’ve misread my comments. In fact I’m wondering if you read or understood the fine article we are supposedly commenting on?

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, March 20, 2012 at 2:24 pm Link to this comment

jimmmmmy—You’re organizing a violent revolution against the government on the pages of Truthdig, are you?  An impressive start!  Let us know how it works out.

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zoskia's avatar

By zoskia, March 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment

Where can i sign up to the NSA/Homeland Net Group,and how much do they pa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How much do NSA or Homeland security pay people
to go on the comments/Web to be patronising,and parrot the government line ?

 

 

 


How much do people get paid

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By heterochromatic, March 20, 2012 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

jimmmmmmmmmmmmy- if you mean, by “effective anti-
government organizing”, using violence against the
government then yeah, it’s their job to counter your
actions…..and good luck to them.


if you’re saying that effective political movements are
broken up by para-military force, then maybe that ain’t
necessarily so.

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By jimmmmmy, March 20, 2012 at 9:32 am Link to this comment

Anarcissie .You are so wrong! Any effective anti- gov organizing is immediately infiltrated or broken up using para-military force. Just as it is in most other “Banana” republics.

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By jimmmmmy, March 20, 2012 at 9:27 am Link to this comment

For advice and methodology for effective protests read Saul Alinsky 13 Rules For Radicals and The Monkey Wrench Gang by Ed Abbey. Tried and true tactics that work. Especially good for weeding out security force snitches.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, March 20, 2012 at 9:21 am Link to this comment

You can organize openly for most things anyone is likely to do (under present circumstances).

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By jimmmmmy, March 20, 2012 at 9:16 am Link to this comment

Great article .  Fascinatingly detailed. With the advent of the bottomless Homeland security budget the U.S. and Canada now have more paid snitches than Stalin and Hitler combined. In fact some of the commentors to these posts are obviously there to monitor and disrupt. Organizing opposition to these fascist regimes will not be done on the internet or with Iphones.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, March 19, 2012 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment

For long links, there is also tinyurl.com and others like it.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, March 19, 2012 at 7:14 pm Link to this comment

yeah gerard, do what moonie says. work that guilt more.

Report this

By heterochromatic, March 19, 2012 at 5:10 pm Link to this comment

@Kasia Anderson,

perhaps you could bring the comment box linkage problem
to the attention of the appropriate Truthdig staffers.

I would be quite grateful.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, March 19, 2012 at 2:11 pm Link to this comment

@ KA

Gracias

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By Kasia Anderson, March 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment

@EmileZ—Copy and then paste the whole link and it works. The link is
apparently too long to appear as one active unit in the comment window, but here
it is again within the parentheses below:

(http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/infiltration_to_disrupt_divide_and_misdirec
t_20120224/)

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 19, 2012 at 1:20 pm Link to this comment

Gerard, At least you are willing to admit when you are wrong.  Changing that diet means not being wrong anymore.  Work at it.

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By kazy, March 19, 2012 at 11:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wow, Gerard, your words on “America” were quite eloquent. I will save them to read again and perhaps paraphrase should someone start spewing about American “exceptionalism”. However I believe those that you mentioned as a “band of traumatized religious refugees escaping the prisons of Merrie Englande. They struggled to stay alive and if it had not been for the indigenous people they would probably have starved. They were a narrow-minded people, many of whom had no education, insufficient food, clothing and shelter, and were scared half to death. Considering that, it is remarkable that the populations they added somehow were able to get together enough to establish even a half-baked democracy, write an eloquent, balanced and sincere Constitution…” were not the ones that wrote the Constitution. Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, et al were very well educated, land owners and slave holders and most were lawyers. If I misread what you wrote, I apologize.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, March 19, 2012 at 4:29 am Link to this comment

@ gerard

I for one am sick to death of the cult of the founding fathers and all their supposedly enlightened endeavors.

This myth is in my view, a huge part of the problems we are now facing.

“American Exceptionalism” is little more than a rebranding of “Manifest Destiny”, and that is just abroad. The legacy of slavery, genocide, and racism, is very much undiminshed here at home in our public policies, our politics, and our intellectual culture.

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EmileZ's avatar

By EmileZ, March 19, 2012 at 4:14 am Link to this comment

@ Kasia Anderson

The link doesn’t work.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, March 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm Link to this comment

White people (Europeans) are hardly unique in doing genocide and slavery; they have just been unusually successful at it, both upon non-Europeans and each other.

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By gerard, March 18, 2012 at 4:12 pm Link to this comment

Thanks for the comeuppance.  I’m sure you are correct. Probably there is little I can do except to eat crow even though I’ve spent most of my lifetime trying to change my diet.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment

Nothing has got my people closer to justice, gerard.

It appears that you whites are the self-righteous ones—especially with your comment about how those murderous thieves did the best they could.

I would hate to see them do their worst.

You are way out of line, condescending white person.

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By gerard, March 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment

moonraven:  I have more than a vague idea of why you think and feel as you do, but ... I can’t believe that “genocidal goons”, “flying farts” and self-righteousness are going to get any of us much nearer to justice and sanity.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 18, 2012 at 12:17 pm Link to this comment

Gerard,

I don’t give a flying fart whether or not those genocidal goons did the best they could.  What they did was evil.

The only upside for me would be that they are not my ancestors—except that those of you who descended from them, in the greatest majority possible, have and continue to replicate their behaviors.

When will it be time to call genocide and maintenance of colonialism by its real names?

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By gerard, March 18, 2012 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

Take it on, Michael.  There’s plenty to share.

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, March 18, 2012 at 7:08 am Link to this comment

gerard—Obviously the important issue is what we do now, not what they did then.  But many people want to avoid this issue because it might call upon them to do something besides type on a computer.  So among other things we have broad ritual denunciations of various of the characters and stage sets of history.  The point of it is not to understand and perhaps profit from the common memories of our community, but to make oneself feel better or superior without requiring too much labor.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, March 18, 2012 at 6:38 am Link to this comment

The autonomous robots lose to the unable-to-think racial clones… I’m such a damned fool.

Clearly true. You are such a damned fool. But which type of fool? Are you one of the “autonomous robots” or one of the “unable-to-think racial clones”?

My money is on the latter.

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OzarkMichael's avatar

By OzarkMichael, March 17, 2012 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment

Frankly, I consider the fault more my own than my predecessors because the continuous predations against all “people of color” grew much worse and could have been prevented. One can find ways to accept what happened early on; the succeeding generations are not forgiveable. The crazy thing is that it is not necessary to be evil, to do evil.

So you arent just evil, you are also crazy?

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By gerard, March 17, 2012 at 5:08 pm Link to this comment

moonraven:  “America” was founded by a band of traumatized religious refugees escaping the prisons of Merrie Englande. They struggled to stay alive and if it had not been for the indigenous people they would probably have starved. They were a narrow-minded people,many of whom had no education, insufficient food, clothing and shelter, and were scared half to death.
  They not only murdered the “Indians”; they killed each other brutally for superstitious reasons.
  Considering that, it is remarkable that the populations they added somehow were able to get together enough to establish even a half-baked democracy, write an eloquent, balanced and sincere Constitution, fight a war which they would probably have lost had it not been for foreign assistance, and went on to become a more or less united handful of States, cross 2000 miles or so of wild country in horse-drawn wagons with hand hewn wheels. By the time they got to the Mississippi they were half starved and ready to kill anyone who wasn’t the same hairy-faced, black-hatted maurauders as they.
  Please understand me.  I am not making a case for the WAY they accomplished this—the slaughtering of entire nations of native peoples, the stealing, the atrocities. I’m just saying they probably did the best they knew. After all,  the mistreatment continued long after the settlers were in their graves. But I do feel more understanding for the northern settlers than for the slave-holders and their regime. Probably because my maternal grandfather came to Pennsylvania as a 12-year-old indentured servant and went west with the Conestogas to the Seven Mile Limit. He did the best he could under his circumstances.
  Frankly, I consider the fault more my own than my predecessors because the continuous predations against all “people of color” grew much worse and could have been prevented. One can find ways to accept what happened early on; the succeeding generations are not forgiveable. The crazy thing is that it is not necessary to be evil, to do evil.

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By Kasia Anderson, March 17, 2012 at 11:19 am Link to this comment

litlpeep—Part I was not removed; the story file was temporarily closed while an
edit was made and then re-opened with the correction in italics on top of the
article. Here’s the link:

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/infiltration_to_disrupt_divide_and_misdirect
_20120224/

Cheers,

Kasia Anderson
Associate Editor, Truthdig

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 17, 2012 at 10:57 am Link to this comment

Gringotoxicwasteland was never intended to be a democracy, Gerard.

A quick gander at who se rights were acknowledged under the original founding documents will show you that.

Women had no rights.  Ditto Native Americans (except for the right to die and be scalped and their land stolen).  Ditto African Americans.  Ditto poor white trash aka those folks who were either indentured servants, convicts or who simply had no stolen land to justify their existence.

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By gerard, March 17, 2012 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

I’m often too slow to set things down at early stages, and then they plague me later.  So I go back and add on.  Here’s an example;
  The question that begs to be asked and yet is almost always overlooked:  Why is the U.S. government, proudly and purportedly a democracy, so easily and frequently shaken by citizen protest and suggestions for improvement?  Why does it create a vast and expensive bureaucracy for the questionable purpose of “tracking” its citizens, suspecting them of disloyalty?
  Surely this indicates deep feelings within the government agencies themselves—feelings of not doing something they should, or of doing something wrong that must be kept hidden, or simply of not being able to keep control of everything.
  These inchoate fears (never openly admitted) reappear periodically as campaigns to surveille, prosecute, persecute, squelch in any way the opinions and suggestions of citizens who by legal right (ever since the foundation of the country) are fully entitled to voice and promote.
  What is this deeply buried fear and why does the “most powerful government in the world” from time to time cower before the opinions of its own people, arrest whistle blowers, and pretend that nothing is wrong?I’m often too slow to set things down at early stages, and then they plague me later.  So I go back and add on.  Here’s an example;
  The question that begs to be asked and yet is almost always overlooked:  Why is the U.S. government, proudly and purportedly a democracy, so easily and frequently shaken by citizen protest and suggestions for improvement?  Why does it create a vast and expensive bureaucracy for the simple purpose of “tracking” its citizens, suspecting them of disloyalty?
  Surely this indicates deep feelings within the government agencies themselves—feelings of not doing something it should, or of doing something wrong that must be kept hidden, or simply of not being able to keep control of everything.
  These inchoate fears (never openly admitted) reappear periodically as campaigns to surveille, prosecute, persecute, squelch in any way the opinions and suggestions of citizens who by legall right (ever since the foundation of the country) are fully entitled to voice and promote.
  What is this deeply buried fear and why does the “most powerful government in the world” from time to time cower before the opinions of its own people?

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By Chris Herz, March 16, 2012 at 7:56 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The more dough these DC creeps spend on surveillance and snitches at home the less for their guns and wars abroad. 
This regime is already so dedicated to corruption and inefficiency that like the late USSR all we have to do is wait and watch it implode.

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By gerard, March 16, 2012 at 6:52 pm Link to this comment

EYES RIGHT—SCAN DOWN

FBI - Intelligence Degree
Earn an intelligence degree online. Flexible schedule. Enroll at AMU.

FBI: Intelligence Degrees
Online Intelligence Studies Degree from American Public University

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WELL I GUESS WE DON’T CARE ALL THAT MUCH, DO WE?

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, March 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm Link to this comment

Inserting informers, spies, saboteurs and provocateurs in political movements has been the norm everywhere for several thousand years.

While provocateurs and saboteurs have special talents which means effective ones are rare, informers are just ordinary folks, or weird folks, if that’s what’s called for.  I’ve met several, and so have you, if you’ve ever involved yourself in anything remotely political.  I know of one group of people who started a nursery school that got the FBI excited and at least one of the participants was duly employed to report.

I kind of like the idea of the FBI getting reports on how 11 kiddies were taken to the park on Tuesday afternoon from two to four p.m.

Camejo’s one in six seems about right to me.  If you’re in a group of more than three or four people, it’s almost certain that one of them is or will become and informer.  Often, they’ll be effective participants of your group—informing doesn’t inhibit good work.  See, for instance, this: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/us/14photographer.html .

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By joseph, March 16, 2012 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There is another problem, however. An often self made
problem.
A really great article in the UK Guardian recently
dealt with the habit of the liberal media to do the
bidding for the right wing pundits, and any case trying
to get as many rage clicks as possible.
The article was written on the occasion of the death
of Andrew Breitbart. It could be written just the same
on any other day as well.
From the article:
...Andrew Breitbart and the liberal media shared one, dirty secret that was so obvious as to have gone all-but unstated in his lifetime: he made liberals money ....the legions of liberal writers and editors (like me) who followed his every move, broadcast his antics or reported on his latest broadside at establishment journalism or liberal politics, he always made for good, reliable rage clicks. ....
.... Breitbart could not have been so successful, either as a businessman or as an activist, if he couldn’t get liberals to click, to act as a bullhorn for his accusations, spurious or not ...
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/mar/02/andrew-breitbart-liberal-media-nemesis

In other words: lots of people on the left don’t need much of an enemy, not to mention such tactics
and surveillance, at all. They are out for problems
on their own, always to eager to increase whatever
problem exists. One just needs to have a look at
the Huffington Post.

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moonraven's avatar

By moonraven, March 16, 2012 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment

Does the Pope shit in the woods?

They infiltrated everything:  the Panthers, AIM, you name it.

It’s their JOB.

You too could join up and rat out folks trying to disinfect the cesspool.

Some of you already have, which is why you post disinformation and pimp for patriotism here.

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By gerard, March 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm Link to this comment

“By wielding both the accusation of terrorism and the remedy against it, the executive branch has taken over the role of creating the legal regime through which it operates.

“At this point, in order to protect ourselves from the executive branch’s overreach, the most apparent and only surefire solution is to draft new amendments to the Constitution and address the uncertainties of the current situation. In effect, the Bill of Rights must be expanded to establish a bulwark against these new infringements against our rights.”—excerpted from"Occupy Your Constitution”
by Camelo A. Ramirez and Marcus Michelson, in Truth-
Out.com, 3/16/12

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By gerard, March 16, 2012 at 1:26 pm Link to this comment

Thanks for publishing this review—but on the other hand, it is extremely sad to have to admit that it it necessary for us to go through the same insanity yet again.  I remember the just-previous craziness all too well.

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By litlpeep, March 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm Link to this comment

Too bad their earlier article was removed with no reasonable explanation given to date.  I will be surprised if this article is not removed in a day or two.

It is unreasonable to suppose the Federal Government, or that most of its office holders, see ordinary citizens who can read and think as anything but the enemy.  That is because the Federal Government is a corporation, and corporations have no conscience.

We live under a regime that is not called NAZI because to use the term is name-calling.

Indeed.  Vicki Hearne was hardly the first to point out that our mission from God is, according to the book of Genesis, to call beasts by name.

But politically correct has become a puritanical, blinding dogma among the thought police.

Be careful what you think.

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