The rage palpable on the streets after the police murder of George Floyd has coalesced into a demand for abolishing the police and there is once again an increased focus on how US law enforcement has become militarized in the past three decades.
“For the past week,” writes Stuart Schrader, “our social media and television screens have been dominated by images of police officers in head-to-toe body armor wielding batons, pepper-ball guns, riot shields, and teargas against mostly peaceful protesters.” These images may be shocking but the spectacle is hardly new. It was on full display during the police response to protests in Ferguson following the murder of Michael Brown in 2014 and during the first public iteration of the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of Travyon Martin a year before. Continue reading “Abolition and the War on Terror”
The protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd have catapulted police brutality and criminal justice reform into the mainstream. The routine killing of Black people at the hands of police officers can no longer be plausibly attributed to a few bad cops. The issue is now understood to be systemic and requiring structural reforms. But as demands for defunding and abolishing the police have become the rallying cry for activists, liberal politicians are instead offering community-oriented policing initiatives as a solution.
In an op-ed for USA Today, the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called for “an additional $300 million to reinvigorate community policing” in the United States. Like many liberal politicians, Biden believes in “the power of community policing — getting cops out of their cruisers and building relationships with the people and the communities they are there to serve and protect.” Continue reading “How Community Policing Endangers Black and Muslim Communities”
A string of recent attacks in Paris and Orlando have led to renewed calls for surveillance of American Muslim communities from both Republican and Democratic politicians. Donald Trump wants surveillance of “certain mosques.” Ted Cruz thinks mosques are only the beginning and law enforcement should “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.” Liberal darling Barney Frank has similarly called for “significant surveillance” of Muslims who adopt “angry Islamic hate views,” regardless of whether there is any reasonable basis to believe they pose a threat.
Such misguided calls for surveillance have recently become far more common, along with an upsurge in violence against American Muslims. They also betray a complete ignorance of the ongoing surveillance efforts against American Muslims, a luxury not afforded to those who have been on the receiving end of such untoward government attention. Various law enforcement and intelligence agencies have pursued extensive surveillance of American Muslim communities since 9/11, a project which now includes the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program.
Continue reading “How the United States Creates Terrorists”
Mass surveillance in the United States precedes the War on Terror. Nevertheless, since Edward Snowden’s leaks, it is terrorism that is marshalled as the ultimate threat by government officials and compliant media outlets to justify the need for mass surveillance. In June 2013, the National Security Agency (NSA) director Keith Alexander testified before Congress that just two programs–“tracking more than a billion phone calls and vast swaths of Internet data each day”–had thwarted more than 50 potential terrorist attacks. He later admitted that this wasn’t exactly true, after the claim had already been thoroughly refuted.
A different rendition of this argument for mass surveillance suggests that a society under threat by terrorists must strike a balance between its civil liberties and safety. If the state is to have the capabilities necessary to protect us we must compromise on our civil liberties. A bit of privacy must be relinquished in order for the state to become cognizant of potential threats to our safety. On a superficial level, the argument makes sense, even if it exaggerates the terrorist threat.
Continue reading “The Endless Cycle of War and Surveillance”