Defending Our Freedoms?

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

A recurring meme used in American society by leaders and politicians is that certain acts must be done to “Defend Our Freedoms”. The use of this meme has occurred repeatedly in our history as a justification for certain governmental actions, particularly in defense of war. In some cases like our Revolution, or World War II its usage has been right on point, in others like Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan it’s been used as untruthful propaganda. On national and local levels the meme has also had a mixed history. It has been used to persecute radicals, as a States Rights justification of “Jim Crow” and post 9/11 to enact “security” legislation that many of us think actually diminishes freedom in the name of saving it.

“A federal judge on Tuesday gutted the government’s case against seven members of a Michigan militia, dismissing the most serious charges in an extraordinary defeat for federal authorities who insisted they had captured homegrown rural extremists poised for war. U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said the members’ expressed hatred of law enforcement didn’t amount to a conspiracy to rebel against the government. The FBI had secretly planted an informant and an FBI agent inside the Hutaree militia starting in 2008 to collect hours of anti-government audio and video that became the cornerstone of the case.”

A four year investigation of this group by the FBI, that included planting two people in it as “members”, finally led to the indictment and the subsequent dismissal of most charges against this group. They had met and trained over the years in a common cause of hatred of the Federal Government and the desire to see it overthrown. They had at no time taken any definitive action towards implementing their beliefs, other than an exercise of their freedom to speak and believe in ideas far outside of mainstream thought. Behind the actions of the FBI was the premise that they were acting in defense of American freedom. Were they really, or were they overstepping the bounds of protected Constitutional conduct?

“The court is aware that protected speech and mere words can be sufficient to show a conspiracy. In this case, however, they do not rise to that level,” the judge said on the second anniversary of raids and arrests that broke up the group.”

 “[Judge] Roberts granted requests for acquittal on the most serious charges: conspiring to commit sedition, or rebellion, against the U.S. and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction. Other weapons crimes tied to the alleged conspiracies also were dismissed. Prosecutors said Hutaree members were anti-government rebels who combined training and strategy sessions to prepare for a violent strike against federal law enforcement, triggered first by the slaying of a police officer.”

“But there never was an attack. Defense lawyers said highly offensive remarks about police and the government were wrongly turned into a high-profile criminal case that drew public praise from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who in 2010 called Hutaree a “dangerous organization.”

“David Stone’s “statements and exercises do not evince a concrete agreement to forcibly resist the authority of the United States government,” Roberts said Tuesday.”His diatribes evince nothing more than his own hatred for – perhaps even desire to fight or kill – law enforcement; this is not the same as seditious conspiracy.””

“The FBI had put a local informant, Dan Murray, inside the militia in 2008 and paid him $31,000. An FBI agent from New Jersey also was embedded. Steve Haug, known as “Jersey Steve,” posed as a trucker and spent month’s secretly recording talks with Stone. He even served as Stone’s best man at his wedding, a celebration with militia members wearing military fatigues.”

“[FBI Agent] Haug repeatedly talked to Stone about building pipe bombs and getting other sophisticated explosives. The FBI rented a warehouse in Ann Arbor where the agent would invite him and others to store and discuss weapons.”

Those seven quotes above pretty much give you a picture of the Huffpost article and the issues involved in this case. At the end of this post I’ll supply more links for those who want to dig deeper into the case. This story though, based on the article supplies the essence of why I have been a lifelong supporter of the ACLU and also what drew me to Professor Turley and his blog.

In my opinion there are two key elements in this case that call into question the actions taken to “Defend Our Freedoms” in this instance by the Justice Department/FBI and in many others throughout American history. The first element is that of “Freedom of Speech”. The presumption of this “freedom” is that as Americans we can believe and discuss anything, providing we take no affirmative actions to inhibit the rights of others in their exercise of their own constitutional freedoms. This “Hutaree” Group believed in some wacky things, they were not hesitant to discuss their beliefs and use them to recruit others to their cause. The question devolves upon what is the role of government in monitoring organizations such as this, which could potentially at some future time pose a dangerous threat?

The second element that I see is the placement of an informant (Dan Murray) and an FBI Agent (Steve Haug) inside the organization. Were these men merely gathering information, or were they acting as “agents’ provocateurs” in moving this group more towards the type of affirmative actions that would turn this into an illegal conspiracy? It would seem that Agent Haug’s repeated discussions with Stone, the group’s leader, about building bombs and explosives, was leading the group on into criminal conspiracy.

That the FBI rented a warehouse where Haug could help push the group to action and weapons storage also seems a case of trying to bring about a desired result, where perhaps in the absence of provocation the group would have remained little more that a impotent debating society. Indeed the Judge’s dismissal seems to indicate that despite the provocations by the undercover operative this group was impotent and certainly not a threat.

I believe that Judge Robert’s decision was the correct one. While I understand the need for American Law Enforcement to protect us all from internal threats, I don’t believe that Law Enforcement or Security Agencies should be able to simply pick on those whose beliefs they consider abhorrent and actively work to push these groups into compromising positions. This has often been the case as COINTELPRO clearly illustrated. In that line also was J. Edgar Hoover’s bugging of Martin Luther King and the various anonymous threats the FBI sent to MLK in order to destroy the Civil Rights Movement, which Hoover, an ardent racist, hated.

However, I’m well aware that one can find certain instances where Law Enforcement intervention might have and actually did, avert tragedy. So the question I pose to the reader is what is acceptable government intervention in instances of “radical” groups, if any?–despite-massive-undercover-operation.html

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, Guest Blogger

49 thoughts on “Defending Our Freedoms?”

  1. Mike Spindell, I have here three books (that is physical actual books, not electronic things that go into other electronical things that deliver information to people who own electronical things) that I wish I could get into your hands, subject of your educated guess. With my particular personal history, of course, I am prone to thinking (because someone carrying a gun believes he sees others carrying guns) that half of our hostility problems in the US at least right now are the result of the 1930s intrusion (by the patriarchal medical establishment) into mothers’ lives as they took care of their infants. Who knows? (I wasn’t even an observer then.) But the three books are: Elaine Morgan’s “The Descent of Woman,” 1972; Evelyn Reed’s “Woman’s Evolution,” 1975; and Jose Saer’s “The Witness,” 1983.

    These three, read at times and in order that does not, now, help me figure out why they had the cumulative effect they did have, have brought me to some powerful musings about how and why we are who we are. You may be able to get ahold of them, but maybe not. If you want to read them but can’t find them, check back with me; maybe I can help.

    By the way, among the people who recommend books for ME to read you may find Yann Martel, so I get the best of the best. Come to think of it, I should recommend these three to him; he would make a great novel out of the experience.

    1. Malisha,
      I think I read both Morgan’s and Reed’s books way back when. Making a long story short I believe that humanity today is organized similarly to the Social Pecking Order of the Great Ape. At one point in human evolution the superiority of the female mind took hold and pacified society only to be returned to patriarchy by alpha males who could not understand we could live without aggressive competition.

  2. Idealist, Mike Spindell, hi. I must say I had no idea this thread was where it was, and I discovered it looking for something else entirely, but here I am. First of all, most of my friends who had read Steig Larrsen’s books told me to read them, and those who had seen “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” told me to see it, and on and on. Until just recently I would respond with a polite nonsequitur (“into Garcia-Marquez at the moment” — “Have you read Austerlitz?” “Need to finish some stuff, no time to read”). Then I saw the American version of “Girl w…” on late night TV. One of my literary (and other) advisors, an accomplished actress herself, saw both Swedish and American versions of the film, said the American version was “softened” in a way an experienced actress/director picked up on, that I would not have picked up on. But then,

    Anyway, I came back to a sort of meditation on what society there may be in the world now that is not patriarchal, misogynist and “part Nazi.”

    OK, caveat here: I am not an historian, a pollitical analyst, a sociologist, an anthropologist or even a college graduate.

    Now I give myself permission to say anything I think.

    Why can there not be any society in our present-day world that is not misogynist and part Nazi? Because all the societies are patriarchal, and what’s more, they cannot become or be anything else BUT.

    Oh you can switch the genders of your leaders (I don’t mean surgically) and have female presidents and female secretaries of state and female prime ministers OK; you can have females head up nearly every state agency there is, and so forth, that will change nothing. What we have is a ship that is too big to turn around, and this is not because we’re all bad mother-hating “punks” — no, it’s because this has been our history and this is our identity and whereas we can behave decently (if we try very hard), there’s no possible way to change the basic facts we’re working with.

    If you take two groups of people, and you have to admit you are “taking” them to be two groups of people, two separate groups of people, and you want to know, once they are in competition and even in strife with each other, WHICH WILL WIN? You only have to look at their differences in resources.

    Which of these groups can NOT control the means of production?

    Which of these groups can NOT get more reinforcements from outside when they run low?

    If the two groups are men and women, the obvious answer is: MEN cannot control the means of production (since there is only one kind of production that matters, and that is reproduction) and MEN cannot get more reinforcements from outside when they run low. Not naturally.

    The only way men could have, over the first 50,000 years or so, gained control of the means of production and the means of adding reinforcements when needed was to utterly subdue WOMEN’s reproduction capacity and deny THEM the ability to have, in their own children, reinforcements. That’s really all there is to it. It didn’t even take the whole 50,000 years. I don’t know the reason for the initial division into two groups, either. Anthropoligst Evelyn Reed (“Woman’s Evolution”) has some interesting things to say about it. It could be an interesting question for somebody to try to answer.

    Basically, even now, if any non-hostile individual woman could both maintain herself and raise children without undue dependence and without danger of domination or abuse, here, in Sweden, or anywhere else, some of the worst consequences of the big three, “patriarchy, misogyny and Naziism,” would be ameliorated within a few generations.

    By the way, Idealist, I wish to report another one of those “synchronicity” experiences. A couple of weeks ago I browsed a used bookshop in DC and picked up a book (gift for a friend) entitled “Aesop without Morals,” by Lloyd W. Daly, Thomas Yoseloff, New York, 1961. IF I understand the blurb properly, Daly presents the fables as parts of an examination of the Greek “national psychology” — calling the fables a way to attribute to hapless animals the terrible things an adult Greek confronts as “reflections in the mirror of self-examination.” Of course, it made me wonder if Daly would consider a culture that had NOT produced such a wealth of wonderful stories to be better, or composed of more moral individuals? Alas, I have not yet read the book.

    1. Malisha,
      I’ve felt for a long time that the ills that plague humankind are not political, they are the biological remnants of a predatory past.

  3. Mike S.,
    One more good point, I believe.
    What do you mean by fascism? Anti-semitic? Oppression on xxx grounds?
    Anti-democratic? Rule outside of or in defiance of law?

    The definition I have read recently was interesting. It defined the mixing of corporate goals and that of the state as the defining points, Corporate influence and the governments dependence on its support were also mentioned.

    In which case I would feel the USA currently is far closer to fascism than most major nations in Europe. That based on what I have read at Turley’s. What are the merits of that definition, as you see it?

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