Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Saturday, July 01, 2006

  No immediate plans for internment of Iranian-Americans

If you thought the NSA's illegal domestic spying was the outer limit of the perversions of law and decency that this badministration could invent, this report today in the LA Times will give you more to think about. The Times reveals that California Office of Homeland Security recently has been collecting daily reports from federal law enforcement agencies that monitor, among other things, political protests around the state. These included "A demonstration in Walnut Creek at which U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) and other officials spoke against the war in Iraq." A spokeman for the California Attorney General condemned the practice.

"When we discovered their existence, we informed OHS officials that we had absolutely no use for that kind of information," [Tom] Dresslar said. "Collecting information on protests has no legitimate anti-terrorism intelligence function. None. No intelligence agency has any need to maintain this kind of information."

That aspect of the LA Times report has gotten a little attention, but buried in the story there is a much more troubling allegation.

Anti-terrorism ideas from the state homeland security office have stirred qualms before.

Past and present members of the attorney general's office said they were troubled by a meeting at the security office last September in which federal and state officials discussed ways to prevent Islamic militants from recruiting prison inmates. In attendance were officials from the FBI, the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and various local law enforcement agencies, according to documents obtained by The Times.

One account of the meeting is provided in a whistle-blower complaint filed by a former high-ranking official in the attorney general's office, Edward Manavian.

The complaint says homeland security information analyst William Hipsley proposed monitoring private conversations in state prisons between inmates and Islamic clergymen and, citing a potential national security threat from Iran, getting a list of Iranians living in California.

State law makes it a felony to eavesdrop on conversations between a person in custody and his attorney, doctor or religious advisor.

The proposal was to implement these two programs without warrant, as has become the custom under the badministration. The Times might also have noted, though oddly it didn't, that Iranian ethnicity is not grounds for suspicion per se under any set of laws known to Americans.

Chiz. The idea of drawing up a watch-list of Americans based upon ethnicity would be vile under any circumstances. But in California, which is still trying to live down its role in the internment of Japanese-Americans sixty years ago?

The Homeland Security Office and Hipsley denied that Manavian's description of the meeting is acccurate. Manavian was later demoted, he says because he refused to cooperate in this flagrant violation of civil rights. Laura Rozen remarks that she met Manavian a few years ago, and found him to be a straight arrow...

hardly of the type one would expect to become a whistleblower without having witnessed something pretty outrageous. A former cop and counter-narcotics officer, he directed the CATIC (California Anti Terrorism Information Center) out of the California AG's office; the CATIC itself drew criticism for allegedly compiling intel reports on other domestic protests as I remember. The fact that he's blowing the whistle on these alleged abuses really stands out. (I suppose it also could raise the question of the possibility of a turf war? if the office of homeland security's gain was CATIC's loss?)

Manavian resigned after his demotion, and is bringing his complaint before the California Personnel Board. It does not sound to me like the product of a turf war.

As the previous link demonstrates, when Manavian headed up CATIC he justified compiling adviseries on relatively mundane upcoming protest marches and even mass cycling events organized by Critical Mass, on the grounds there was a reasonable suspicion that participants would break laws. Even if the expected violations were nothing more severe than blocking roads, Manavian claimed that it was his duty to issue an advisery.

Hard to know what to make of him as a whistleblower on behalf of civil liberties, but on the whole I suspect Rozen's hunch is right. If even Manavian thought the California Homeland Security gang was way out of bounds, that's probably a good indication that they've been conspiring secretly to violate the rights of Iranian-Americans.

The good news, though, is that Manavian's complaint says nothing about plans to build internment camps any time soon.


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