The image of five men circulates through the news media and around the internet. A few weeks later, a new story, this time the mugshots of three more men flash on the screen, followed by the pictures of two other men in the following days.
The ten white men are in serious trouble, something about “terrorism” from the sounds of it, but the situation is very confusing. One thing is clear: informants were involved in all of these cases, and that they developed friendships with these young men in order to entrap them.
In most of the cases it seems the men are charged with nothing more than talking, yet they are facing lengthy prison sentences.
How did we get to this point?
Late 2002- 20,000 feet above the ocean a young man lies on the cold metal floor of an airplane, his arms and legs affixed to metal posts by sturdy canvass straps. His captors speak a language he does not understand, yet they constantly scream at him, their mouths just inches from his face. He is afraid.
The airplane lands somewhere outside of an Eastern European capital. He is placed in a van and driven away from the makeshift airport. They arrive at what appears to be a small office building on the outskirts of a city.
This place does not exist on any map.
Inside the building are not offices but 6 tiny damp cells. The cells have no sinks or benches. There is not even a toilet. He is forced to the ground and, once again, his arms and legs are strapped down.
A hood is thrown over his head and he feels water running down his body. His captors are yelling. He cannot breathe.
In the past decade, thousands of Muslims have been subjected to the most disturbing forms of incarceration and interrogation imaginable. Of those incarcerated, most were never officially charged. Many did not survive the ordeal.
Extraordinary rendition, the extrajudicial abduction and international transport of a person for the purpose of interrogation, became commonplace during the “war on terror”. Countless people who were never charged with a crime were transported to “black sites”. The US government refuses to acknowledge the existence of many of these secret prisons.
Like “indefinite detention” and “enhanced interrogation techniques”, “extraordinary rendition” is another euphemism used to downplay the campaign of terror waged by the US against the Muslim world.
Friday, October 14, 2011- A 16 year old American boy, along with nine others, is killed in a targeted CIA drone strike in Yemen.
Abdulrahman al-Awlaki becomes the third American killed in Yemen by United States drones in just over two weeks.
These attacks made it clear that the most brutal methods, those aerial bombardments normally reserved for citizens of far-away lands, would now be used against Americans as well.
The targeted CIA murder of an American boy would normally cause an outrage.
But he was Muslim, and we had grown to expect this.
It’s hard not to feel that we failed to respond appropriately to this decade long campaign of state repression, and that our failure to act then has helped to create the situation we are in today.
Perhaps we didn’t understand how similar our struggles are. Maybe we were susceptible to the reactionary media campaigns and thought that these young men from the Muslim world were the same men who burned women with acid in Pakistan or poisoned girls for learning to read in Afghanistan. Perhaps we convinced ourselves that, without knowing each individual’s politics, that they were all religious fundamentalists who wanted a return to an era of the most unbridled patriarchy. Maybe believing this made it easier for us to ignore their persecution, perhaps it gave us an easier justification for our inability to act than to admit that we were afraid.
It is now apparent that we ignored their struggle at our own peril.
Last month Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to 17 years in prison for translating communiqués issued by Muslim combatants. This case is just another demonstration of the extreme racism of the judicial system. But it has become apparent that the State is no longer content to suppress only ethnic minorities. Any challenge to the system will now be met with the most brutal reprisal.
The prosecutions of animal and earth liberation militants from 2006 to 2009 was as much an attempt by the State to destroy those movements as it was a chance to set a precedent in the conviction of white Americans as terrorists. Using the fear of the not-so-distant World Trade Center attack and the precedent of the convictions of countless Muslims for doing far less, the State successfully targeted another network of people. They saw the animal and earth liberation movements as being marginal enough that they could be used as a testing ground for a campaign of persecution that is now aimed at all who disobey.
Informants have been critical in the prosecution of nearly all terror cases. We have been told that their role is to identify plots and to stop them before they are carried out.
The role of the informant is to create a situation that justifies his existence. An informant does not infiltrate a terror cell. He creates one.
Many of us believed that informants target the key players of a movement in an attempt to remove influential people, thus striking a crippling blow.
In the 1960s the FBI targeted the leaders of social movements for “neutralization”. To cut off the head was to kill the body. We learned from this and developed bodies that could function without a head. No longer could they destroy us by targeting a few key people.
But they also learned. Informants no longer look for leaders, they look for followers, those bright-eyed young idealists who will do anything to end this global cycle of suffering.
Our diffuse structure has been met by a diffuse repression. To target at random, to incarcerate the least threatening among us, sends a message that is much more terrifying than the old method.
They no longer seek to decapitate a movement, but to slash wildly at its body so that none of its parts are safe.
Today, there is nowhere to hide.
The Bay is the epicenter of struggle in this country. We have almost grown used to the experience of small-scale uprisings. We have participated in conflicts we never would have thought possible.
Around the country our allies have taken notice. It is certain that the same is true of our enemies.
In Ohio, Minnesota, Washington, Illinois, even in small town Iowa the State’s secret messengers have reared their heads.
But here they have remained silent.
The current wave of struggle in the Bay began three and a half years ago, and almost immediately evidence of informants was apparent.
At the height of the Oscar Grant movement we learned that the FBI expressed a great deal of interest in the anarchist tendency in the Bay. It was uncovered that someone was feeding information about anarchist participation in the uprising to law enforcement. It was suspected that this source was close to or within the anarchist movement.
This person was never discovered.
Around this time a strange figure appeared. Claiming to be a leader of the “Oakland Panthers”, he publicly exalted the dumbest forms of violent action and considered macho homophobic yelling matches to be an admirable form of struggle. He physically attacked people at random. He was trusted by few. It was revealed that he was a pimp who had worked as an informant for OPD in the recent past, and it was speculated that he still working for them. 3 years later he made an appearance at an Occupy Oakland action, trying to persuade a young anarchist to light something on fire. He was outed and hasn’t been seen since.
It is apparent that law enforcement has, to some degree, used covert methods against radical movements in the Bay in recent times. They have reason to fear the fighting force we have developed. But, with the exception of a washed up pimp-turned fake panther, none of the State’s messengers have been discovered.
Be safe. There are enemies among us, though we have yet to identify them.
Learn from the cases of the ten men, and from all the prosecutions before them. Be cautious about your use of the word “trust”. Don’t let anyone drag you into a situation that you are not prepared for.
Organize your conspiracies carefully. We must learn to strike harder and more effectively. The anger we carry with us will one day bring down empires.
Until now the victims of the most brutal state repression have been the same people that have always had the boot on their neck. Though at times the police have clearly targeted people they believed to be white anarchists, the judicial system continued functioning in the same way it always has. In the past three and a half years of struggle in the Bay, nearly all of the people who have done time have been working-class black males.
For those of us who were raised to believe that, because of our race, we would be subjected to the full range of terror the State has to offer, this was not surprising. In a sense, we do not react with the same emotion to these situations because we have grown to expect them. That Muslims are indefinitely held in solitary confinement, that black youths fill the jails, we have come to believe that this is simply the order of things.
But this will soon change.
The controlled management units, the sensory deprivation, the enhanced interrogation techniques, the indefinite detention, all the tools of the wars against populations abroad are coming home.
You watched as they tortured Muslims in Iraq, detained Mexicans in Arizona, incarcerated blacks in Oakland, and as you watched you thought to yourself this is fucked up.
But you said nothing as they were thrown to the lions.
And now they are coming for you.