Chill­ing con­se­quences

The Saline Courier Weekend - - OPINION - JIM HAR­RIS

Nov. 22, 1963, was just an av­er­age day. I was in ele­men­tary school and was get­ting ready to go out on “safety pa­trol,” where we stu­dents would di­rect traf­fic after school.

I was putting on the bright yel­low hel­mets and belt that in­cluded a strap across the chest that held a badge when some­one came down the school’s main hall spread­ing the news that Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy has been mur­dered.

I won­dered at the time who would want to kill him and why would some­one want to do that. Now, al­most 56 years later, I don’t have a clear idea about ei­ther of those an­swers.

Some facts about the as­sas­si­na­tion are still clas­si­fied as top se­cret and have never been re­leased even after more than half a cen­tury.

Yes, the War­ren Com­mis­sion came out with a re­port that a lone gun­man did it, but a home movie film made of the as­sas­si­na­tion brings into ques­tion the com­mis­sion’s find­ings.

In the 1960s, the Amer­i­can me­dia and public had been pro­grammed to re­gard the fed­eral gov­ern­ment as the sole truthtelle­r. Those who dis­agreed and tried to ex­pose of­fi­cial gov­ern­ment lies were deemed crazy peo­ple who wore tin­foil hats or were some­how “un­amer­i­can.”

That changed after Kennedy’s death as mil­lions of Amer­i­cans won­dered if their gov­ern­ment had lied to them.

In 1967, to com­bat this grow­ing con­cern about the gov­ern­ment ly­ing to the peo­ple, the CIA came up with a strat­egy to dis­credit skep­tics by call­ing them “con­spir­acy the­o­rists.”

In April 1967, a CIA writ­ten dis­patch coined the term “con­spir­acy the­o­ries.” It is worth not­ing that this dis­patch was marked “psych” – short for “psy­cho­log­i­cal op­er­a­tions” or dis­in­for­ma­tion – and “CS” for the CIA’S “Clan­des­tine Ser­vices” unit.

This dis­patch be­came public knowl­edge in 1976 when it was re­leased to the New York Times in re­sponse to a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest.

That home movie of the Kennedy as­sas­si­na­tion ap­pears to show four shots were fired that day when the War­ren Com­mis­sion de­ter­mined only three shots were fired.

The term “con­spir­acy the­ory” is used dis­mis­sively to im­ply that any ques­tion­ing of the of­fi­cial ver­sion of the “facts” is some­how im­plau­si­ble.

“Con­spir­acy the­ory” and “con­spir­acy the­o­rist” have been used in a very neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion to si­lence any­one who ques­tions the of­fi­cial ver­sion of the facts.

Now, the FBI is tak­ing a new step to shut down peo­ple who dis­agree with what they are told by their gov­ern­ment.

The FBI has iden­ti­fied con­spir­acy the­o­rists as po­ten­tial do­mes­tic ter­ror­ists.

Yes, peo­ple who ex­er­cise their First Amend­ment rights of free speech might be con­sid­ered a threat to the na­tion, ac­cord­ing to an FBI in­tel­li­gence bul­letin that has re­cently be­come public.

A May 30, 2019 FBI in­tel­li­gence bul­letin, de­scribes “con­spir­acy the­ory-driven do­mes­tic ex­trem­ists,” as a grow­ing threat.

“The FBI as­sesses these con­spir­acy the­o­ries very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern in­for­ma­tion mar­ket­place, oc­ca­sion­ally driv­ing both groups and in­di­vid­ual ex­trem­ists to carry out crim­i­nal or vi­o­lent acts,” the doc­u­ment states.

The FBI bul­letin adds that another fac­tor driv­ing the in­ten­sity of this threat is “the un­cov­er­ing of real con­spir­a­cies or cover-ups in­volv­ing il­le­gal, harm­ful, or un­con­sti­tu­tional ac­tiv­i­ties by gov­ern­ment officials or lead­ing po­lit­i­cal fig­ures.”

This in­tel­li­gence bul­letin does not spec­ify which po­lit­i­cal lead­ers or which cover-ups it was ref­er­enc­ing.

Michael C. Mc­gar­rity, the FBI’S as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of the coun­tert­er­ror­ism divi­sion, has said the bu­reau clas­si­fies do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism threats into four cat­e­gories: racially mo­ti­vated vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism, anti-gov­ern­ment or anti-au­thor­ity ex­trem­ism, an­i­mal rights or en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­trem­ism, and abor­tion ex­trem­ism.”

“This is the first FBI prod­uct ex­am­in­ing the threat from con­spir­acy the­o­ry­driven do­mes­tic ex­trem­ists and pro­vides a base­line for fu­ture in­tel­li­gence prod­ucts,” the in­tel­li­gence bul­letin says.

This should be alarm­ing to ev­ery­one no mat­ter what his or her po­lit­i­cal views. This is the FBI on the road to be­com­ing a very Or­wellian thought po­lice.

Who will de­cide what is a “con­spir­acy the­ory” and who is a “con­spir­acy the­o­rist?”

Once some face­less bu­reau­crat deems you as a “con­spir­acy the­o­rist,” the gov­ern­ment is free to use all of its might against you — in­clud­ing ar­rest­ing you for what you think and say.

Ev­ery­one needs to re­al­ize the chill­ing con­se­quences of this for all of us.

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