Repression Goes Local

John Ashcroft’s mandate for Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) carries an eerie deja vu in American society that recalls the “Red Squad” era of the 1930s.

In Toward Freedom, Diane Lane shows how the mission of today’s JTTFs resembles that of the Red Squads (police intelligence units that kept secret records of suspected “subversive” groups) in their gathering of information on organizations, without any evidence of wrongdoing or intention to commit a crime.

JTTFs have monitored organizations on the basis of their ethnicity–but that’s not their only guideline. Lane says that JTTFs also regularly thwart activist groups in their peaceful protests of businesses, as though this were also part of their mission. “In short, a major focus of the task forces seems to be protecting business interests,” Lane writes.

“During the past decade, RICO (the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act) has been applied to various activists using civil disobedience,” most recently suppressing a group of animal-rights supporters who gathered–peacefully–outside a fur store.
–Julie Madsen
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