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April 7, 2006

A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

April 7, 2006

The Fortress Of The Secret Police

What does the FBI have to hide from the taxpayers?

It’s become a standard line. When extremist law enforcement officials and their political advocates are confronted with the fact that they have no legal or moral right to conduct secret surveillance of American citizens, they answer, “If you are not doing anything wrong, then what do you have to hide?”

Never mind the supreme arrogance of this statement, the implied inequality, that the Secret Police and the corporate politicians that they represent are superior to the average citizen and thus have the exclusive right to peep. Never mind that such arrogance is directly contrary to the Bill of Rights, and therefore is unpatriotic and unamerican in the extreme. And never mind that these people are claiming the right to voyeurism, which is in itself generally considered a crime and sometimes a perversion.

Let’s pretend that statement is reasonable. Let’s accept it as given. Let’s apply it as our golden rule, “If you are hiding your activities then you have something illegal to hide.”

Above McCarty Avenue, next to 9W by Thruway Exit 23, is the blank and threatening fortress of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which is a part of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. The lidless windows of this edifice stare out over the ball fields atop the old capped City dump. It rarely betrays any activity except for the occasional cars going in and out through the checkpoint out front. Most of the time it sits deathly still.

Most people try not to think about this building. There is something unsettling, evil about it. It is like some KGB headquarters from the old Soviet Union, or the dreaded Ministry of Love from the great classic book 1984 by George Orwell. Indeed, most people are afraid to mention the building in conversation, lest the dreaded secret police issue forth and confront the powerless prole with thoughtcrimes.

But why is this thing among us? Why does it sit upon the hill like a monster, watching and waiting? And why are so many people that I talk to afraid of it?

During the 1990’s, there was some question of where this thing would be located. After the 1995 bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City by radical right wing terrorists, the question of security became paramount.

But it was not a question of security for the FBI. It became imperative to get the FBI out of the Federal building in downtown Albany so as to protect the other federal workers from becoming collateral victims of an attack.

Most of the suggested sites for the new FBI headquarters were in the suburbs, but several Albany politicians angled for it to be built upon this unused plot of land near Thruway Exit 23. This would, they said, reliably increase the tax base, and the people working in the building would spend their money in the city, a win-win situation all around. There was a lot of political back patting when the site was chosen.

Soon after the building opened there were mumbled regrets. Okay, there were taxes being collected where there were none before, but the building and the inhabitants are mostly mysterious, separate from the City. None of the people working there seem to live in the City, arriving on the highway and departing the same way. Personnel rarely even have lunch at nearby eateries, preferring to eat at their desks or at the in-house cafeteria.

Indeed, the existence of a cafeteria is one of the few things that anybody knows about the building. What goes on inside? Personally, I don’t know anybody who has seen the interior of the building, let alone tour it.

There is no reason for this extreme secrecy. This is a government facility, which means that you and I are working to support this building and its inhabitants with our tax dollars. We have a right to know what goes on inside and what they are doing in there, every day.

What have they got to hide?

The FBI claims the right to conduct surveillance of us American citizens in secret and without our permission. Yet we do not have the right to even basic information about their activities. If they are not breaking the law, then why are they afraid of public scrutiny?

The most reasonable answer to that question is, of course they are breaking the law. As said before, they are part of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. That means that they are representing the interests of the persons who are currently inhabiting the White House in Washington DC.

The FBI is not necessarily The Law. They represent, first and foremost the long arms and reach of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush.
When the inhabitants of the White House practice some degree of integrity and stay within the confines of the rule of law, then the agencies that they control can be trusted.

However, polls show that a majority of Americans have become painfully aware that Bush and his handlers have engaged in criminal activity and should be impeached. Indeed, many patriots have come to believe that the whole pack of them should be locked up for the rest of their lives. Does it not follow that the FBI, as representatives of this criminal element, also cannot be trusted to follow the rule of law?

Golly gee whiz, I sure hope I’m being paranoid. Maybe the FBI is completely unaffected by the directives from the White House to spy on American citizens and curtail their Constitutional rights. Maybe that building on McCarty Avenue is full of fine patriotic men and women who are adhering to the Constitution and working hard to defy the orders from the White House.

I sure hope that’s true. For everyone’s sake.

How can the FBI prove that they are not up to no good, that they are not, for instance, conducting illegal surveillance on the citizens of Albany?

How do we know they are not stockpiling weapons to use against the citizens of Albany? Can we be sure that they have not created a plan to seize control of the City if the elections go against the ruling party? Can we be confident that they have not organized paramilitary hit squads, ready to be released on a moment’s notice from the ruling party?

There is a simple way to put these legitimate fears to rest. All it takes is good public relations. I am calling on the managers of the FBI to open up the building to public inspection.

There is no reason why there should not be periodic tours for responsible citizens. And by “responsible citizens” I mean most everybody. Entrance can be denied to say, criminal sociopaths and relatives of Osama bin Laden. There is no reason whatsoever that the public should be denied the right to investigate the investigators.

That is, unless they are doing something very, very wrong and have every reason to hide. If the FBI on McCarty Avenue are not doing anything wrong, then they shouldn’t mind public surveillance of their activities.


...I’ve been afraid to post this article.

God damn it, why must I live in fear of my own government’s Secret Police, like some Twentieth Century Eastern European?

Anyone who reads the daily corporate newspapers is aware of how the FBI is illegally tapping our phones and archiving our email. The Secret Police on McCarty Avenue will become aware of this article, probably sooner than later.

Will they step up illegal surveillance of my daily activities, hoping to catch me in something compromising? Will they pay me a little visit? Will they threaten me, like they’ve done to many other Americans who have criticized the ruling party?

My guess is that for now they will stay deathly silent... watching... and waiting...

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