Sunday, November 1, 2009

Police in £9m scheme to log 'domestic extremists'

Police are gathering the personal details of thousands of activists who attend political meetings and protests, and storing their data on a network of nationwide intelligence databases.

The hidden apparatus has been constructed to monitor "domestic extremists", the Guardian can reveal in the first of a three-day series into the policing of protests. Detailed information about the political activities of campaigners is being stored on a number of overlapping IT systems, even if they have not committed a crime.

Senior officers say domestic extremism, a term coined by police that has no legal basis, can include activists suspected of minor public order offences such as peaceful direct action and civil disobedience.

Three national police units responsible for combating domestic extremism are run by the "terrorism and allied matters" committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo). In total, it receives £9m in public funding, from police forces and the Home Office, and employs a staff of 100.

An investigation by the Guardian can reveal:

• The main unit, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), runs a central database which lists thousands of so-called domestic extremists. It filters intelligence supplied by police forces across England and Wales, which routinely deploy surveillance teams at protests, rallies and public meetings. The NPOIU contains detailed files on individual protesters who are searchable by name.

• Vehicles associated with protesters are being tracked via a nationwide system of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras. One man, who has no criminal record, was stopped more than 25 times in less than three years after a "protest" marker was placed against his car after he attended a small protest against duck and pheasant shooting. ANPR "interceptor teams" are being deployed on roads leading to protests to monitor attendance.

• Police surveillance units, known as Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT) and Evidence Gatherers, record footage and take photographs of campaigners as they enter and leave openly advertised public meetings. These images are entered on force-wide databases so that police can chronicle the campaigners' political activities. The information is added to the central NPOIU.

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FBI agents assassinate Michigan Islamic leader

A well-known African-American Islamic leader in Detroit was shot to death by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents on Oct. 28 at a warehouse in Dearborn. Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah, 53, who headed the Masjid Al-Haqq mosque on the city's west side, was killed during a series of raids by both federal agents and local police departments that resulted in the arrest of 11 people.

Corporate media reports on the killing of Imam Abdullah and the arrest of the others frame this as a “counter-terrorism' operation, even though the criminal complaints said to be the basis for the raids made no specific allegations of violations of federal law or acts of terrorism.

A joint statement issued by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office states that “The 11 defendants are members of a group that is alleged to have engaged in violent activity over a period of many years and known to be armed.”

However, many people who knew Imam Abdullah and the members of Masjid Al-Haqq say that the group worked to rid the severely oppressed community where the mosque existed of the social ills resulting from years of exploitation and neglect.

Even the mosque itself fell victim to the economic crisis that is worsening in Detroit. On Jan. 20, Masjid Al-Haqq was evicted from the building where it had been housed for years as a result of tax foreclosure. The mosque relocated at a home on Clairmount, which was also raided on Oct. 28.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Michigan chapter, said of Imam Abdullah that “I know him as a respected imam in the Muslim community.”

Walid continued, “We have no information about illegal activity going on at that mosque.” Walid said Imam Abdullah “would give the shirt off his back to people. The congregation he led was poor. He fed very hungry people in the neighborhood who were Christian. He helped and assisted a lot of troubled youth. People would come up to him who were hungry and he would let them sleep in the mosque. He would let them in from the elements.” (Detroit News, Oct. 29)

The CAIR leader said, “They have no linkage to terrorism nationally or internationally. What in the world does Islam have to do with these charges? Why is religion being brought into play?”

Resurrecting Cointelpro

Not only are the FBI and the corporate media utilizing the false construct of “Islamic extremism,” they are also attempting to draw a direct link between the revolutionary movements that emerged during the 1960s and the arrest of the Masjid Al-Haqq members and the death of Imam Abdullah.

Because of a close relationship between Imam Jamil Abdullah al-Amin, formerly known as H. Rap Brown, and Imam Abdullah during previous years, the role of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Black Panther Party (BPP) have been evoked in news coverage of the FBI and police raids. Imam Al-Amin first served as a field organizer for SNCC and later national chair of the civil rights and black power group in 1967-68.

Al-Amin, who is currently serving a life sentence in Georgia after being convicted in the death of a deputy sheriff and the wounding of another in Atlanta in 2000, also briefly held the position of Minister of Justice in the Black Panther Party during 1968. Imam Al-Amin served as SNCC chair during a period of extreme repression against the organization in 1967-68.

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