When I first saw the memo from the FBI’s counterterrorism center in Newark, declaring that I’m “a threat to National Security,” not to mention an “agent of a foreign power,” I was incredulous. These can’t be real FBI documents, I thought to myself. Someone is pulling my leg.
Sadly, no. As I discovered upon further investigation, the memo is all too real. The provenance of the documents, which indicate that the feds launched a “preliminary investigation” of myself, Antiwar.com, and our webmaster, Eric Garris, is as follows: An obscure blogger made an FOIA request for information about the FBI’s investigation of the “High Fivers”—the five Israelis who were arrested on September 11 and held for six months on suspicion that they had some foreknowledge of the events on that dark day. I wrote about this subject in the August 2003 issue of Chronicles—and, what do you know, that piece is included in the FBI file! Isn’t it encouraging to learn that our state-subsidized sneaks are reading this magazine?
In any case, the documents are frightening—and not just because it shows that the feds may have been listening in on my phone calls, reading my e-mails, and rifling through my garbage. They exhibit an overwhelming incompetence. For example, the memo’s author—a high “counterterrorism” muck-a-muck—writes:
There are several unanswered questions regarding antiwar.com. It describes itself as a nonprofit group that survives on generous contributions from its readers. Who are these contributors and what are the funds utilized for? [The next three lines are redacted.] . . . on antiwar.com. If this is so, then what is his true name?
Any American preadolescent with a computer could easily uncover the mystery of my “true name” in a few seconds, simply by googling “Justin Raimondo” and clicking on one of the first choices, my Wikipedia entry—but not the geniuses over at FBI “counterterrorism” headquarters. With a budget of trillions and a staff of many thousands, our Keystone Kops are stumped.
As I read this nonsense, a cold chill crept down my spine—and suddenly I felt very unsafe. Not because these idiots are wasting their time watching the likes of me. These guys are clueless incompetents, who couldn’t investigate their way out of a paper bag. And they’re supposed to be “protecting” us against the Bad Guys—terrorists who are indeed out to kill us.
The pretext for the FBI’s surveillance of Antiwar.com was the publication of a “watch list” on our site—a document apparently issued by the FBI to a number of financial institutions, instructing them to report any transactions engaged in by those on the list. Several of these institutions, including at least two European banks, posted these lists on the web: Antiwar.com simply reposted them on our own site. In short, this “secret” list was no secret at all, thanks to the FBI’s incompetence. We were being investigated for reporting publicly available information.
I’ve written about this elsewhere, and I won’t dwell on the details except to point out that the memo instructs the FBI’s San Francisco office to conduct a “PI” (bureaucratese for preliminary investigation) “to determine if [redacted] are engaging in, or have engaged in, activities which constitute a threat to National Security on behalf of a foreign power.”
Whose “National Security” is being threatened here—and on behalf of which “foreign power”?
My alleged “crime” is to have written in too much detail about the possibility that agents of a foreign power (Israel) had some degree of foreknowledge of what happened on September 11, 2001. This is clearly what upset the FBI—because, if that is true, then where were our intrepid G-men while Israeli agents were crawling all over the place as the Twin Towers burned? They did indeed arrest five of them and interrogate them for months before quietly deporting them; and I, apparently, became a “threat to National Security” by noticing this inconvenient fact.
I suppose I should be flattered by all of this: The mighty American Empire has turned its Evil Eye on me and reckons me a “threat.” Yet I can’t muster the least bit of self-satisfaction, and indeed find this more than a little depressing. As much as one might expect a self-professed libertarian to be contemptuous of his own government, I find it monumentally disheartening. For all the denunciations of American imperialism and incipient authoritarianism I’ve written over the years, I actually thought my government was better than this. That it turns out they’re no better than the rulers of some pathetic little banana republic strips me of the very last of my youthful illusions.