Sunday, February 9, 2014

In Chi-town USA: got terrorism?

On Friday, a jury brought back its decision in the so-called NATO3 case. They found the defendants not guilty on the terrorism charges against them.

Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez couldn't understand it.
Have we forgotten about Boston here?

Have we forgotten about homemade bombs in backpacks?
Okay: this got me thinking. Alvarez is talking about the marathon bombing in Boston, right? But . . . what's that got to do with the NATO3 case? Is there something about Boston that's supposed to justify surveillance, coercion, arrests, and prosecutions of the NATO3 in Chicago? (Especially considering that the marathon bombing in Boston happened a year after the NATO summit in Chicago??) And why is she talking about "homemade bombs in backpacks"? Why would she be talking about the alleged facts in another case? What's wrong with the facts in this case?

Off with their heads!
(Don't confuse me with the facts!!)

Well . . . since she's "opened the door" . . . (I love lawyer talk) . . . I'm going to talk about why she's doing these things and why the jury was on a totally different wavelength.

 Why Anita Alvarez wants this to be about terrorism

In Chicago, Illinois:
The "law enforcement" system in Cook County -- as in the rest of the U.S. -- has come to depend on a narrative cooked up from a deadly cocktail of elements:
* fear - The linchpin of all of this is fear. The job of the general populace -- at least, according to our leaders -- is to live our lives in fear.  As we passed the ten-year mark and the more immediate impact of 9/11 began to wane, and the general populace has begun to think more rationally. At the same time, we have begun to see more and more desperation on the part of those who thrive on the police state. They're desperate to remind people, "Be afraid!  Be very afraid!"  Their desperation will only get worse as the general public becomes more lucid.

* coercion and entrapment - Since 9/11, the federal government has hatched scheme after scheme to "work on" and "get close to" and "lure" and "induce" people into various compromising situations that could become the basis of prosecutions on terrorism charges. This pattern has been described by Trevor Aaronson in his book, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism.   

A climate of fear . . .
* a pipeline of the "usual suspects" - First, they filled Guantanamo with people who were guilty of nothing more than having Muslim names and beards. Second, Federal authorities have brought cases against a long list of Muslim men, as part of the trumped-up cases described above.  Many of them languish in "little Gitmos" in Illinois and Indiana. (The true test will come when we free the Guantanamo hostages -- er, detainees -- as well of those who have been improperly prosecuted, as well as beginning to refuse to let any more Muslim people get railroaded.)

* surveillance - People in Chicago have the distinction of living with the most police cameras of any U.S. city. And that's even before you count NSA surveillance, or undercover CPD police, or FBI surveillance and raids like those in September, 2010.

* militarization of the police - The narrative of "constant terrorist threat" supports a new approach to policing based on armor, automatic weapons, tanks, and drones. The Department of Homeland Security has become the armourer of U.S. police departments -- though some communities are pushing back.
(And I've purposely saved for another day a discussion of how all this intersects with mass incarceration.)

Anita Alvarez (read: the so-called "law enforcement" establishment in Chicago and Cook County) needs people to live in continual fear of terrorism, and to dine on a constant diet of "security theater." That, she believes, will eliminate all possible questions about the growing police state in which we live.

What would lead an otherwise intelligent person like Anita Alvarez to rave about Boston and backpacks? She sees she's losing her audience -- and she's desperate to get it back to following her narrative.

Why the jury in the NATO3 knows about real "terrorism"

Naturally, the jury in the NATO3 case has no reason to buy into Anita Alvarez's narrative about the threat of terrorism from ordinary citizens and how it justifies a culture of fear and a militarized, all-seeing, secret-driven police state.

Which is not to say that they're not concerned about terrorism.

Illinois' terrorism statute points to the "intent to intimidate or coerce a significant portion of a civilian population."  The kind of ordinary Cook County residents that sit on juries have a very clear idea of what intimidation and coercion look like, and it's not the kind of thing the NATO3 were engaged in.

The members of the jury in the NATO3 trial were much more likely to be asking themselves this question:  "Why didn't Anita Alvarez indict the Chicago police officer who discharged all 16 rounds in his firearm over the course of 4 seconds, killing Flint Farmer while Farmer lay face down on the ground?"

Of course, Anita Alvarez declined to charge the police officer because she "did not think that they could show that the shooting was unreasonable." Well, if that isn't terrifying, I don't know what is.

It is a fact that large numbers of African-American Chicago residents (and African-American people throughout the U.S.) are terrified that a member of their family will similarly be shot by a police officer.  It is indisputable that a large portion of the civilian population is "intimidated or coerced" by the so-called "law enforcement" authorities in Cook County.

Drone Gaze, Drone Injury:
The War on Communities of Color
OR . . . perhaps the members of the jury in the NATO3 trial were asking themselves this: "When U.S. and NATO drones are in the skies constantly over villages in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia -- don't the civilian populations there live in a state of terror? Where's the outrage over that?"

In the last year, there has been widespread recognition that people "living under drones" live in a state of terror.  2013 was the year that the United Nations began to take concrete action to shine a bright light on the way U.S. drone killings violate international law; 2014 promises to be the year that the international community actually does something about it.

So . . . Chicago terrorism? U.S. terrorism?  Yeah, we got terrorism.  Just not where Anita Alvarez is pointing.

Related posts

The NATO3 trial was full of evidence of what "law enforcement" consists of today: undercover cops goading and prodding and coercing people toward doing something -- ANYTHING -- that can be ginned up into a prosecution.

(See ENTRAPMENT: "I know it when I see it!")

There will be elections for 435 House seats in 2014. In at least some of those races, U.S. surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations will be an issue.

Herewith an Insider's Guide to the 7 S's (surveillance, secrecy, and assassinations) in the 2014 Midterms.

(See Will the 2014 Midterms be a Referendum on Obama's Surveillance, Secrecy, and Assassinations? )

Even if the current Obama administration approach of releases were to succeed in bringing about the release of everyone at Guantanamo, it would not have begun to address the wrong that has been committed.

(See US to its Humans Rights Violations Victims: "Shut up and take what you're given!" )