First They Came for the College Professors

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Pastor Martin Niemöller

There is a rather chilling article in The Huffington Post about a professor in Latin American History at Pomona College who was visited by two LA County Sheriffs claiming to represent the “L.A. County Sheriff’s Department/F.B.I. Joint Task Force on Terrorism.” The professor, Miguel Tinker Salas, had been interviewed by a number of news outlets who asked him to provide some historical background on Venezuelan and U. S. relations and to comment specifically on Rumsfield’s comparison of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez with Hitler.

As Tinker Salas’s colleague John Serry tells the story, the two men came to Professor Tinker Salas’ office and, without identifying themselves, began asking students, waiting outside his office pointed questions about what he had been teaching them in his classes. Tinker Salas asked them who they were and what they wanted-

At that point, they opened a folder, revealing that it was a file on Professor Tinker Salas, along with his picture. And, they said, they had some questions for him. Those questions: What is his immigration status? Is he a U.S. citizen? What is the nature of his contact with the Venezuelan embassy or consulate?. . . Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for “a united front” against Venezuela. . . . Evidently that campaign is now authorizing official jackboots to harass internal voices of dissent. The ACLU of Colorado reports that the F.B.I. Joint Terrorism Task Force has been targeting, in a multi-state campaign, all kinds of peaceful protesters as allegedly “domestic terrorist” threats.

And, of course, blanket wiretaps are continuing without any investigation or oversight on the part of the current Republican dominated Congress. The difference between today and the Nixon era is that there is no one like Frank Church to head a meaningful investigation. If you are unaware of the Church Committee and their findings go here for a quick overview and links to the actual Committee report.

Wiretap Déjà Vu

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Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld, President Gerald Ford and Deputy Chief of Staff Richard Cheney at the White House, April 28, 1975 (Photo: Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library)

You can find an interesting analysis of the impact of the Church Committee and the resentment against it that lingers until today, here. Rumsfield and Cheney have waited thirty years to regain the “inherent power of the Presidency” that they believe gives them the right to wiretap, harass and intimidate anyone who might disagree with their policies. The American people are just beginning to realize the implications of that resentment.

UPDATE- Serry’s Huffington Post article resulted in an “apology” from the FBI today (3/11/06). See the details here.

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