Following the death of Stalin, the Soviet secret police pivoted from heavy-handed mass arrests to a subtler, but still sinister, system of mass spying and accumulation of “kompromot,” or compromising material, on its citizens. The Soviets maintained control by prioritizing spying on religious figures, political activists, journalists, and public officials. We’re now finding out that the FBI in America has a similar program of mass surveillance of similar targets. And, as with the Soviets, much of the spying has nothing to do with investigating crime.
According to a Justice Department internal audit report, the FBI maintained an active caseload of 24,584 cases during the 18 months between January 2018 and June of 2019. A grossly disproportionate share of those cases involved surveillance of influential Americans such as candidates for office, public officials, journalists, religious leaders, and political activists. When the FBI targets an individual wielding high social influence, it categorizes the case as “sensitive.”
To prevent the FBI from abusing investigations to capture the levers of government and subverting democracy, the Justice Department has established rules. Most important among these rules is that the FBI isn’t supposed to start investigating a public official unless it has reason to suspect a crime. Nearly every “sensitive case” evidenced violations of the rules. In fact, the office of inspector general identified an average of two violations for every reviewed sensitive case.
Vladimir Putin, not unlike our current FBI Director Christopher Wray, got his start as a “reformer” known for mouthing reform slogans to parry public outrage over the many abuses of the national police organization. Like Putin, Wray has used the smokescreen of cosmetic reforms to amass great power at the expense of the democratic process he is supposed to protect. The FBI has proven over and over again to be totally immune to reform. It consistently fails to punish employees for violating the rules, so changing those rules has no effect. Read more…