Surveillance the ACLU Way

By: Thomas E. Brewton

British MI-5′s success in thwarting the plot to blow up a large number of transatlantic airliners reminds us that hamstringing our own intelligence forces by the ACLU and its sympathizers has a long history.

The op-ed page of today’s Wall Street Journal carries an article by David B. Rivkin, Jr., and Lee A. Casey. The authors describe the important differences between British and American legal doctrine that enabled British intelligence forces to work more effectively than can our own intelligence and law-enforcement community. Great Britain is the home of personal liberty and limitations on arbitrary government power, but the British, in the area of surveillance and apprehension of terrorists, have been considerably more realistic than have we.

There is a long pedigree for the liberal mindset that leads to assiduously blocking effective methods of surveillance and detention of enemies of the United States, the same mindset that produced repeated, putatively criminal revelations of top-secret national security programs by the New York Times.

It goes all the way back to the late 1800s, when socialist and anarchist agitators began to make their presence felt in the United States. On Manhattan’s Lower East Side and in Union Square, with Greenwich Village intellectuals’ propaganda support after World War I, anarchists and socialists staged protest rallies that blocked traffic and interfered with ordinary business. Police often had to stop violence, which usually involved mass arrests of demonstrators.

Those socialist and anarchist activists, in effect, demanded that the First Amendment’s freedom of speech be interpreted as a suicide pact that would allow them to carry out their openly avowed aim to destroy formal government under the Constitution (in the anarchists’ case), or to replace the Constitution with a collectivized socialist system that would seize private property and redistribute it to the masses.

Socialist and anarchist leaders were involved in, and openly advocated, assassination of political and business leaders. Emma Goldman, the most widely-heard oratorical voice of anarcho-socialism, was the leftist version of Timothy McVeigh, the radical right-winger who in 1995 bombed a Federal office building in Oklahoma City killing 166 people.

Speaking of the assassination attempt on the life of industrialist Henry Clay Frick by her paramour Alexander Berckman (for whom she had raised money and procured the weapon), Miss Goldman wrote in her autobiography,

“The inner forces that compel an idealist to acts of violence, often involving the destruction of his own life, had come to mean much more to me. I feel certain now that behind every political deed of that nature was an impressionable, highly sensitized personality and a gentle spirit.”

This rationalization is not far removed from that of Islamic suicide bombers.

In September 1901 anarchist Leon Czolgosz assassinated President William McKinley at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. When he was arrested, Czolgosz said that Miss Goldman’s oratory had inspired him. She reciprocated by publicly and ardently defending him. In Free Society, an anarchist newspaper, she wrote,

“Leon Czolgosz and other men of his type, far from being depraved creatures of low instincts, are in reality supersentive beings unable to bear up under too great social stress. They are driven to some violent express even at the sacrifice of their own lives, because they cannot supinely witness the misery and suffering of their fellows. My heart goes out in deep sympathy, as it goes out to all the victims of oppression and misery, to the martyrs past and future.”

Former Governor of Idaho George Steunenberg was assassinated with a dynamite bomb in 1905, because he had opposed an illegal mining strike. In 1910 radicals bombed the Los Angeles Times building, killing twenty one workmen. In 1920, liberal activists planted dynamite in a wagon outside the Wall Street headquarters of J. P. Morgan, timed to detonate shortly after noon, in order to kill the maximum possible number of people on the street for lunch hour. With shrapnel tearing through the packed sidewalk crowds, 38 people were killed and some 300 wounded.

More than a hundred socialist and anarchist newspapers around the country regularly featured articles describing how to make dynamite bombs and how to plant them to inflict the maximum number of deaths. Albert Parsons was one of Emma Goldman’s confederates and the publisher of Alarm, the leading English-language anarcho-socialist newsletter; in it Parsons urged:

“Dynamite! Of all good stuff, that is the stuff! Stuff several pounds of this sublime stuff into an inch pipe (gas or water), plug up both ends, insert a cap with a fuse attached, place this in the immediate vicinity of a lot of rich loafers who live by the sweat of other people’s brows, and light the fuse. A most cheerful and gratifying result will follow.”

New Yorkers who came out of this milieu, even when highly successful businessmen in later generations, still see all efforts to deal with subversive elements in society as police brutality and suppression of workers’ rights.

The ACLU came into existence during World War I to defend anarchists and socialists who endeavored to sabotage the United States government. They and their flacks on the New York Times have never wavered in their devotion to that mission.

Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. His weblog is THE VIEW FROM 1776 (

About The Author Thomas E. Brewton:
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.

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