The Hidden History of the FBI’s Secret Efforts to Invent & Weaponize Electronic Monitoring
One of the reasons the FBI has had so much trouble with even GETTING a warrant for electronic surveillance, is because its history is so secret. The FBI hides details of its exploits, hiding the true history of the Bureau and its justification for having been formed in JUNE, 1917. In fact, shortly after it was created: “Many [FBI] agents were in on this formation. They were drawn from existing anti-radical groups such as gangsters and stool pigeons. It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it. However, once a government is formed by force, it is necessary to maintain that force or power will fall into the hands of enemies. This meant protecting the status quo from any threat from within or without. That was the purpose of the Bureau.”
Because there were several attempts on the life of President Wilson, it was a legitimate concern. In order to protect the President, “the American Protective League was organized in 1914 as a private group. Membership reached almost 500,000 by 1917. The group enlisted postal employees, warehouse owners and factory workers to report disloyalty or sedition in their communities. They also set up a system of asking each other to watch for suspicious activities… The League set up its own spy network, which kept track of draft dodgers and watch for sabotage.
How the FBI went from tracking bank robberies and wiretapping suspected radicals to creating a powerful surveillance tool that violated civil liberties in secret and was kept hidden for 20 years.
The American Protective League was “funded by the Congress and by the President, it was considered official but it was not. It’s a really tragic story how this thing evolved.” – THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH (March 30, 1999)
“[What] we have is the FBI secretly running, … a surveillance operation” – THE LIFE (January 23, 1977)
“the PATRIOT Act and the Alien and Sedition Acts” – THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH (March 30, 1999)
The American Protective League is a precursor to COINTELPRO. The APL was a national network of right-wing organizations established in the 1920s. The APL was the brainchild of NEW YORK CITY MAYOR, JOHN F. HYLAN. The League, an adjunct of the American Legion and composed of volunteers, was organized to spy on radicals by infiltrating meetings and collecting names.
A citizens’ group spying on other citizens is not an unusual phenomenon in UNITED STATES HISTORY. For example, United States Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant were both accused of being members of the secretive Order of the Skull and Bones. President Grant has admitted that “I have belonged to many secret bodies whose functions are too ridiculous for mention.” .