Underground Resistance (contd)
By 1942, Pilecki’s resistance group had learned of the existence of the gas chambers and began work on several plans to liberate Auschwitz, including one in which the RAF would bomb the walls or Free Polish paratroopers would fly in from Britain. In 1943, when Pilecki realized that the Allies did not have plans to liberate the camp, he escaped with two other prisoners after he voluntarily spent 2½ years at the camp smuggling out its darkest secrets to the Allies. The documents released from the Polish Archives also included a Gestapo manhunt alert following Pilecki’s escape.
In 1944, Pilecki was captured while fighting in the Warsaw Uprising in 1944 and spent the rest of the war in a prisoner-of-war camp. He joined the Free Polish troops in Italy in July of 1945 and agreed to return to Poland and gather intelligence on its takeover by the Soviets. Pilecki was caught by the Polish Communist regime, tortured, interrogated on his espionage, and executed following a trial at which he was given three death sentences. Note that relatively high number of the communist judicial system in Poland were Jews. Pilecki was executed on May 25, 1948 at Warsaw’s Mokotow Prison.
Michael Schudrich, the Chief Rabbi of Poland, said that Pilecki was “an example of inexplicable goodness at a time of inexplicable evil. There is ever-growing awareness of Poles helping Jews in the Holocaust, and how they paid with their lives, like Pilecki. We must honor these examples and follow them today in the parts of the world where there are horrors again.” He authored three reports about life inside the camp for the Polish resistance. During his incarceration, Pilecki witnessed from the inside Auschwitz’s transformation from a detention facility for political prisoners and Soviet soldiers into one of the Nazi’s deadliest killing machines.
The details of Pilecki’s bravery could not truly emerge until after the collapse of Communism in 1989. He received posthumously the Order of Polonia Restituta in 1995 and the Order of the White Eagle, the highest Polish decoration in 2006.
An English translation of Pilecki’s third and most comprehensive report — a primary source for this article — was recently published as a book titled The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery . It is a fascinating first-hand account of virtually all aspects of life inside the camp. The original document is in the custody of the Polish Underground Movement Study Trust in London.
Underground Press (contd)
The underground press offered a platform to the socially impotent and mirrored the changing way of life in the UK underground.
Police harassment of the British underground in general became commonplace, to the point that in 1967 the police seemed to focus in particular on the apparent source of agitation: the underground press. The police campaign may have had an effect contrary to that which was presumably intended. If anything, according to one or two who were there at the time, it actually made the underground press stronger. “It focused attention, stiffened resolve, and tended to confirm that what we were doing was considered dangerous to the establishment”, remembered Mick Farren. From April 1967, and for some while later, the police raided the offices of International Times to try, it was alleged, to force the paper out of business. In order to raise money for IT a benefit event was put together, “The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream” Alexandra Palace on 29 April 1967.
On one occasion – in the wake of yet another raid on IT – London’s alternative press, somewhat astonishingly, succeeded in pulling off what was billed as a ‘reprisal attack’ on the police. The paper Black Dwarf published a detailed floor-by-floor ‘Guide to Scotland Yard,’ complete with diagrams, descriptions of locks on particular doors, and snippets of overheard conversation. The anonymous author, or ‘blue dwarf,’ as he styled himself,’ claimed to have perused archive files, and even to have sampled one or two brands of scotch in the Commissioner’s office. The London Evening Standard headlined the incident as “Raid on the Yard”. A day or two later The Daily Telegraph announced that the prank had resulted in all security passes to the police headquarters having to be withdrawn and then re-issued.
By the end of the decade, community artists and bands such as Pink Floyd, (before they “went commercial”), the The Deviants, Pink Fairies, Hawkwind, Michael Moorcock and Steve Peregrin Took would arise in a symbiotic co-operation with the underground press. The underground press publicised these bands and this made it possible for them to tour and get record deals. The band members travelled around spreading the ethos and the demand for the newspapers and magazines grew and flourished for a while.
The flaunting of sexuality within the underground press provoked prosecution. IT was taken to court for publishing small ads for homosexuals; despite the 1967 legalisation of homosexuality between consenting adults in private importuning remained subject to prosecution. The Oz “School Kids” issue, brought charges against the three Oz editors who were convicted and given jail sentences. This was the first time the Obscene Publications Act 1959 was combined with a moral conspiracy charge. The convictions were, however, overturned on appeal.
A 1980 review identified some 70 such publications around the United Kingdom but estimated that the true number could well have run into hundreds. Such papers were usually published anonymously, for fear of the UK’s draconian libel laws. They followed a broad anarchist, libertarian, left-wing of the Labour Party, socialist approach but the philosophy of a paper was usually flexible as those responsible for its production came and went. Most papers were run on collective principles.
In the U.S. the term underground newspaper generally refers to an independent (and typically smaller) newspaper focusing on unpopular themes or counterculture issues. Typically, these tend to be politically to the left or far left.
More narrowly, in the US the term “underground newspaper” most often refers to publications of the period 1965-1973, when a sort of boom or craze for local tabloid underground newspapers swept the country in the wake of court decisions making prosecution for obscenity far more difficult. These publications became the voice of the rising New Left and the hippie/psychedelic/rock and roll counterculture of the 1960s in America, and a focal point of opposition to the Vietnam War and the draft.
In the period 1969-1970 a number of these papers grew more militant and began to openly discuss armed revolution against the state, printing manuals for bombing and urging readers to buy guns; but this new trend of the pacifistic underground press toward violent confrontation soon fell silent after the rise and fall of the Weatherman Underground and the tragic shootings at Kent State. By the end of 1972, with the end of the draft and the winding down of the Vietnam War there was increasingly little reason for the underground press to exist. A number of papers passed out of existence during this time; among the survivors a newer and less polemical view toward middle-class values and working within the system emerged. The underground press began to evolve into the socially conscious, life-style oriented alternative press that predominates this form of weekly print media in 2013 in North America.
A 1971 roster, published in Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book, listed 271 UPS-affiliated papers; 11 were in Canada, 23 in Europe, and the remainder in the United States. According to historian John McMillian, writing in his 2010 book Smoking Typewriters, the underground press’ combined readership eventually reached into the millions.
Many of the papers faced official harassment on a regular basis; local police repeatedly raided and busted up the offices of Dallas Notes and jailed editor Stoney Burns on drug charges, charged Atlanta’s Great Speckled Bird and others with obscenity, arrested street vendors, and pressured local printers not to print underground papers. In Austin, the regents at the University of Texas sued The Rag to prevent circulation on campus but the ACLU successfully defended the paper’s First Amendment rights before the U.S. Supreme Court. In an apparent attempt to shut down The Spectator in Bloomington, Indiana, editor James Retherford was briefly imprisoned for alleged violations of the Selective Service laws; his conviction was overturned and the prosecutors were rebuked by a federal judge. The offices of Houston’s Space City! were bombed and its windows repeatedly shot out; similar drive-by shootings, firebombings, break-ins and trashings were carried out on the offices of many underground papers around the country, fortunately without causing any fatalities. In Houston as in many other cities the attackers, never identified, were suspected of being off-duty military or police personnel, or members of the Ku Klux Klan or Minuteman organizations. Some of the most violent attacks were carried out against the underground press in San Diego. In 1976 the San Diego Union reported that the attacks in 1971 and 1972 had been carried out by a right-wing paramilitary group calling itself the Secret Army Organization, which had ties to the local office of the FBI.
During this period there was also a widespread high school underground press movement circulating unauthorized student-published tabloids and mimeographed sheets at hundreds of high schools around the US. Most of these papers put out only a few issues, running off a few hundred copies of each and circulating them only at one local school, although there was one system-wide antiwar high school underground paper produced in New York in 1969 with a 10,000 copy press run. And Houston’s Little Red Schoolhouse, a city-wide underground paper published by high school students, was founded in 1970.
Most papers operated on a shoestring budget, pasting up camera-ready copy on layout sheets on the editor’s kitchen table, with labor performed by unpaid, non-union volunteers. Typesetting costs, which at the time were wiping out many established big city papers, were avoided by typing up copy on a rented or borrowed IBM Selectric typewriter to be pasted up by hand. As one observer commented with only slight hyperbole, students were financing the publication of these papers out of their lunch money.
During the 1960s and 1970s, there were also a number of left political periodicals with some of the same concerns of the underground press. Some of these periodicals joined the Underground Press Syndicate to gain services such as microfilming, advertising, and the free exchange of articles and newspapers. Examples include The Black Panther (the paper of the Black Panther Party, Oakland, California), and The Guardian, New York City; both of which had national distribution.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted surveillance and disruption activities on the underground press in the United States, including a campaign to destroy the alternative agency Liberation News Service. As part of its COINTELPRO designed to discredit and infiltrate radical New Left groups, the FBI also launched phony underground newspapers such as the Armageddon News at Indiana University Bloomington, The Longhorn Tale at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Rational Observer at American University in Washington, D.C. The FBI also ran the Pacific International News Service in San Francisco, the Chicago Midwest News, and the New York Press Service. Many of these organizations consisted of little more than a post office box and a letterhead, designed to enable the FBI to receive exchange copies of underground press publications and send undercover observers to underground press gatherings.
The Georgia Straight outlived the underground movement, evolving into an alternative weekly still published today; Fifth Estate survives as an anarchist magazine. The Rag—which published for 11 years in Austin (1966–1977) — was revived in 2006 as an online publication, The Rag Blog, which now has a wide following in the progressive blogosphere and whose contributors include many veterans of the original underground press.
Spirit of the underground: the 60s rebel By Barry Miles
What we consider the British counter-culture began in the mid-60s. There had always been a bohemian underground, a discreet gay scene and a community of artists, but they kept their heads down. Full employment had enabled the growth of youth culture – Mary Quant, the Beatles – but many young people wanted to be more than the youth section of the establishment. In LA, they called themselves freaks; in San Francisco, they were hippies; in New York, they were the underground – it was this term we used in London, despite Fleet Street’s attempt to dub us Flower Children.
The underground was a catch-all sobriquet for a community of like-minded anti-establishment, anti-war, pro-rock’n’roll individuals, most of whom had a common interest in recreational drugs. They saw peace, exploring a widened area of consciousness, love and sexual experimentation as more worthy of their attention than entering the rat race. The straight, consumerist lifestyle was not to their liking, but they did not object to others living it. But at that time the middle classes still felt they had the right to impose their values on everyone else, which resulted in conflict.
The counterculture was apolitical, as far as party politics was concerned because most politicians were seen as lying hypocrites, serving vested interests, not the people. However, it was active in issue-based campaigns: CND, which many of them were involved in during the early 60s, and the anti-Vietnam war campaign which grew out of that. After 1967 came environmental issues, the gay liberation front and the women’s movement.
My involvement came in 1965, when my flatmate John Hopkins (Hoppy) and I looked round the audience at the Albert Hall International Poetry Incarnation – a Beat generation event featuring Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among many others – and realised that there was no publication that even remotely catered to the interests of this community: 7,000 people at a poetry reading! We thought we had better start one ourselves, and after a few trial publications, Hoppy and I launched International Times (IT). We began as an arts paper, with theatrical reviews and interviews, but we also catered to the real interests of our readers. We had a gay column written by “Elizabeth” – homosexuality was still illegal, so a nom de plume was required – and a drug column (for which ditto) giving the price of pot in various cities and outing known undercover cops. It was not long before we were busted.
Can there still be a counterculture in the age of the internet, when a flashmob can assemble in a matter of hours and the latest cutting-edge art event is watched simultaneously across the globe? The strongest remnant of the old underground is the dopers, but as there are an estimated two to five million people regularly smoking marijuana in the UK, they can hardly be regarded as a countercultural phenomena; more as a major component of the multicultural society we live in.
The underground of IT, and later of ecstasy and raves, ended in the early 90s. You can’t have a counterculture when the culture itself is multifaceted, but you can still have an avant garde and you can still drop out. Ultimately, the establishment feeds off the avant garde: street fashions inspire luxury brands, just as the advertising industry trawls the art world for ideas.
The underground papers were produced entirely for idealistic reasons, often communally, and the staff were frequently not paid. The same spirit applies to many experimental art events today. There are still musicians who don’t want to be discovered by Simon Cowell. These people are at the cutting edge, breaking the rules of practice and taste, and sometimes the law. But it is more likely to be Saatchi and Saatchi that raids them than the police.
I like to think that Wikileaks is in the tradition of the underground press, particularly as the US is attempting to suppress it, just as it tried to undermine the underground papers that led the anti-Vietnam campaign. Wikileaks combines an old-fashioned “publish and be damned” ethos with the slightly reckless traditions of the underground press, though IT was far more reckless in its naming of undercover cops and informers than anything Wikileaks has done with its carefully redacted releases.
So is there a counterculture? The police certainly think so: infiltrating environmental groups and no doubt the student protest movement as well. Though the travellers are probably the only true countercultural group left in Britain trying to live a life free of interference and surveillance, the spirit lives on in the student protests, animal rights groups, environmental activists and the anti-globalization movement. The establishment clamps down on resistance with one hand, while ripping off the underground arts with the other. In that respect, it’s just like the 60s.
London Calling: a Countercultural History of London since 1945, by Barry Miles, is published in paperback by Atlantic Books.
COINTELPRO is the program the bureau ran from the ’50s to the ’70s to discredit and marginalize political organizations.
FBI documents obtained by CBS News reveal a widespread domestic spying and intelligence operation that kept thousands of ordinary American citizens under surveillance throughout the 1980s.
CBS News Anchor Dan Rather reports those being watched ranged from the SANE Nuclear freeze group to the senior Gray Panthers.
While antiwar protesters in the 1960s and ’70s were familiar with FBI surveillance, these newly discovered files show the FBI continued the controversial practice into 1993 and that it continues today.
It turns out the FBI is still spying on American citizens – for the U.S. government.
The main domestic threat, as the FBI sees it, is a lone wolf.
The bureau’s answer has been a strategy known variously as “preemption,” “prevention,” and “disruption”—identifying and neutralizing potential lone wolves before they move toward action. To that end, FBI agents and informants target not just active jihadists, but tens of thousands of law-abiding people, seeking to identify those disgruntled few who might participate in a plot given the means and the opportunity. And then, in case after case, the government provides the plot, the means, and the opportunity.
Here’s how it works: Informants report to their handlers on people who have, say, made statements sympathizing with terrorists. Those names are then cross-referenced with existing intelligence data, such as immigration and criminal records. FBI agents may then assign an undercover operative to approach the target by posing as a radical. Sometimes the operative will propose a plot, provide explosives, even lead the target in a fake oath to Al Qaeda. Once enough incriminating information has been gathered, there’s an arrest—and a press conference announcing another foiled plot.
If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because such sting operations are a fixture in the headlines. Remember the Washington Metro bombing plot? The New York subway plot? The guys who planned to blow up the Sears Tower? The teenager seeking to bomb a Portland Christmas tree lighting? Each of those plots, and dozens more across the nation, was led by an FBI asset.
The FBI dispatched Azir to an Occupy Cleveland event on 21 October 2011, “based on an initial report of potential criminal activity and threats involving anarchists”. Terry Gilbert, a defense attorney, questions why the feds would send “a plant into a peaceful demonstration with a very ambiguous claim of criminal behavior. Once you get an informant in there, they have every motive to get a case. They are trying to make money or are working off a criminal case.”
A recent FBI document calls anarchists “criminals seeking an ideology to justify their activities”, warning they were engaged in “experimentation with new tactics, weapons … leading up to 2012 conventions”.
In the lead-up to the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, federal agents teamed with local police to find and interrogate suspected anarchists.
Newly released documents give hard evidence of an amorphous FBI investigation into the political lives of Occupy participants, one apparently animated by a belief that adherents to the political philosophy of anarchism are prone to criminal activity.
Following the protests of the May 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, rumors and reports abounded of local police and FBI agents raiding apartments, infiltrating meeting places, and questioning activists —particularly anarchists, or those appearing to identify as anarchists—in the months leading up to the summit. A number of the firsthand accounts of encounters with the FBI and Chicago police came from Occupy Chicago activists, who housed out-of-town protesters and planned many of the weekend’s actions. The existence, if not the full extent, of the Chicago Police Department investigation was confirmed during the trial of three young summit protesters dubbed the NATO 3. In testimony from the undercover police behind the arrests, it emerged that plainclothes officers with the CPD Intelligence Unit had visited coffee shops, restaurants and concerts to try to find anarchists discussing the summit.
But the FBI, which has long regarded anarchists as a domestic terror threat and monitored events like the G8 and World Trade Organization meetings, has never confirmed investigating anarchists in advance of the NATO Summit. And a document trove released in December 2012 about FBI monitoring of Occupy protests around the country didn’t include any mention of Chicago.
Now, three FBI documents released in October 2014 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request —published here for the first time—indicate that the agency gathered intelligence about Occupy Chicago general assemblies, and coordinated with local police to find and interrogate suspected anarchists.
One of the documents, an October 2011 Potential Activity Alert titled “Anarchist Advocates Adopting the St. Paul Principles for Occupy Chicago,” suggests that law enforcement either electronically surveilled Occupy Chicago general assemblies (GAs) or had an informant there.
The third document, three unclassified pages of a 30-page report from March 2012, shows the level of cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies—even outside the city of Chicago —and offers further evidence of the FBI’s obsession with finding anarchists amid Occupy activists.
After the suburban Naperville Police arrested a man for “causing a disturbance” on an Amtrak train out of Chicago, they tipped off the FBI that the subject “was involved in Occupy Wall Street,” was heading to Nebraska “to meet up with other like minded anarchists,” and planned to return for the NATO Summit. Under later joint questioning by FBI agents and Amtrak investigators, the subject “refused to elaborate” on his plans and said he would not return for the summit.
As a whole, the documents also bring up issues around the FBI’s cooperation with FOIA requests. Open records advocates routinely criticize the FBI for its lengthy delays and outright denials in responding to FOIA requests. When investigative journalist Jason Leopold filed a FOIA request with the FBI in 2011 seeking documents about Occupy Wall Street, the agency said that none existed. In response to a FOIA request by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund later that year, the FBI released 112 pages of documents.
The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have issued a bulletin to law enforcement warning that “anarchist extremists” may use IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices, at the Republican and Democrat national conventions.
“FBI and DHS assess with high confidence anarchist extremists will target… infrastructure with potentially significant impacts on public safety and transportation,” CNN reports.
“During past national and international political and economic events, anarchist extremists have blocked streets, intersections, and bridges to disrupt or impede local business operations and public transportation access and, in some instances have initiated violent confrontations with police,” the document states, according to CNN.
According to a recent report by The Intercept, Black Lives Matter has been under federal surveillance following Ferguson’s rash of riots and violent protests.
Utilizing the Freedom of Information Act, The Intercept was able to obtain documents detailing the months-long surveillance by the Department of Homeland Security. The Black Lives Matter surveillance documents were reminiscent of the FBI’s COINTELPRO days of Black Panther Party surveillance, producing “minute-by-minute reports on protestors’ movements in demonstrations.”
Federal surveillance of African-American organizations is not new.
The Department of Justice archives include surveillance of groups including the KKK and the NAACP, and maintained files on Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey. In a conversation with The Intercept, activist Maurice Mitchell identified surveillance as a federal fear tactic.
“When the police are videotaping you at a protest or pulling you over because you’re a well known activist — all of these techniques are designed to create a chilling effect on people’s organizing. This is no different.”
The Washington Post reports that the FBI has been obtaining and reviewing records of ordinary Americans in the name of the war on terror through the use of national security letters that gag the recipients.
“The FBI now issues more than 30,000 national security letters a year, according to government sources, a hundredfold increase over historic norms.
The letters — one of which can be used to sweep up the records of many people — are extending the bureau’s reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans.”
“Issued by FBI field supervisors, national security letters do not need the imprimatur of a prosecutor, grand jury or judge. They receive no review after the fact by the Justice Department or Congress. The executive branch maintains only statistics, which are incomplete and confined to classified reports. Their are no examples in which the use of a national security letter helped disrupt a terrorist plot.”
The federal government illegally spies on Americans, every day.
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FBI: Chronic Abuse of Power Goes Unchecked
America’s Gestapo: The FBI’s Reign of Terror
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FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades
FBI ‘failed to uncover 9/11 plot
FBI Informant Exposes Sting Operation Targeting Innocent Americans
Human Rights Watch Blasts the FBI’s ‘Terror Informant’ Industry
The FBI‘s Fake KKK Death Ray Attack on Andrew Cuomo, Debunked