The Bush administration's so-called war on terror needs to be situated within the context of earlier efforts to demonize dissent. Since the early 1970s the FBI has increasingly linked the threat of terrorism to lawful domestic social movements to undermine their legitimacy and blur meaningful distinctions between violent and peaceful political activity. In recent years, the FBI has become the leading control agency in what scholars and popular writers term the “surveillance society.” The FBI monitors public spaces and has deployed increasingly sophisticated technological surveillance. The bureau also has developed a new “preventative paradigm,” viewing well-nigh all street protest as dangerous. Recently declassified government records are beginning to document how the FBI, using its expanded powers, played a major role in threatening the rights of free speech and of assembly after 9/11.

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