Under new guidelines, the FBI is instructing high schools across the country to report students who criticize government policies and “western corruption” as potential future terrorists, warning that “anarchist extremists” are in the same category as ISIS and young people who are poor, immigrants or travel to “suspicious” countries are more likely to commit horrific violence.
—from “The FBI Has a New Plan to Spy on High School Students Across the Country,” by Sarah Lazare, March 2, 2016, Alternet.
The Lazare article contends the FBI’s new “Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools” guidelines, released in January, are modeledafter the British “anti-terror” mass surveillance program, and “are almost certainly designed to single out and target Muslim-American communities.” Lazare goes on to say: “In its caution to avoid the appearance of discrimination, the agency [FBI] identifies risk factors that are so broad and vague that virtually any young person could be deemed dangerous and worthy of surveillance, especially if she is socio-economically marginalized or politically outspoken.”
Lazare writes that the new FBI guidelines are being used to “justify a massive surveillance apparatus, wherein educators and pupils function as extensions of the FBI by watching and informing on each other.”
The FBI document warns: “High school students are ideal targets for recruitment by violent extremists seeking support for their radical ideologies, foreign fighter networks, or conducting acts of violence within our borders,” and claims that youth “possess inherent risk factors.” The FBI guidelines instruct teachers to “incorporate a two-hour block of violent extremism awareness training” into the core curriculum for all students grades 9-12.
The Lazare article describes some features of the new guidelines: “According to the FBI’s educational materials … the following offenses constitute signs that ‘could mean that someone plans to commit violence’ and therefore should be reported: ‘Talking about traveling to places that sound suspicious’; ‘Using code words or unusual language’; ‘Using several different cell phones and private messaging apps’; and ‘Studying or taking pictures of potential targets (like a government building).’”
According to the FBI’s “educational materials,” which accompany the guidelines, these groups are listed under the category of violent domestic terrorists: “Anarchist extremists,” “Animal Right Extremists and Environmental Extremists,” “Sovereign Citizen Extremists,” “Militia Extremists,” “White Supremacy Extremists,” and “Abortion Extremists.” This is how “abortion extremists” are described in the “educational materials”: “Some abortion extremists believe that violence and bloodshed are justified to support their different beliefs on abortion…. Violent anti-abortion extremists have targeted women’s reproductive clinics…. Those who use violence to defend abortion clinics have murdered, threatened, and attacked those who oppose abortion.” [This description is completely upside down—in reality, anti-abortion forces have launched hundreds of violent attacks on clinics, killing at least 11 people and injuring dozens more. By contrast, incidents of alleged violence on the part of clinic defenders have been extremely rare, and none has resulted in death or serious injury.]
The Lazare article also discusses the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program: “The first public iteration of the U.S. counterpart to this program [the British Preventing Violent Extremism program launched in 2005 which focused on spying on Muslim communities] emerged five years ago to ‘address ideologically inspired violence in the Homeland,’ uniting a broad array of government agencies, including the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. In 2015, Attorney General Eric Holder announced a CVE summit at the White House and unrolled three ‘pilot programs’ in Boston, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, these initiatives solely target Muslims in each of these cities.” Included in the article is a quotation from Arun Kundnani, author of The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror and an adjunct professor at New York University: “The [FBI] document aims to encourage schools to monitor their students more carefully for signs of radicalization but its definition of radicalization is vague…. Drawing on the junk science of radicalization models, the document dangerously blurs the distinction between legitimate ideological expression and violent criminal actions.”
Alternet also interviewed Hugh Handeyside, staff attorney for the ACLU’s national security project: “Broadening the definition of violent extremism to include a range of belief-driven violence underscores that the FBI is diving head-first into community spying. Framing this conduct as ‘concerning behavior’ doesn’t conceal the fact that the FBI is policing students’ thoughts and trying to predict the future based on those thoughts.”
Sarah Lazare concludes her Alternet article with a serious alarm regarding these new FBI “Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools” guidelines:
There are already reasons to be concerned about who will be most vulnerable under this mass surveillance plan. In what is popularly known as the ‘school-to-prison-pipeline,’ students of color and young people with disabilities are already disproportionately suspended, expelled, arrested and funneled into juvenile prisons for alleged behavioral infractions at school.
The FBI’s instructions to surveil and report young people not for wrong they have committed, but for violence they supposedly might enact in the future, is likely to promote an intensification of this draconian practice. Using a program initiated to spy on Muslim-American communities, the government is calling for sanctuaries of learning to be transformed into panopticons [prisons and other institutions where the inmates are spied on without their knowledge], in which students and educators are the informers and all young people are suspect.
These new FBI guidelines of spying on high school students, “Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools”—being ushered in by the Obama administration—represent a straight-up fascist program aiming at not only Muslim and Arab students, but targeting any youths who would question “cultural and religious differences” or criticize western imperialism. At a time when this system is in great turmoil over who is going to rule and how, and at the same time has no answers for millions of youths in the inner cities and barrios, no answers except mass incarceration, police terror, or mind-numbing chump jobs if you can find one—this new FBI program is an attempt by the government to not just stifle but criminalize dissent and critical thinking among high school students, who can represent a serious force for change, for potentially revolutionary change. This fascist FBI program must be exposed and opposed by students, educators, parents, and people everywhere who care about the future of humanity. WE WILL NOT REPEAT NAZI GERMANY! Fuck the FBI! Fuck the American empire!