On this edition of Parallax Views, anthropologist David H. Price, author of Weaponizing Anthropology and Cold War Anthropology: Social Science in the Service of the Militarized State, returns to discuss his latest book The American Surveillance State: How the U.S. Spies on Dissent.
The conversation begins with David H. Price discussing his Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests about interactions between American anthropologist, the FBI, the CIA, and American military agencies. We delve into how David became involved in looking at how anthropologists and social science were utilized in the global War on Terror, especially through the Human Terrain System program. In other words, the use of anthropology and social science for social monitoring and control.
From there we delve into the thesis of The American Surveillance State and the idea, put forth by CIA whistleblower Philip Agee, that agencies like the FBI and CIA act as “the secret police of American capitalism”. In this regard we discuss how intelligence agency institutions became powerful surveillance apparatuses that often targeted the labor and radical leftist movements. This also allows us to discuss the (in)famous figure of longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and some conversation about the period of WWII and the transition into the Cold War.
Among other topics we also manage to discuss:
– The history of phone surveillance and wiretapping
– The Total Information Awareness program and mass data collection
– The issue of corporate surveillance as well as government surveillance
– The American Surveillance State’s targeting of anthropologist Gene Weltfish, Native American activist Archie Phinney, and South African anti-apartheid activist Ruth First; the targeted surveillance of activists who sought to expose systems of racial inequality
– American anthropology, racial inequality, and the American surveillance state in the era of Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare in the 1940s and 1950s
– Addressing arguments that the massive surveillance and suppression of privacy and individual rights is necessary to fighting security threats like terrorism
– The deep roots of anti-communism in the U.S. Liberal anti-communism in the CIA and right-wing anti-communism in Hoover’s FBI; President Harry S. Truman and the Truman loyalty oaths program (which targeted federal employees) as a precursor to McCarthyism; Truman vs. Harry Wallace and the weaponizing the surveillance state against political enemies
– The FBI’s targeting of liberal anti-communists; liberal anti-communist German-American anthropologist Andre Gunder Frank, the Global South, and Frank’s critique of American economic hegemony; the FBI’s massive file on Andre Gunder Frank
– The FBI file on left-wing Academy Award-winning cinematographer and filmmaker Haskell Wexler, who directed the film Medium Cool (a movie filmed in the midst of the riots at the Chicago Democratic National Convention (DNC) in 1968; Wexler’s film on the Weather Underground and FBI surveillance of Wexler
– Court trials, jury selection, prosecutors, and the FBI
– The FBI and Palestinian-American academic Edward Said, the founder of postcolonial studies; the monitoring of Said, who was known for his pro-Palestinian views
– The FBI file on the late left-wing journalist Alexander Cockburn of Counterpunch; the American Surviellance State and Alexander Cockburn’s visa
– Anthropologist Melville Jacobs, who was a student of Franz Boaz, and how he was targeted for his involvement with communism; pre-McCarthy threats against anthropologists who addresses issues of inequality; academic freedom, Cold Wars paranoia/fears, and the rumored-to-be-antisemitic academic who acted as an FBI informant against Jewish professors
– Spanish anthropologist Angel Palerm, the Organization of American States (OAS), and the monitoring of Palerm over his work on Latin America; informants in the OAS
– Why is certain information redacted in FOIA documents?; why is some information withheld or claimed to be non-existent when it comes to FOIA requests?
– FBI incompetence and FOIA
– Price’s thoughts on the FBI and it’s handling of modern domestic terrorism threats, specifically far right-wing groups like the Proud Boys and white supremacist organizations; how surveillance of right-wing groups like the Ku Klux Klan arguably differs from surveillance of left-wing groups; intelligence agency responses to the far-right as being far too late and far less numerous than targeting of left-wing activists
– Liberal sentiments that the FBI and other intelligence agencies are the heroes that will save America from Trump and the far-right; Price’s response to this
– How to make a FOIA request; the ins and outs of making a FOIA request
– Has Price ever requested a FOIA on himself?; the CIA’s review of one of Price’s books
– Responding to people who believe that any talk of the surveillance state is just tinfoil hat, right-wing conspiracy theory crankery territory
– The CIA vs. the FBI during the Cold War and the roots of the CIA at Yale University
– J. Edgar Hoover as a creature of the FBI rather than the Cold War FBI being a creature of Hoover; analysis of institutions vs. hyper-focusing on specific individuals like Hoover
– Edward Snowden and the need for a new Watergate moment which will bring about new investigations into the American Surveillance State and possible reforms; FBI oversight, the Pike Committee, and the response to the Watergate scandal
– Are we too numb to the American Surveillance State at this point to be outraged by it?
– And more!