Big Brother Alert! Your neighbor could be an undercover federal agent.

Next Door Neighbor

Shocking revelations from “records and interviews” reveal at least 40 federal agencies are using undercover officers to infiltrate everyday scenarios including having them pose “as business people, welfare recipients, political protesters and even doctors or ministers to ferret out wrongdoing,” according to a New York Times report.

From the story:

At the Supreme Court, small teams of undercover officers dress as students at large demonstrations outside the courthouse and join the protests to look for suspicious activity, according to officials familiar with the practice.

At the Internal Revenue Service, dozens of undercover agents chase suspected tax evaders worldwide, by posing as tax preparers or accountants or drug dealers or yacht buyers, court records show.

At the Agriculture Department, more than 100 undercover agents pose as food stamp recipients at thousands of neighborhood stores to spot suspicious vendors and fraud, officials said.

Undercover work, inherently invasive and sometimes dangerous, was once largely the domain of the F.B.I. and a few other law enforcement agencies at the federal level. But outside public view, changes in policies and tactics over the last decade have resulted in undercover teams run by agencies in virtually every corner of the federal government, according to officials, former agents and documents.

Of course, many departments point to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as the reason for more undercover surveillance, but many of these agents are employed to root out petty crimes like tobacco and alcohol sales to minors or to infiltrate non-criminal activity like simple political protests.

The next time you head to the Supreme Court to protest in favor of expanded gun rights or against big government legislation like Obamacare, consider this:

At the Supreme Court, all of the court’s more than 150 police officers are trained in undercover tactics, according to a federal law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity because it involved internal security measures. At large protests over issues like abortion, small teams of undercover officers mill about — usually behind the crowd — to look for potential disturbances.

The agents, often youthful looking, will typically “dress down” and wear backpacks to blend inconspicuously into the crowd, the official said.

At one recent protest, an undercover agent — rather than a uniformed officer — went into the center of a crowd of protesters to check out a report of a suspicious bag before determining there was no threat, the official said. The use of undercover officers is seen as a more effective way of monitoring large crowds.

A Supreme Court spokesman, citing a policy of not discussing security practices, declined to talk about the use of undercover officers. Mr. German, the former F.B.I. undercover agent, said he was troubled to learn that the Supreme Court routinely used undercover officers to pose as demonstrators and monitor large protests.

“There is a danger to democracy,” he said, “in having police infiltrate protests when there isn’t a reasonable basis to suspect criminality.”

The guy holding the protest sign next to you might just be an undercover agent.

Earlier this year, Eric Holder’s Department of Justice revived a law enforcement group to investigate instances of “domestic terrorism,” citing increased right-wing political activism as one of the reasons.

A 2009 report — during the height of the early “tea party” protests — from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revealed Big Brother (or, in this case, Janet Napolitano as Big Sister) was looking into instances of “rightwing extremism.” Michelle Malkin was one of the first to raise the red flag.

The New York Times’ latest revelations, coupled with the earlier reports from the DoJ and DHS, suggest the guy holding the protest sign next to you at the next “tea party” rally may not be a fellow American patriot but an undercover agent. The longterm damage to our civil liberties and the possible chilling effect these revelations could have on the freedom of speech, assembly, and association should not go unnoticed.

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