New, Improved FBI

Just this, from Monday’s New York Times (you need to be registered to read it online): The FBI is going around the country questioning dissidents — now there’s a precise term — about possible violence planned during anti-Bush demonstrations at the Republican Convention in New York City later this month. Of course, the FBI is the first to reassure us that it would never act like … like, well, the FBI.

F.B.I. officials, mindful of the bureau’s abuses in the 1960’s and 1970’s monitoring political dissidents like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., say they are confident their agents have not crossed that line in the lead-up to the conventions.

“The F.B.I. isn’t in the business of chilling anyone’s First Amendment rights,” said Joe Parris, a bureau spokesman in Washington. “But criminal behavior isn’t covered by the First Amendment. What we’re concerned about are injuries to convention participants, injuries to citizens, injuries to police and first responders.”

Watching out for threats is swell. I don’t know anyone who’s a fan of seeing other people getting blown to pieces. But here, the FBI is putting Americans fulfilling their responsibility to protest the government’s lapses on the same side of the fence as real enemies of the state.

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