In the summer of 1973, I reported in to the Detroit Office of the FBI as what we in the business call a “second office Agent.” Much to my chagrin, I was assigned to what was called in those days a “Domestic Security” squad. Frankly, I wanted to work criminal matters, but that is another story. Now let’s put things in context. Back then, we had been through a lot in terms of race riots in major cities, violence relating to the civil rights movement and of course the Vietnam War. Protests were routine events around the country and from time to time they got violent.
When I met with my new supervisor, I learned that I would be collecting intelligence and where possible conducting criminal investigations into the activities of several domestic groups that were left wing and right wing in nature. These groups were at the forefront of what they saw as a national “revolution.” No need to talk about which groups—they were all into revolutionary rhetoric in those days.
During those years, I found that the vast majority of protesters were peaceful and more or less wanted change to occur within our system of government. However, others had no problem robbing banks and armored cars, kidnapping wealthy individuals, and blowing up buildings. So as I began to work cases in my new assignment, I quickly understood the sensitivity of what I was engaged in, and yes, even back then the importance of preventing attacks both here and abroad.
Like a lot of Americans, I have been watching the Occupy Wall Street drama over the past couple of weeks. It’s like déjà vu all over again. Many of these Wall Street folks look like well-intentioned people exercising their first amendment rights. Others look like the kinds of counterculture “revolutionary” people who the law enforcement community was forced to deal with back in the 60s and 70s. Honestly, the behaviors being exhibited by some people in New York and elsewhere are eerily similar to the behaviors I saw back in the 70s. I must say this does not look good from the perspective of someone like me who had to deal with these folks with the tools that we had in the early 70s.
Let’s make no mistake about it – underneath some of this protest behavior there will be a small number of violent individuals looking for an opportunity or a reason to act out. Once again, law enforcement will be challenged. The media will side with the “protesters” and paint the police as the bad guys when arrests are made, and of course that will only encourage them to do more things against the “system.”
My concern is that given the present environment we are in and will continue to experience that we may see an upsurge of left wing terrorism across the country. The indicators are all there: war, economic problems, political gridlock, unemployment, rich vs. poor and a bunch of hardcore people that are looking for any excuse to fan the flames of “the revolution.” While I caution restraint on both sides, I must say that in addition to all of the foreign threats we are dealing with, we need to be ready to take on domestic groups who wish to do America harm.