We tend to think of the people in law enforcement and intelligence working behind the scenes where we can't see them as people that get the job done. We take for granted, most often without question, that these are always people giving taxpayers their money's worth. We often enough view them as people putting their lives on the line everyday and taking big risks. We just feel they are always keeping us safe and rarely do we question their work.
But what really do we know about their work? How much really do we know about what it is they do in the behind the scenes roles they play in our lives and in the direction of our country. Are we always getting our money's worth? Are they always shining examples of what the character of those entrusted with the duty of serving and protecting is supposed to be?
Are there times when they take advantage of that position when out of the public eye? Are there times when they put things in their pocket they shouldn't because no one is looking and thus they feel they have nothing to worry about? How often is their job about the public good versus doing for themselves in the shadows where they know nobody will know but themselves? What does it mean to them to be a "public servant?"
After all, these aren't things that don't affect us right? There are millions if not more annually being spent on undercover work taken straight from taxpayer coffers. We, as taxpayers, should have a right to know that it isn't being wasted, and that our interests are being looked after here. We have a right to know whether or not we are being put at risk unreasonably. We have a right to know when there are undercover officers that are just ineffective. These things should not be hidden from us. Not when it's our money.
We don't need to know all the particulars, but we have a right to oversight and assessment of how our money is spent.
I mean otherwise all manner of things could be happening right under our noses on our dime everyday and we would never find out about it. Otherwise, undercover agents could be making a mess of things and money that's supposed to be used to prevent crimes, etc could be going towards covering up illegal activity or covering up mistakes all perpetrated in the shadows of the world of undercover or intelligence operations. How would we know?
What do we have to go on? Another 24 hour news channel investigative special that interviews veterans of the force and intelligence world and currently serving personnel that say everything is fine and dirty dealings get handled, without any real journalistic probing or questions? The world outside the inner city would never have believed how bad the problem of police brutality was and still is, if it weren't for the Rodney King taping and all the subsequent events documented on video. But they happened and continue to do so today.
Such activity goes so far back that what most people also don't know is that's how and why the Black Panthers were formed in the 1960's. The original group in the 1960's wasn't a group looking to address big picture civil rights issues (not the recent weird revamp with like 12 members that's always on a particular news channel). It was a group formed to watch the police, because police corruption and brutality were so prevalent and out of control in poor urban neighborhoods and nobody was doing anything about it.
Don't take my word for it, read books on the subject. Anything credible will tell you the same thing. Off topic I know, and I'm not an advocate for everything they've done in their history. I don't say it to discuss the right or wrongs of any of their actions or as an advocate of their actions, just to use the reason for their formation, in terms of the reality versus the myth, as an example of how bad police corruption can be when people aren't looking. Not that it totally applies here - again, off topic a little - I know.
Whatever the case, it is important that we as taxpayers know these things and have full access to all pertinent information. I know this particularly well as when I was a student at the University of Connecticut majoring in landscape architecture I was being harassed in a manner that went way over the top of anything I would consider the kind of stuff I let roll off my back, and I let a lot roll off my back. Initially it seemed to be coming from the authority figures - meaning the professors. I should say one professor in particular that made his feelings towards me known quite obviously while not being too obvious so as to leave himself room for plausible deniability.
His goal was to get me to either quit from the stress of being harassed, flunk as a result of the stress of being harassed or get kicked out due to an emotional overreaction growing out of the stress of being harassed. He was unsuccessful on his own and early on recruited some of my classmates that seemed particularly naïve when it came to life and the games adults can play. It was 2003, just after 9-11 and tensions were high.
In 1990 I participated in a protest about South Africa which, at that time, had a system of government that was racially oppressive to say the least. Because of my name and father's country of origin (India) the professor kept spinning my involvement in the protest (which did involve an arson that I did not do the planning of or start) as my being a member of Al Qaeda, religion etc.
I just tried to ignore it at first hoping he would just stop and that as people got to know me they'd say, "oh he's not like what they're saying at all." In fact they did, but when they questioned him and his small cadre of minions, they just started getting harassed themselves. If they resisted still they began to see their grades drop, and, as there was a certain GPA threshold you had to maintain to stay in the program, if that kept up they'd be out.
Essentially they were forced into staying mute and at times even participating in the harassment tangentially "or else." I understood their plight and forgave them, and though I got frustrated with their ignorance, forgave the professor and his little gang of fools too.
I didn't forget however, and as time went on and the pressure on me in terms of the discriminatory harassment increased, I began to feel as though just taking it wasn't enough. I mean at some point you have to act, no matter how professional you wish to be, and at a certain point the professional thing to do is to lodge a formal complaint and get it publicly on the record. But I was in survival mode and my harassers implied more than once that they would just deny if I complained which could quite possibly make things worse for me.
Finally in senior year I had enough. It wasn't slowing down, it was picking up and I was ready to complain. One of the on again off again harassers was a student named Ed. Ed, like myself was a minority and had admitted to me that he had seen the harassment. Though I didn't really trust him because of his on again off again participation, I really had few options in the program so during lunch one day I told him I wanted to file a formal complaint and wanted to possibly file a lawsuit also.
He began using a series of different approaches and angles to try and get me to stop pursuing the path of filing a formal complaint, etc. After failing over and over, he came clean and admitted to me he was working for law enforcement in the capacity of an undercover law enforcement personnel. He said he had been on campus for eight years in that capacity and, though this was his last year working college campuses, if I complained it might expose the work he had done. He then basically pointed out a few other students in our graduating class that had been doing the same thing, and said if I complained they would be exposed too and their work.
It kind of made sense when he said it and particularly the people he pointed out. I had wondered a couple of times about that, but quickly dismissed it for a number of reasons. Not the least of which was that I had no confirmation, so it would just lead to paranoia and the kind of unnecessary thinking that never helps any situation. But, now I had confirmation. Though no real particulars this was better than nothing and there was plenty that made these people suspect.
What was always odd to me was the why. I mean for one thing just surveilling me was not something I had a problem with. If anyone had been following my activities since the protest and my arrest for it, they would know very well there was no reason to watch me. I wasn't doing anything dangerous, related in any way to anything having to do with terrorism or that was criminal, period. Heck I had even stopped smoking weed years ago because, though it affects people differently, it made me too lazy to be as productive as I wanted to be in my life.
My goals were humble and modest. A career as a landscape architect, which isn't going to make anyone rich or put them in the 1% of America's income earners or otherwise wealthy. I didn't even really aspire to that. Just a basic middle income life - a house, a car and a family.
This was something my friends and family knew well and if you google landscape architects and what their average earnings are, you'll see that, though they can live comfortably, they won't be moving into any wealthy neighborhoods based on the average salary. I was not politically active outside of voting.
So why so many people? What was even stranger was the harassment. All the people mentioned were participants and most involved in the planning. I could see this as it was a small degree program with 21 persons allowed per graduating class and we spent almost all our time in the design studios. I could at times literally hear them planning or discussing the next harassment attempt. I even began to effectively formulate strategies to counter the typical strategies used to harass me, as there was really only a handful repeated with variations here and there. And I've never been scared of such things, want to slander me, I'll survive; want to Photoshop pics of me and post them, why wait; want to tell my girlfriend or other people close to me lies, I can deal. I'll live. Not that it happens a lot of course.
But if I was such a danger and an unstable threat, why harass and provoke me constantly? On a college campus that sometimes has 40,000 people walking around, is that really wise? Good thing for them I wasn't unstable, a threat or dangerous. Something didn't add up. It felt like they were experimenting on me to see how much I could take or something at times.
Whatever the case, Ed and others like him had done it before as they were very comfortable doing it, and could quickly improvise, when things went "off script."
But I also learned through Ed about what else such people were doing there on campus. Sex and sometimes drugs and partying. That is often the life on college campus when people aren't involved in school stuff, working, eating or sleeping. That's how it is and perhaps should be at first anyway as people are learning to live on their own and be responsible for themselves and find their personal boundaries, limits and ideas about who they are, etc. Reading about and taking tests on those things is no substitute for going out and discovering them yourself.
For people that have been through it and are supposed to blend in, it must be a real temptation to take advantage of the position. Ed did. I saw it myself and heard him talk about it openly. Heck he would waltz into the design studios on a Saturday or Sunday morning and regularly brag about what he did with his frat brothers at the party the night before and people from the studios that had been to a few of the parties had confirmed it. For his frat brothers to be doing it was one thing.
For him - a law enforcement personnel getting paid by taxpayers to guard their safety, including parents of the kids that went to school at UConn, to be enjoying getting young freshman girls drunk till they passed out or taking advantage of them sexually - himself - was beyond the job description for sure. He boasted about convincing naïve frat buddies to bring their underage high school sisters and cousins to parties then get them drunk and have sex with them.
We're talking about a cop here. But outside of what I write you will probably never hear about it, and he will probably get a promotion for his work - more pay and better benefits on your dime for molesting your kids or your neighbor's. Now is that your idea of protecting and serving?
Whatever the case, he failed at getting me to quit, flunk or get kicked out. He obviously had success in the past as he had been allowed to do what he did at UConn for eight years. But he failed with me. I graduated. I have the pic, the cap and gown, the program and the diploma to prove it. He may have had some hits, but with me he had a miss. Now you know. And he probably isn't the only one. The next time you are voting, calculating how much has been taken out of your paycheck or figuring out college payments for the kids, think of Ed. He still collecting your money? Where abouts?
To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com
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