“Hotbeds of extremism”?: FBI’s new plan to spy on U.S. high school students

From Project Censored: The top censored stories of 2015-2016

14. FBI’s New Plan to Spy on High School Students across the Country

Under new guidelines issued in January 2016, the FBI is instructing high schools across the country to report students who criticize government policies and “western corruption” as potential future terrorists, Sarah Lazare reported for AlterNet. The new guidelines also warn that young people who are poor, are immigrants, or talk about travel to “suspicious” countries are more likely to commit violence. As Lazare wrote, the FBI’s “Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools” guidelines combine “McCarthy-era theories of radicalization”—in which authorities monitor thoughts and behaviors suspected of leading to acts of violent subversion—with elements of a “widely unpopular” and “deeply controversial” British surveillance program, known as Prevent, that monitors Muslim communities and individuals.

The new guidelines depict US high schools as “hotbeds of extremism,” Lazare summarized. Claiming that youth “possess inherent risk factors,” the FBI guidelines describe high school students as “ideal targets” for recruitment by violent extremists. Educational materials prepared by the FBI for schools indicate that activities ranging from using “unusual language” or “private messaging apps” and encryption (“going dark,” in FBI speak) to playing online games outside of school could indicate that “someone plans to commit violence.”

The guidelines draw on a conveyor belt theory of extremism, which contends that extreme ideas lead to violence, a model tracing back to “the first red scare in America, as well as J. Edgar Hoover’s crackdown on civil rights and anti-war activists,” Lazare wrote. As Hugh Handeyside, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project told Lazare, by broadening the definition of violent extremism, “the FBI is policing students’ thoughts and trying to predict the future based on those thoughts.”

The guidelines “are almost certainly designed” to target Muslim-American students. “In its caution to avoid the appearance of discrimination,” Lazare wrote, “the agency identifies risk factors that are so broad and vague that virtually any young person could be deemed dangerous and worthy of surveillance.” Nonetheless, the guidelines’ repeated focus on “immigrant” and “diaspora” populations, as well as cultural and religious differences, reveal an underlying agenda. The FBI “consistently invokes an Islamic threat without naming it,” Lazare reported. Arun Kundnani, author of The Muslims are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror, about Islamophobia, told AlterNet, “In practice, schools seeking to implement this document will end up monitoring Muslim students disproportionately.”

Writing for Just Security, an online forum based at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law, Danielle Jefferis of the ACLU’s National Security Project reported that “the FBI’s request that school officials spy and report on students’ ideas and beliefs risks stifling curiosity and free expression, which corrupts the trust that should exist between teachers and students.” Though the FBI asserts that it does not want to limit students’ freedom of speech, the guidelines encourage school officials to identify students who “engage in communications indicating support for extreme ideologies” or who are “curious about” subject matter that could be deemed extreme.

In calling for schools to create threat assessment teams and to “enhance domain awareness,” the FBI engages in what Jefferis characterized as “fear mongering,” which “will almost assuredly ratchet up the pressure on school officials to go to law enforcement before seeking out alternatives.” This forces school principals with the false dilemma of choosing between keeping their schools safe or upholding students’ rights to freedom of expression and equal protection. Instead, Jefferis concluded, “Our kids are safer, and our communities are stronger, when we work to protect—not erode—our fundamental values and freedoms.”

Lazare’s AlterNet report was republished by Salon. PressTV, the Free Thought Project, MintPress News, and the Intercept subsequently ran stories on the FBI’s “Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools” guidelines, but US corporate news media appear not to have covered this story in any detail.

Sarah Lazare, “The FBI Has a New Plan to Spy on High School Students across the Country” AlterNet, March 2, 2016, http://www.alternet.org/grayzone-project/fbi-has-new-plan-spy-high-school-students-across-country.

Danielle Jefferis, “The FBI Wants Schools to Spy on Their Students’ Thoughts,” Just Security, March 11, 2016, https://www.justsecurity.org/29901/fbi-schools-spy-students-thoughts/.

Student Researcher: Brandy Miceli (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)

14. FBI’s New Plan to Spy on High School Students across the Country

Vladimir Putin speaks to the Russian Security Council

SOTT Exclusive: Putin on fighting extremism, color revolutions
By Harrison Koehli
November 20, 2014

Putin at meeting of Security Council, 20 November

Putin at meeting of Security Council, 20 November

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently spoke about countering extremism in the next decade at an expanded Security Council meting in the Kremlin. As usual, he had some interesting things to say. Here are some highlights, with commentary.

On the inhumanity of extremism

“I do not believe there is any need to prove how dangerous the very nature of extremism is and how destructive its ideology is – the ideology of intolerance, hatred and animosity. In all its manifestations, extremism is aggressive in nature, seditious and often violent and linked to terrorism.

It infringes on the rights and freedoms of citizens, often even endangering their very lives; it is a threat to national security, capable of cardinally unbalancing the political, economic and social systems. Such types of extremism as nationalism, religious intolerance and political extremism are especially dangerous for society and for the state. Every crime of this type (usually resonant and heinous in itself) can provoke mass violations of public order.”

The western puppet masters also know how dangerous and destructive extremism is, which is why they foment it in regions they wish to control. They also know that ordinary people also know how dangerous and destructive it is. But unlike their leaders, they see this as a bad thing, which is why their governments make a big show about ‘fighting terrorism’.

What none of them seem to know, or what none of them wish to reveal, is that extremism has a very real cause, not to be found in its specific ideology per se. There is nothing inherently ponerizing about an extremist ideology. The reason they work is because 1) they are created by individuals with certain psychopathologies with tendencies to see the world in anti-social, anti-human, doctrinaire, black-and-white, us-and-them ways, and 2) similar people gravitate towards those ideologies, either because they share the same emotional deficits or because they are simply ignorant of what’s really going on and get riled up by the revolutionary aspects. Andrew Lobaczewski laid it all out in Political Ponerology. If only the world would listen. [“Ponerology” is the study of evil.]

On color revolutions

“I would like to add that in the modern world extremism is often used as a geopolitical instrument to rearrange spheres of influence. We see the tragic consequences of the wave of so-called ‘colour revolutions’, the turmoil in the countries that have undergone the irresponsible experiments of covert and sometimes blatant interference in their lives. We take this as a lesson and a warning, and we must do everything necessary to ensure this never happens in Russia.”


What to do

“This should not be piecemeal involvement, but a unified front, so to speak, which should act to prevent extremism, jointly educate people, including via the Internet, and create conditions for stronger peace and accord in society.

Once we achieve such coordination in every region, in each municipality, then we will have overall results in countering extremism. People would know that on their territory, there are authorities and there is a proactive and concerned society and together they can effectively resist any manifestations of extremism and maintain calm and stability.

In such conditions of trust and support, it is much easier to create an atmosphere of renouncing extremist propaganda. At the same time, the recognition by the citizens of the danger posed by extremism guarantees the efficiency of the measures taken by the authorities.

… I would like to reiterate that one of our key priorities is to breed public rejection of and civic immunity to the dissemination of extremist and radical ideas. For this purpose, we must unite the efforts of the authorities, society and all state and social agencies.”

Education is certainly important. As is a centralized effort to combat the ponerogenic process in such groups. The people need a central authority, otherwise foreign agents would be free to create and rile up existing extremist groups (ponerogenic unions). But that authority needs to be informed as to the exact causes and dynamics behind the process.

The weak spots

“I would like to single out some priority areas of our work. We should pay special attention to interethnic and inter-religious relations and fully support the culture, traditions and identity of the peoples living in a given area, town or city. This is a very delicate job, but you know what can happen if it is left undone.

The second area is work with the younger generation. It is among them that the leaders of extremist organisations are trying to find followers and conduct their propaganda, primarily using the internet. Extremist ideology is gaining momentum in the virtual world, spilling out into the real one.”

Putin is correct in that ponerogenic unions propagandize to youths (often those who are disenfranchised, who don’t feel they have any purpose, who feel powerless in the face of a national or global system that doesn’t give a shit about them) and exploit ethnic and religious differences. Most, if not all, religions have some degree of ponerogenic material, ripe for exploitation. The only solution is education, and a big part of that education is instilling real values into youths.

Illegal immigration

“The third important area is the improvement of the migration policy. We still have quite a few problems here that have to do with illegal, uncontrolled migration. We know that this breeds crime, interethnic tensions and extremism. We need greater control over compliance with regulations covering migrants’ stay in Russia and we have to take practical measures to promote their social and cultural adaptation and protect their labour and other rights.”

Whereas the U.S. seems to be against illegal immigration simply because it is a totally xenophobic and racist society, it can be a real problem. The Central Asian region of Russia’s border is largely uncontrolled, making easy entry for foreign mercenaries, drug traffickers, human traffickers, and smugglers. The U.S. has been exploiting this fact for years.


“…countering extremism has nothing to do with intolerance towards dissenters. Russia is a free democratic country and its citizens have the right to their opinion, the right to voice it and to be in opposition to the authorities. Moreover, no national leadership could ever be effective without society playing this role. … It is important that they exercise their rights, express their political preferences, positions and views in a civilised and legal manner.

As we assert our freedom of choice, the right to hold meetings, marches and rallies, we should not forget that we are responsible for our words and deeds. We must know and bear in mind that breeding conflict between people of different ethnicity and religion, propaganda of nationalist ideology, mass violations of public order on these grounds and particularly calls for a violent overthrow of the existing regime are direct manifestations of anti-national thinking and extremism. … Leaders of public movements should remember this; they should know that such actions are punishable by law.”

Those who cry “censorship!” should remember that freedom is not the same as free license. There are lines that should not be crossed, lines crossed by groups like ISIS, Ukraine’s neo-Nazi battalions, the U.S. government, NATO, etc.

On Jerusalem

“I have mentioned developments in the world. Life keeps teaching us new lessons. Sometimes this happens far from our borders; however, we should still be aware of them. The latest atrocity in Jerusalem, where praying people were attacked with an axe – this is beyond comprehension. Knowing this, realising the danger of such manifestations and having analysed their causes, we must make timely decisions that would save our country from such things.”

Putin is no doubt aware of the extent of Mossad operations in Israel. But he plays by the rules. In this case, if Mossad had a hand in the recent attack (it almost always does), it has given Putin the opportunity to use it as support for his own policies that run directly counter to the actions of countries like Israel, who foment extremism in countries they don’t like.

Harrison Koehli
Harrison Koehli hails from Edmonton, Alberta. A graduate of studies in music performance, Harrison is also an editor for Red Pill Press and has been interviewed on several North American radio shows in recognition of his contributions to advancing the study of ponerology. In addition to music and books, Harrison enjoys tobacco and bacon (often at the same time) and dislikes cell phones, vegetables, and fascists.