Police State

Martin Luther King Also Had a Nightmare

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, WhoWhatWhy presents — through a fascinating collection of pictures — a brief history of American racism, a look at the kind of hatred, atrocities, and soul-searing humiliation that spurred King into action. Rather than the stuff of dreams, much of it was a living nightmare. We first published this piece in 2015, but it remains more relevant than ever — because we seem to be going backwards. We want you to see, with your own eyes, just how ugly it can get.

Why Investigations of “Intelligence Failures” Go Nowhere

The watchdogs tasked with overseeing the federal government are pushing back against a growing defiance from agencies like the FBI. The agencies’ subtle and not-so- subtle obstruction sheds light on why attempts to fix responsibility for “intelligence failures” — like the probe into the lead-up to the Boston Marathon bombing — typically amount to a whole lot of nothing.

Classic WhoWhatWhy: Police State Gears Up

On May 18, 2015, President Obama made a surprising announcement: he ordered the federal government to reverse its standing practice of providing American police departments with surplus weapons and vehicles from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. Given declining confidence in police after a seemingly constant recent stream of fatalities involving black suspects, this newfound caution with heavy provisioning is understandable. But questions about the wisdom of militarizing police are not new. WhoWhatWhy first wrote about the issue in February, 2014.

UPDATE: Portland Votes For the Police State

The city of Portland, Oregon will fully rejoin the FBI-led Joint Counterterrorism Task Force, after being the lone holdout nationwide. In doing so, Portland rejoins a network of 104 such multi-agency units which have proliferated the federal government’s national security mandate to the local level in force since the 9/11 attacks.

Up for a Vote: Rejoining America’s Police State

Portland, Oregon, may seem like an unlikely site for a stand against the FBI-led counterterrorism task forces that have spread to more than 100 cities since 9/11. Yet the city, which prides itself on odd-man-out independence, is now voting on whether it will rejoin the feds. The question they’re considering is an important one: whether cities or states get any protection from the federally-funded operations, or are just losing their independence to a national mandate.

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