Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

Protesters march through lower Manhattan over the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police on June 19, 2020. (Photo: Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images)

Protesters march through lower Manhattan over the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police on June 19, 2020. (Photo: Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images)

New Records Reveal Scope of DEA Spying on 2020 Racial Justice Protests

CREW counted at least 51 instances where agencies enlisted DEA to secretly monitor protesters engaged in First Amendment-protected activity.

The Drug Enforcement Administration approved at least 51 requests from state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies to conduct covert surveillance during racial justice protests last summer, according to records obtained by CREW. The nationwide surveillance operation occurred in cities including Los Angeles, Tampa, Denver, and St. Louis, and involved agents infiltrating crowds undercover, as well as aerial and vehicular surveillance to monitor protesters.

The operations were part of a two-week expansion of the DEA's domestic surveillance authority by Justice Department leadership in June 2020, as first reported by BuzzFeed News. An initial release of records, obtained by CREW in an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, detailed DEA's surveillance efforts in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Albuquerque.

The new records reveal the full scope of the DEA's surveillance operations last summer. While some agencies sought DEA's help with apprehending people suspected of theft or looting, CREW counted at least 51 instances where agencies enlisted DEA to secretly monitor protesters engaged in First Amendment-protected activity.

In California, the DEA approved surveillance requests submitted to its Los Angeles Division Office by police departments in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Baldwin Park. The Santa Monica Police Department specifically sought "the assistance of DEA agents to support undercover surveillance operations."

dea 1

In Florida, the DEA approved a request submitted to its Tampa District Office by the University of South Florida Police Department for "undercover DEA Special Agents" to pose as "members of a scheduled 'vigil'" on June 12 at the university's Martin Luther King, Jr. Plaza. Press reports show that the vigil was peaceful and proceeded without incident.

dea 2

The DEA also approved a request from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to provide a "full time agent and intelligence analyst" to work "hand in hand" with officers.

dea 3

In some cities, the DEA provided aircraft surveillance to local divisions and police departments. The Denver Police Department requested DEA "aerial support" to monitor planned protests for up to two days.

dea 4

U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Air division requested the assistance of DEA's San Antonio District Office "to conduct surveillance during a protest scheduled for…June 2."

dea 5

On June 2, the St. Louis Police Department requested surveillance-related support for "rioting/looting." They followed up the next day with an updated request for aerial support.

dea 6

Many cities requested that DEA agents monitor protests from within while undercover. Two police departments in upstate New York requested that DEA agents dress in "plain clothes."

dea 7

In New Jersey, the Newark Police Department and Essex County Sheriff's Office requested that the DEA conduct surveillance to "identify protest leaders and agitators who are inciting violence." Similarly, records obtained by CREW in April show that law enforcement officers in Philadelphia requested that the DEA identify protest leaders.

dea 8

In Nevada, the DEA approved the Reno Police Department's May 30 request "to assist in providing intelligence on the movement of protesters." They followed up with another request on June 5 for "static and mobile surveillance" and covert vehicle intelligence gathering support.

dea 9

Similarly, the Asbury Park Police Department in New Jersey requested "mobile/vehicular surveillance" to "provide intelligence on agitators and radical groups such as [redacted]."

dea 10

The records also provided additional insight into DEA's previously reported surveillance activities in Chicago and Albuquerque.

The stark difference between federal law enforcement's preparations for racial justice protests last summer and the failures in preparation for the white nationalist attack on our Capitol on January 6 demands close scrutiny. The full extent of protester surveillance must be made public to prevent future politically motivated responses and abuses by law enforcement. If culpable individuals and institutions are not held accountable, they will continue to maintain harmful policies and systems at the expense of communities of color.


Rebecca Jacobs

Rebecca Jacobs

Rebecca Jacobs is a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Prior to joining CREW, Rebecca interned with several organizations including Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and Unite Here. She has spent time in Brussels, Belgium as a student and intern at Interel Group. In 2018, Rebecca earned her B.A. from American University, where she studied political science with a concentration in public policy.

Hajar Hammado

Hajar Hammado

Hajar Hammado is a policy associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Prior to joining CREW, Hajar worked as a regional GOTV director in Iowa, and was an opposition researcher at Reger Research. Hajar is originally from California and received her B.A. with honors in political studies from Pitzer College, a member of the Claremont Colleges.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

New York Taxi Workers Stage Hunger Strike to Demand Medallion Debt Relief

"They are an essential industry here in New York City," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, "and we need to make sure we're doing right by them."

Julia Conley ·


'It's Not Coming Out': Bernie Sanders Stands Firm on Medicare Expansion

"It's what the American people want and, after waiting over 50 years, what they are going to get."

Julia Conley ·


'When We Organize, We Win': Ocasio-Cortez Joins India Walton at Rally in Buffalo

The two progressives joined striking hospital workers on the picket line at Mercy Hospital after the early voting rally.

Julia Conley ·


Fatal Film Set Shooting Followed Outcry by Union Crew Members Over Safety Protocols

"When union members walk off a set about safety concerns, maybe 'hiring scabs' isn’t the solution you think it is."

Julia Conley ·


New Whistleblower Sparks Calls to 'Crack Down on Facebook and All Big Tech Companies'

Hours after another ex-employee filed a formal complaint, reporting broke on internal documents that show the tech giant's failure to address concerns about content related to the 2020 U.S. election.

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo