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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Research motivations

When I began my research, I was attempting to answer the question, "Was there a difference in COINTELPRO operations between the KKK and the New Left due to political influence?";  I expected to find that political influence from the parents of the Leftists, often Leftists themselves, had resulted in the FBI taking the gloves off to deal with the Klan, but to restrain operations against the New Left and the Black Panthers.  This is a question that has been in my mind for over thirty years, as in high school I had read in a book here and a book there that the FBI had effectively destroyed the Klan, but had curtailed their actions against the Leftists (New Left/Black Panthers).

A classmate stated last week that you had to go where the data takes you;  my research shows me that the answer to the original question is no, but that there were several political factors that did lead to differences between the Klan and the New Left:  I dropped the Panthers from the question in order to simplify the question.  In addition, the Panthers as a target of operations can be explained in the context of the history of anti-socialist operations by the FBI.  This poses two problems for me in framing the question as a research question.  The first problem was in finding the right question to ask;  how does answering this question improve our knowledge in either a pure or an applied sense?  

The second problem is in finding a theory that can be used in explaining the question.
As it stands,   I am working from an explanation that answering this question can help in making current domestic security operations more efficient and take place under more justified terms.  Currently, I think that this framing is a little sloppy, and I am working on tightening up this explanation, and looking at giving a clearer reason to ask the thesis question.

I had not included in my original research the consideration of applying any theory to the question.  At first glance, I was prepared to use the bureaucratic politics model.  However, while bureaucratic politics is a factor in explaining the operational differences, it does not not fully apply to the differences.  I found a possible answer in a source I was using; Keller's Liberal Theory of Internal Security.
Now, this theory may be too specific to use; the base position is that the liberals of the 1950s (who held much different political position than do the liberals of today) took an "approach to internal security that supported the delegation of authority to a strong central domestic intelligence agency" (Keller, 1989, p. 29).  The theory is contrasted against three models of domestic intelligence agencies; the domestic intelligence bureau, a political police, and an independent security state within the overall state (Keller, 1989, p. 13).  These models are defined on a matrix of levels of autonomy within the overall state and insularity (Keller, 1989, p. 19).   Keller maintains there are three "pillars" to this theory:  locality, prevention, and contingency based on emergency situations (1989, pp. 58-59).

There is an alternative theoretical concept that I haven't begun to examine yet, that of "militant democracy", which "was introduced to legal scholarship and constitutional practice so as to provide democracy with legal means to defend itself against the range of possible activities of non-democratic political actors" (Militant Democracy, n.d., para. 1).  The concept was developed by Karl Lowenstein in 1930s Germany in reaction to the National Socialist party; "our democracy has to be militant if it is to survive" (Kurnosov, 2011, p. 3).  My potential use of this concept depends on more study of the idea and how it fits into the research I have on hand regarding the civil liberty v. Security balance.


Keller, W. W. (1989). The liberals and J. Edgar Hoover: Rise and fall of a domestic intelligence state. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.

Kurnosov, D. (2011). Legislation against incitement of hatred: Militant democracy or interference in political process? (Thesis). Central European University.  Retrieved July 25, 2015, from http://www.etd.ceu.hu/2011/kurnosov_dmitry.pdf

Militant Democracy. (n.d.). Retrieved July 25, 2015, from https://www.routledge.com/products/9781138016422

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