The Nation

Law Enforcement’s Warrior Complex Is on Full Display in the Streets—and in Leaked Documents

Hacked documents from the early weeks of the ongoing protest movement illustrate one of Black Lives Matter’s central observations: Policing in the United States functions as a military occupation.

Read the full piece in The Nation

The flyer was heavy on drama and ellipses.

“3x as many cops chose to take their own lives last year as died from felonious gunfire… WHY? Evil is real … It has a plan to defeat you …” it said. Then, a quote: “‘The skillful fighter puts himself into a position which makes defeat impossible…’—Sun Tzu.”

This bulletin, uploaded to an Alabama law enforcement website in March 2020 and accessed by hackers this summer, advertised to officers a police training course, approved for seven credit hours by the state police standards and training commission. Titled (in “oriental” typeface), “Sun Tzu and the Officer Resiliency Mindset,” the course promised to use “the epic war tome, The Art of War, required reading for the CIA, U.S. Military Intelligence and the Marine Corps Reading Program,” to examine how ancient wartime tactics “are used to destroy law enforcement officer’s [sic] psychological well-being.”

“This course will share ‘rubber meet the road’ strategies that will armor up warriors psychologically, fortifying them against defeat!”

The flyer is part of 269 gigabytes of data stolen in June 2020 by the hacktivist movement known as Anonymous and published by Distributed Denial of Secrets, a transparency collective. The files, known as BlueLeaks, come from over 250 law enforcement sites, and mostly span from 2007 to mid-June 2020; since their release, journalists have used documents swept up in the hack to shine a light on such malfeasance as the militarized targeting of immigrant rights activists, police–social media company collaboration, and the use of junk science interrogation techniques.

Some of the most recent BlueLeaks files—which cover the ongoing nationwide protest movement against racism and policing up to roughly its second week—also shed light on what countless videos and police statements this summer have exposed, and what the Sun Tzu flyer so unsubtly illustrated: that US law enforcement has a warrior complex.

In memos, intelligence reports, and other interdepartmental communications from the days following the police killing of George Floyd, domestic law enforcement agencies, especially those on the federal level, put on display their zeal for War on Terror–style counterinsurgency, their propensity to portray themselves as under constant threat by conniving aggressors, and their willingness—even eagerness—to signal-boost disprovable rumors of dissenters’ violent intentions. Taken together, these documents give credence to one of the central observations of the Black Lives Matter movement: that law enforcement in the United States functions as a military occupation.


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