An incredible amount of taxpayer money goes into the U.S. government’s sprawling, powerful national-security and domestic-surveillance apparatus. Millions upon millions upon millions of those dollars often get funneled to programs such as the Trump administration’s efforts to prevent threats to the republic as daunting as Insane Clown Posse fans, violent emojis, and people (supposedly) trying to break Netflix star Joe Exotic out of prison.
On this week’s episode of The Daily Beast’s Fever Dreams podcast, hosts Asawin Suebsaeng and Will Sommer sit down with Ken Klippenstein, a reporter at The Intercept, to discuss Ken’s investigative work exposing the federal government’s bizarre, and at times frightening, secret obsessions and targets during the Trump and Biden eras.
“I must have FOIA’d dozens of different state fusion centers [that work with the Department of Homeland Security], and what I got back was, I mean, it ranged from comical to frightening, in terms of what they’re doing,” Klippenstein tells Fever Dreams. “On the comical end, they’re worried about juggalos, it’s this big bugaboo of the national security state…Let me read you some of the examples of titles of these intelligence reports from the fusion centers to give you a flavor of what they’re up to. Here’s one title: ‘Criminal and Violent Extremists’ Use of Emojis.’”
“There’s hundreds of millions of dollars going into these things, it’s crazy!” Klippenstein says.
Another U.S. intel report that was internally circulated during Donald Trump’s presidency goes by the title of “Subscribers of Black Extremism Collaborate Musically.” And courtesy of a Florida fusion center comes a document reading, “BREAK JOE EXOTIC OUT OF JAIL”—in all caps—“THEY CAN’T STOP US ALL,” which according to Klippenstein, was likely the result of “a lot of fear that there was going to be some kind of bum-rush of the prison where Joe Exotic is staying in… I think it was some Facebook group, maybe someone did [it] as a joke.”
On the other end of the hilarity-to-depression spectrum of these types of reports, Klippenstein also describes one that was distributed internally by the National Capital Region Threat Intelligence Consortium of Washington, DC. It’s title? “Novel Coronavirus Unlikely to Impact the District at This Time.” That report bears the date of… January 2020.
Elsewhere on this episode of Fever Dreams, Sommer and Suebsaeng also cover the “totally unconstitutional” and “fucking stupid” legislation coming out of Florida that aims to retaliate against social-media companies for “deplatforming” and imaginary “shadow-banning”—particularly when it comes to beloved or high-profile conservatives and candidates such as Donald Trump and his ilk. (Of course, the law has a completely cronyist carve-out for Disney and theme-park owners, though!)
The hosts also break down the renewed Rudy Giuliani-Alan Dershowitz bromance that has blossomed in the aftermath of the federal raid on the Trump lawyer’s apartment and office—and how a chunk of modern-day conservative ideology seems to boil down to: “Oh, wait, my crimes… don’t have blanket protection from [the feds] stealing my stuff, I want my iPad back.”
And if you haven’t been following the latest on Trumpist attorney Lin Wood’s mission to take over the South Carolina Republican Party—in part by accusing his opponents of being too soft on pedophilia—Sommer’s got you covered.