*The time line of events: 1998 – 2008 Here is a time line of events of the on and off experiences I have had with repression U.S.A. Style. Complete with Detectives of the New York Police Department, the FBI of both the New York and Boston offices, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. As always some events and experiences become more clear as time passes. Blanks are filled in and some mysteries solved. These events occur on and off like a re-occurring virus. I wrote down all strange and weird events and things that didn’t seem right; things that made me and my friends go hmm. Folks told me to write down every detail of strange events to see if there is a pattern. They told me that even if the strange event doesn’t have an immediate explanation, to go with my gut feelings and write it down. 1998 I started working with 2 related Palestinian activist groups. One of the main members of the groups was detained after 9/11, in April 2002 for 2 years.
His name is Farouk Abdel-Muhti One of the first signs that things were starting to get strange was that I started to have problems with my P.O. box mail. I opened the P.O. box in 1990 at a copy shop owned by 2 really sweet neighborhood guys who are totally on our side politically; from local fights against gentrification and police brutality in NYC, to world events and against war. The problems started with the mail in 1998, 8 years after I opened the P.O.Box account in 1990. Some mail I would get would take up to 40 days to arrive even though some had been mailed from the same neighborhood. Sometimes my phone bills would come slit open or the bill would not be inside the envelope. Other times I wouldn’t get my phone bills at all. A few times my phone got cut off. I called the phone co. and they’d tell me they sent bills and shut-off notices and I said I didn’t get them. I of course did believe them because they want to get paid. I would show the mail to the guys in the copy shop and they’d say that they noticed that but they just put it in my box. A lot of times I wouldn’t get letters from my friends and family and they were never returned to the sender – it’s as if the mail disappeared into some black hole and my friends would say that my mail is hanging out with the socks that go missing during a trip to the laundry. Others said that I have “Govt heat”.
I just blamed the flakes at the post office. 1999 Same crap with the mail, but this time I wouldn’t get any mail for almost a month and then it would all arrive on the same day, even though the date stamps on the mail sent locally were sometimes 2 or 3 weeks old. The guys at the copy shop even made comments when they noticed it, such as: “Wow, when it rains it pours. Just like your catering jobs.” Which was soo true, we would have no work for a month and then we were slammed with tons of work complete with double shifts. My friends noticed too. When I’d complain about the flakes at the post office they would say “Can’t you see you have heat and your mail is being messed with.?” The parents of some of my child hood friends were in the Black Panther Party so they grew up with repression and can smell it a mile away. . So, I went to the post office for our neighborhood to tell them about my mail problems. All they could say–including the manager–was that “Oh, your family, friends, and phone company probably don’t have the correct address”. I told them I’d had the same P.O. Box address for 9 years already – since 1990 Why would they all “forget “ the correct address starting in mid 1998? I went to the post office at least 4 times and got the same response. They also couldn’t explain why I got my mail all in one monthly batch there abouts, rather than coming every few days like normal. In March of ’99, I got mail from a white supremacist group called 88. i.e: Heil Hitler. I was part of a support group for an activist locked up for anti Nazi activity in Texas and an 88 member–who was locked up in the same prison in Texas as my friend–put my friends’ return address on the envelope. He misspelled my friend’s name by 1 letter. The 88 member asked the 3 of us who received basically the same letter, “ Are you Jews or ( the N word)? Stop spreading lies and propaganda, or else.” . Also, in the spring of 1999, as I left my P.O. Box I heard some one call me by my first name. I looked around. This is my neighborhood so it could have been any one of my friends. So, I looked around to see who it was. It turned out to be a cop in his patrol car. When I looked at him and realized it was him. He pointed his finger at me as if he were pulling a trigger and said “bang!”.
From July-Nov 1999, I went out of the country and I did not get any of my bank statements while I was gone. I had a friend/roommate getting my mail while I was gone and she was surprised by the irregularity of my mail delivery. I changed my P.O. Box at the end of 1999 after I got back. . So as far as the home front in 1999, some strange stuff happened that made me, my friends, my neighbors, and roommates go hmmm. In May 1999, one day after me and my roommate (who was also with the 2 Palestine groups) had a cleaning attack in our apartment., we went to eat breakfast. I came back 1 hour later to find my apartment door slightly open. We always locked the door even if we go to the corner store for a minute. I was worried that the 250 dollars we put on the counter for the electric bill was gone but it was all there. However, my things were moved around on the shelf in my room,. My work checks were taken out of the envelope my boss had put them in, my visa to Egypt was taken out of its envelope, and laid out and on top of the little pile was a postcard from a friend that had been on a different part of the shelf. That was a weird one.
During that spring on many occasions when I called home to my home number to speak to my roommate, the phone would ring and I would hear a pick up sound as if someone had answered. I’d say “hello” and usually some guy would say “hello” back and I’d say “you’re not my roommate”, and he’d say “I know”. Meanwhile, the ringing was still going on in the background I would hang up feeling all creeped out and I would re-call my roommate and she would answer and I asked her each time this happened if the phone just rang before I called and she would say no. This happened at least 5 times that spring of 1999 . I didn’t have a cell phone and was reliant on street phones back then.. Then in June 1999 when my new roommate got home ½ an hour before me (we left to go to work that morning at the same time), she called me all freaked out and upset because the door to our our apartment was un-locked.
We found that our hot water heater was on–which was dangerous because it was a fire hazard if left on. We only turned it on when we used the hot water in the kitchen and turned it right off afterward because our hot water leaked. In addition, the pills for my cat that he had to take for 2 weeks because of his urinary tract infection were not on the counter where we’d left them. We’d had nothing on our counter where we’d left his pills, so it’s not like the bottle could get lost among clutter because we were clean freaks. All that was on the counter was the dish rack. She was supposed to give him his night time pill at 6pm and she freaked out when she couldn’t find the pill bottle. So she called me up at work all upset and I told her I was due home in 15 minutes. I got home and found her looking for his pills. We kept a clean and clutter-free home–everything had its place. I helped her look and I even looked in the small bag for daily trash that we had on a hook on the wall far up above the counter. We’d placed it there on purpose so the cat would not get into it (even though he was not the type of cat to forage in the trash; however, he did enjoy tearing up plastic bags if we left one down low enough for him to get to). I looked in the bag that was hanging up above the counter and was surprised to find his pill bottle in the bottom of the bag covered with junk mail and coffee grounds from our morning coffee. My hair stood on end, and my roommate and I just looked at each other with an expression of “Hmmmh, What the fuck?”, and she started to hum the twilight zone song to break our mutual creeped out moment.
She jokingly asked the cat “What happened? How did you get your pills from the counter up to the trash bag and onto the bottom of that bag? You’re a talented cat. Too bad you’re not wired for sound!.” I’d known this woman since we were little kids and she is very reliable and on point Several more times we both came home to an un-locked apartment door, yet nothing was ever stolen, even though we both left for work at the same time and were ever so anal in locking the door, complete with a turn of the knob and a lean on to make sure the door was securely shut–hey, we’re both New Yorkers. 2000 Nothing weird happened till 2000. I stayed with Farouk and our friends because practically all of my catering jobs were out by them. One night in March I came home at 2 am from a job and only Farouk was still up. The others were asleep. So as we sat talking and eating cereal, the door bell rang at 3 am so I went down to answer and it was the police. They said they got a call from us about domestic violence and I said no, we didn’t call, so they said the call came from this address. I told them we are fine.
They said OK and left. Another roommate in another apartment and I came home a few times to our doorknob lock socket hanging loose,during the summer of 2000. In fact one time it was ½ out of its socket in the door. Other than that, nothing weird happened till October/November 2004. 2004 In October and November of 2004, I noticed my phone bill jump up to double the usual bill amount. I just used it for dial up to get on line, never for the phone since I had a cell phone. So I called in to complain and told them I don’t use the phone since I have a cell so all I do is get on line via dial-up once or maybe twice a day- before and after work. So the phone company sent me an itemized bill showing each call or dial up made from that number, complete with date and time of each call. I saw that each time I’d dial up to get on line there was another call 1 minute after each of my dial-ups and to the same # as my dial-up #. – no wonder my bill was double. So I asked why and all they could say was that the lines were crossed and I asked what that means. They said a neighbor could make a call on your line and you get billed and I said my situation is different because it is not strangers #s showing up on my bill, it is the dial-up # that I use being dialed 1 minute after I dial up – every time I dialed up as a matter of fact. The phone company was stuck in stupid on that one.
They reimbursed me for the 2 months of double billing. 2005 In March of 2005 I noticed I gained a screen saver on my computer I’d had since 2000. I never chose a screen saver and according to my computer geek friends, you have to chose a screen saver. You don’t all of a sudden get blessed with one – 5 years later at that. They said maybe someone has a “back door” into my computer. The screen saver was pencil drawn Galileo sketches of weird machines that changed form, animated style. They would flow across the screen. I noticed it and I didn’t know what it was and some of my friends commented on how cool it was and where did I get it from. I said that it just showed up, I didn’t choose it or know what it was. To me it looked like a person from like 1905 tried to predict what kind of machines we’d have in the future. I thought it was cool. Strange things going on in our apartment which spanned the spring/summer 2005- June-Sept The first weirdness was in June when my roommate came home and found one of my decorations I had in our hall placed on his bed. Right away he asked me if I put it on his bed, and I right away blamed the cat without thinking. He said “I shut the door tight so the cat doesn’t go in to lay on the computer.” I said “Duh, of course you do.” (he was right). So we just said hhmmmm.. that’s weird. We changed the lock anyway.
Then one day in July I came home to find one of those little museum style tabs you get when you go to a museum that has an M on it. But this one was sky blue with a eye drawn on it in black, so when he came home that day, I commented to him about it saying it was cute and where did he get it. He got this scared as fuck look and said “I didn’t bring that in here!?” He then said that someone is definitely getting in here. He also said it was creepy that it had an eye drawn on it as if to say “We are watching you” In August I came home to find my little knick knack figurines that were on top of my TV and cable box moved around. Some of them were placed on the table that the TV was on. We couldn’t blame the cat for that one because when he gets hyper and gallops around the house he slides into the TV table, scattering some the the figurines around and knocking them on their sides all over the TV, table, and floor.
They are not standing upright after one of his hyper cat moments. Then after I came home from the beach with a friend of mine, we came to my house and she saw a Polaroid photo of a whitish guy with a black shirt with an American flag on it. It looks as if he is standing in a long ass airport tunnel in the D.C. airport. This photo was in our hallway of our apt. and she said “who is this hotty?” and I said “oh I don’t know, it wasn’t here this morning – maybe he is a friend of my roommate”. Sooo… when my roommate got home soon after we got back from the beach, I told him that my friend thinks his friend is a hotty. He said “what friend ?”, and I pointed to the Polaroid photo and said “HIM!” My roommate had a look of fear that both my friend and I caught onto right away and he said “I don’t know who that is or who put it here. It was not here this morning when I left!” I said “I know .. I figured you might have gotten your mail and came back home and put it there.” He said the guy looked whitish or could be Latino, Italian or Arab. He said “M.L., someone is getting in here- for real!” This was on Labor Day weekend 2005. My friend was horrified to no end..she stood there looking at us with an expression that said – WHAT THE FUCK! (I was telling her all the previous crap as it was happening so she had an idea). He said to her “This is crazy, has M.L told you about all this stuff going on in here?” She said yes. Just after Labor day I came home to find my little suction cup window chime that said Allah on it in Arabic complete with a house blessing prayer, that I got years back, missing from the kitchen window. I looked high and low for it. I asked my roommate about it and he told me he didn’t move it. It was too big for the cat to hide it anywhere and anyway, we were minimalist and did not have crap and clutter around the house. It is real hard to lose stuff because there was no place to lose stuff in or under.. we are proud neat freaks!! So in mid September as my roommate and I were getting ready to move to a new place, he left it up to me to pick a spot because he trusted my opinion on apartments. So.. he got arrested at a bag search in NYC a few days before we were due to move and 24 hours later he called me from a pay phone, not from his cell phone like normal, and he was all freaked out and he said “M.L. – I just got out of jail because I got stopped at a bag search and they got all funny about my letter opener even though I just came from my P.O.Box. They arrested me and I need to tell you that I can’t be your roommate, and that all the weird stuff going on in the apartment is not a coincidence.” He also said that I should not talk in the house, that I should watch my back, and then he said he will be home in an hour and we can go to a loud place to talk.
I was with our neighbor when he called. We were eating Chinese soup for breakfast – our daily practice since we lived in Chinatown Brooklyn. She saw my reaction and said I looked like a real whitey now since I lost all my color for a minute there (she’s Black). I felt all rubbery and a bit shaky as I wrote down what he said to me on the phone and she had this expression that said holy shit! She told me I should come do errands with her, so I did. I did not even know the worst of it at that point. She said ”This is getting weirder and weirder by the week!” I just thank god that I was with her when this went down and that she was there while all this other “psyops” stuff was going on in the apartment. Several of my older and way more experienced activist friends who have been activists since the 60s and 70s with the Black Panther Party and White anti-imperialist friends said all this crap happening sounds like “psyops” on the part of the feds, etc. This is a fed version of “gas lighting”, doing weird shit in someone’s place trying to scare and freak them out. I said I guess.. but I am not sure ( I am a real stickler to facts and since all this crap was not identified as fed stunts straight up at that point I just said it was “weird stuff” happening.) It is not my style to assume it is FBI or what ever, I’d just say “hey this and that happened”.
I felt like my security at home was being invaded. The hoped for response is that I would be totally creeped out and to not do anything out of sheer fear, but I knew that is how they operate so I didn’t get too bothered but I was creeped out for sure, I cannot lie. So, I saw my roommate a few hours later after his call to me and he said the same stuff, plus throwing in the fact that I should try to notice if I see the same people in different places, and that I should not get the apt because we went through a broker, which leaves a paper trail. I said it is too late, it is a done deal. I was like – “DUDE what is up man. Who questioned you?” and he said the NYPD took him in at the bag search and then “homeland security types” talked to him. I said “OK, but what got into you and why are you being so 007 with me, and what did they say to you that causes you to tell me all these ‘security precautions’ that I need to take?” He got freaky again and said that he just got done with 24 hours of interrogation and he can’t answer any more questions. I said “Well you should tell me straight up.” He got all nervous and uptight and said “It’s your politics, plus the U.N. General Assembly is in town and they are worried.” I then said “And…what does that have to do with me??.” I jokingly said “Are you saying I should take off and visit a common friend of ours overseas for a while?” He said ‘Ssshhh, don’t talk about your plans!” as he looked around – mind you, we were the only non-Chinese walking on that street in our neighborhood in Chinatown Brooklyn. He was so scared and he said he doesn’t know what to do now and he hugged me and said “I love you and be safe! “- so that was the last I saw of him – we were out of there the next day since the lease was up. So..let’s fast forward to this January 2008 – it all came out in the wash (the mystery is solved) as they say.
My boss at the gallery saw my ex-roommate at a poetry reading this January 2008 and my boss asked him where the hell has he been. He said he left NYC because he was “scared to death” because when he got arrested at that bag search in September 2005 and showed them his ID with our address on it, the NYPD checked it on their computer. The FBI was called in and the FBI told my roommate to get away and stay away from me because I am a dangerous person and that I associate with dangerous people. They told him that they want to get a hold of me to make me name names and they said some Arabic names to him, so he freaked out and ran away back to CA. My boss scolded him and said to him “Why didn’t you tell M.L. what happened right off the bat when you had the chance? Why did you leave her in the dark?” He just repeated that he was scared to death. My boss said he could tell he was intimidated and terrorized but that it would have been better if he told me what happened, because I would have been more prepared for the FBI calls of October 06. I saw another mutual friend of me and my roommate(who I haven’t seen in 3 years) and she said he told her the same thing plus adding that the FBI told him that I am “deeply involved with an underground Palestinian terrorist organization.” Back to 2005 In October 2005, one month after I left that apartment, I got my bank statement ( I did not do a official postal change of address form. I just called folks and gave them my new address). I noticed on my bank statement that money was missing via a Pay Pal account that used my bank account number to open this account. So I called up the bank and they asked me my mailing address and I gave the P.O. Box address I was using at that time. They said who ever did this used an address in Brooklyn (my home address) and not my P.O box on record with the bank. So that right there showed the bank this was fishy. Also, only my first name was used, not my full name on record with the bank.