set preferences and edit your own posts
add to the radicalendar
how to use this site
supporting the imc
san francisco bay area
santa cruz, ca
process & imc docs
This site made manifest by
|Add a new Article |
Comment on this article |
Email this Article |
Printable version |
News: Protest Activity
FBI Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies; ANSWER Response
Email: nlgumkc (at) yahoo.com (unverified!)
Current rating: 9
23 Nov 2003
For Immediate Release: November 23, 2003
Faced with growing opposition to the war and occupation of
Iraq, the Bush Administration has unleashed the FBI
against its political opponents. Ten days before the
October 25 demonstration that drew 100,000 people in
Washington DC marching under the slogan, "Bring the Troops
Home Now!" the FBI circulated an internal bureau
memorandum documenting a far reaching campaign against
anti-war organizations and leaders who have been involved
in mobilizing large and legal mass actions.
"Under Bush and Ashcroft the exercise of First Amendment
rights has become synonymous with terrorism. Today's front
page report in the New York Times revealing that the FBI
was targeting the recent national anti-war demonstrations
in Washington and San Francisco must be understood as the
tip of the iceberg," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard attorney
with the Partnership for Civil Justice and the National
Lawyers Guild. The Partnership for Civil Justice and the
NLG are litigating First Amendment cases against the FBI,
Secret Service and Washington DC police as well as other
law enforcement authorities for their unconstitutional
disruption actions against political demonstrators.
"Under the banner of the war on terrorism, Bush and
Ashcroft are resorting to J. Edgar Hoover's COINTELPRO
tactics of the 1950's and 1960's against the rising
anti-war movement of today," stated Brian Becker of the
A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, the initiator and co-sponsor of
the October 25 demonstration. "This is the domestic
parallel of Bush's doctrine of endless war.
Internationally, the administration has carried out war,
invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. On the
homefront the government has cynically manipulated its
so-called war on terrorism to illegally use the FBI as a
tool aimed at stifling dissent. The movement will defend
its rights, and will never be intimidated by the FBI's
illegal targeting campaigns. Confronted with a rising tide
of opposition, the Bush Administration is using its secret
police against the people of the United States," Becker
"The FBI's so-called anti-terrorism efforts have intensely
focused on political dissent since the resurgence of the
U.S. social justice and peace movement. The big lie being
foisted on the public is that these are post-September 11
counter-measures, when in fact we have uncovered in
litigation that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force as
well as the District of Columbia police department have
been conducting illegal domestic spying operations against
political groups and activists since well before September
11, 2001," stated Verheyden-Hilliard. "This has nothing
to do with terrorism and everything to do with using the
repressive apparatus of the state as a political tool,"
Email circulated by:
Act Now to Stop War & End Racism
New York Times, November 23, 2003
F.B.I. Scrutinizes Antiwar Rallies
By ERIC LICHTBLAU
WASHINGTON, Nov. 22 —— The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators and has advised local law enforcement officials to report any
suspicious activity at protests to its counterterrorism squads, according to interviews and a confidential bureau memorandum.
The memorandum, which the bureau sent to local law enforcement agencies last month in advance of antiwar demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco, detailed how protesters have sometimes used "training camps" to
rehearse for demonstrations, the Internet to raise money and gas masks to defend against tear gas. The memorandum analyzed lawful activities like recruiting demonstrators, as well as illegal activities like using fake documentation to get into a secured site.
F.B.I. officials said in interviews that the intelligence-gathering effort was aimed at identifying anarchists and "extremist elements" plotting violence, not at monitoring the political speech of law-abiding protesters.
The initiative has won the support of some local police, who view it as a critical way to maintain order at large-scale demonstrations. Indeed, some law enforcement officials said they believed the F.B.I.'s approach had
helped to ensure that nationwide antiwar demonstrations in recent months, drawing hundreds of thousands of protesters, remained largely free of violence and disruption.
But some civil rights advocates and legal scholars said the monitoring program could signal a return to the abuses of the 1960's and 1970's, when J. Edgar Hoover was the F.B.I. director and agents routinely spied on political protesters like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
"The F.B.I. is dangerously targeting Americans who are engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and dissent," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "The line between terrorism
and legitimate civil disobedience is blurred, and I have a serious concern about whether we're going back to the days of Hoover."
Herman Schwartz, a constitutional law professor at American University who has written about F.B.I. history, said collecting intelligence at demonstrations is probably legal. But he added: "As a matter of principle, it has a very serious chilling effect on peaceful demonstration. If you go around telling people, `We're going to ferret out information on demonstrations,' that deters people.
People don't want their names and pictures in F.B.I. files."
The abuses of the Hoover era, which included efforts by the F.B.I. to harass and discredit Hoover's political enemies under a program known as Cointelpro, led to tight restrictions on F.B.I. investigations of political
Those restrictions were relaxed significantly last year, when Attorney
General John Ashcroft issued guidelines giving agents authority to attend
political rallies, mosques and any event "open to the public."
Mr. Ashcroft said the Sept. 11 attacks made it essential that the F.B.I. be
allowed to investigate terrorism more aggressively. The bureau's recent
strategy in policing demonstrations is an outgrowth of that policy,
"We're not concerned with individuals who are exercising their
constitutional rights," one F.B.I. official said. "But it's obvious that
there are individuals capable of violence at these events. We know that
there are anarchists that are actively involved in trying to sabotage and
commit acts of violence at these different events, and we also know that
these large gatherings would be a prime target for terrorist groups."
Civil rights advocates, relying largely on anecdotal evidence, have
complained for months that federal officials have surreptitiously sought to
suppress the First Amendment rights of antiwar demonstrators.
Critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, for instance, have sued
the government to learn how their names ended up on a "no fly" list used to
stop suspected terrorists from boarding planes. Civil rights advocates have
accused federal and local authorities in Denver and Fresno, Calif., of
spying on antiwar demonstrators or infiltrating planning meetings. And the
New York Police Department this year questioned many of those arrested at
demonstrations about their political affiliations, before halting the
practice and expunging the data in the face of public criticism.
The F.B.I. memorandum, however, appears to offer the first corroboration of
a coordinated, nationwide effort to collect intelligence regarding
The memorandum, circulated on Oct. 15 —— just 10 days before many thousands
gathered in Washington and San Francisco to protest the American occupation
of Iraq —— noted that the bureau "possesses no information indicating that
violent or terrorist activities are being planned as part of these
protests" and that "most protests are peaceful events."
But it pointed to violence at protests against the International Monetary
Fund and the World Bank as evidence of potential disruption. Law
enforcement officials said in interviews that they had become particularly
concerned about the ability of antigovernment groups to exploit
demonstrations and promote a violent agenda.
"What a great opportunity for an act of terrorism, when all your resources
are dedicated to some big event and you let your guard down," a law
enforcement official involved in securing recent demonstrations said. "What
would the public say if we didn't look for criminal activity and
intelligence at these events?"
The memorandum urged local law enforcement officials "to be alert to these
possible indicators of protest activity and report any potentially illegal acts" to counterterrorism task forces run by the F.B.I. It warned about an array of threats, including homemade bombs and the formation of human chains.
The memorandum discussed demonstrators' "innovative strategies," like the videotaping of arrests as a means of "intimidation" against the police. And it noted that protesters "often use the Internet to recruit, raise funds and coordinate their activities prior to demonstrations."
"Activists may also make use of training camps to rehearse tactics and counter-strategies for dealing with the police and to resolve any logistical issues," the memorandum continued. It also noted that protesters may raise money to help pay for lawyers for those arrested.
F.B.I. counterterrorism officials developed the intelligence cited in the memorandum through firsthand observation, informants, public sources like the Internet and other methods, officials said.
Officials said the F.B.I. treats demonstrations no differently than other large-scale and vulnerable gatherings. The aim, they said, was not to monitor protesters but to gather intelligence.
Critics said they remained worried. "What the F.B.I. regards as potential
terrorism," Mr. Romero of the A.C.L.U. said, "strikes me as civil