FBI Report Shows Ease of Identifying Political Protesters as Terrorist
I just plowed through the FBI’s 191-page internal investigation of its spying on domestic political groups.
What I read does not reassure me.
In fact, if you’re engaged in nonviolent civil disobedience or direct action, your odds of having an FBI file on you as a potential terrorist seem pretty high, even if all you’re doing is trespassing on a military base. For instance, the investigations of PETA and of Greenpeace personnel and even Catholic Worker members were justified, the inspector general said, because of prior violations of federal laws or the reasonable possibility of upcoming violations. (The FBI shouldn’t have referred to the Catholic Worker as a “communistic” organization, however, the report said.)
What’s more, the FBI is not above falsifying its records to cover up its spying on totally nonviolent political activism.
Take the case of the Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh.
The Thomas Merton Center calls itself “Pittsburgh’s Peace and Justice Center.” In 2002, a local G-Man wrote a memo on the Thomas Merton Center with the synopsis: “Pittsburgh anti-war activity.” The agent had also taken photographs of a woman “perceived to be of Middle Eastern descent” who was attending an anti-war rally sponsored by the Merton Center.
When a Freedom of Information Act request uncovered the FBI’s documents related to this spying, the FBI issued a press release that wasn’t accurate. And when Senator Leahy questioned FBI Director Mueller about the spying on the Thomas Merton Center in a Senate hearing in 2006, Mueller provided false information about it, the report says.
He didn’t do so intentionally, the report says, but because he relied on a report by the Pittsburgh office, which had engaged in an “after-the-fact reconstruction” to make it look like the office had advance warning that a terrorist suspect would be at the anti-war rally.
This is deeply troubling.
So are the incidents where the FBI overstepped its bounds and spied on a couple of individuals for no justifiable reason.
And so is the wide latitude the FBI has to identify political protesters as potential terrorists and put them on the “watch list.”
Obama ought to narrow that latitude in a hurry.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his other "McCarthyism Watch" pieces by clicking here.
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