Viva La Resistance
FBI memo encourages local police to spy on protest groups
Thu Dec 4 15:44:08 2003
Viva La Resistance!
FBI Memo Tells Local Police to Target Activists and
FBI memo encourages local police to spy on protest groups
By Jamie Chapman
2 December 2003
A confidential FBI memorandum sent to over 15,000 local law enforcement
agencies in October urged them to "be alert to these possible indicators of
protest activity and report any potentially illegal acts to the nearest FBI
Joint Terrorism Task Force." Among the "criminal activities" of protesters
catalogued in the memo are "use of the internet to recruit, raise funds, and
coordinate their activities prior to demonstrations" as well as "[d]uring
the course of a demonstration ... using cell phones or radios to coordinate
activities or to update colleagues about ongoing events."
Other examples of criminal activity cited include using tape recorders and
video cameras, which "may be used for documenting potential cases of police
brutality and for distribution of information over the internet"; wearing
scarves and sunglasses "to minimize the effects of tear gas and pepper spray
as well as obscure one's identity"; and wearing "layered clothing" as a form
of "body protection equipment."
The implications of the memo are sweeping. There is hardly anyone among
protest demonstrators who has not worn sunglasses, layered clothing or used
a cell phone. By making an amalgam of these commonplace activities with
"more aggressive tactics," including terrorism, the FBI has made millions of
people the potential subjects of police surveillance.
The memo, issued on October 15, specifically targeted the mass marches
against the occupation of Iraq that took place on October 25 in Washington,
DC, and San Francisco. While acknowledging that the FBI had no indication of
any violent or terrorist activities being planned in conjunction with the
protests, it nonetheless cautioned that "elements of the activist community
may attempt to engage in violent, destructive, or disruptive acts." In the
event, the only violent or disruptive acts reported were when the DC Metro
police ran their motorcycles into the crowd shoving people around. No
arrests were reported.
When the New York Times revealed the existence of the FBI memo in a
front-page story on Sunday, November 23, headlined "F.B.I. Scrutinizes
Antiwar Rallies," antiwar and civil liberties groups denounced the
initiative. One of the main organizations behind the October 25
demonstrations, International A.N.S.W.E.R., condemned the Bush
administration's "crass intimidation tactics against the antiwar movement."
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Executive Director Anthony Romero
issued a statement saying, "Attorney General [John] Ashcroft has dismissed
critics of the Justice Department's tactics as 'hysterical' and has even
said that such criticism aids the terrorists. But this bulletin confirms
that the federal government is targeting innocent Americans engaged in
nothing more than lawful protest and dissent." He added, "It is troubling
that the FBI is advocating spying on peaceful protesters, but even
protesters who engage in civil disobedience or other disruptive acts should
not be treated like potential terrorists" and warned of "a return to the
days of J. Edgar Hoover's spying tactics."
Former FBI Director Hoover was known for conducting warrantless wiretaps and
other surveillance of political opponents of the government, including such
well-known figures as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Rumors continue to
circulate about FBI involvement in King's assassination on April 4, 1968.
Extensive spying on anti-Vietnam War groups and others, ranging from the
Black Panther Party to the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP), was conducted under the FBI operation known as
COINTELPRO, for "counterintelligence programs."
A 1976 US Senate report on intelligence excesses, known as the Church report
for the special committee's chair Frank Church, documented the existence of
over 500,000 domestic intelligence files at FBI headquarters-plus countless
more in FBI regional offices-on American citizens and organizations. In 1972
alone, 65,000 such files were created. Each file was likely to cover
The Church report also documented the existence of a list of at least 26,000
people "on an FBI list of persons to be rounded up in the event of a
'national emergency.'" The report further cited "unsavory and vicious
tactics ... including anonymous attempts to break up marriages, disrupt
meetings, ostracize persons from their professions, and provoke target
groups into rivalries that might result in death."
While the COINTELPRO program was formally disbanded and
intelligence-gathering guidelines were adopted supposedly to prevent similar
abuses in the future, it wasn't long before the FBI was at it again. A new
scandal broke in the mid-1980s when extensive FBI infiltration of the
Committee in Support of the People of El Salvador (CISPES) was uncovered.
The group opposed President Reagan's policies in Central America.
Among other activities, CISPES helped to provide sanctuary to Salvadoran
refugees seeking to escape government-backed death squads at home
responsible for thousands of murders. Such sanctuary violated immigration
laws, since under the Reagan administration those fleeing persecution in El
Salvador were rarely granted refugee status because of US support for the
brutal Salvadoran regime.
In fact, one of the jobs of the FBI informers was to gather names of
Salvadorans being sheltered by CISPES, in particular those who, facing
personal pressures, found it necessary to make a return visit to El
Salvador. The FBI then passed on these names to the notorious Salvadoran
National Guard, which organized the death squads and put these names on the
list of those to be killed. There were also reports of death squad hit men
being sent to the United States to assassinate refugees who had escaped
their clutches in El Salvador.
These revelations surfaced at the same time as the Iran-Contra scandal over
the illegal sales of weapons to the Islamic government in Iran to finance
the Nicaraguan Contras (short for counterrevolutionaries), a US proxy force
fighting to overthrow the nationalist regime of Daniel Ortega. New rounds of
Congressional hearings were held, and new intelligence guidelines were
adopted, also supposedly limiting domestic intelligence gathering to cases
where there was evidence of illegal activity.
These guidelines were officially rolled back last year, when Attorney
General John Ashcroft issued new ones giving agents the authority to attend
political rallies, mosques, and any event "open to the public." This
relaxation of spying restrictions was justified as necessary to prevent
A Fresno, California deputy sheriff, Aaron Kilner, a member of the local
FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force, was uncovered earlier this year as a spy
operating under an assumed name in the group Peace Fresno, of which he
attended several meetings, reportedly taking voluminous notes. His cover was
blown when he was killed in a motorcycle accident and his picture and
obituary appeared in the local newspaper.
Peace Fresno is a pacifist group whose members are largely religious in
orientation. It has never been associated with any terrorist acts. The
Fresno County sheriff denied that Peace Fresno was the target of any
investigation, but he refused to say why his deputy was attending their
meetings undercover. Apparently, Kilner was operating under the Ashcroft
guidelines, since the meetings were open to the public.
Unnamed FBI officials interviewed by the New York Times acknowledged that
the agency's recent strategy towards demonstrations is an outgrowth of the
In view of the controversy over the FBI's October 15 memorandum, the agency
took the unusual step of posting it on their web site along with a letter
the FBI submitted to the New York Times. The FBI letter claims the Ashcroft
guidelines permit agents to attend rallies and other public events only
"[f]or the purpose of detecting or preventing terrorist activities," and
that "maintaining files on individuals solely for the purpose of monitoring
activities protected by the First Amendment" is explicitly prohibited.
Considering the history of FBI abuse, and the current context of the "war on
terrorism," such assurances are laughable. Who is to determine that an agent
's spying was not meant to "detect" terrorist activities? It would be easy
as well for an agent to invent a secondary reason to conduct covert
surveillance, rather than "solely" to monitor activities protected by the
A California judge yesterday dismissed Barbra Streisand's $10 million complaint
over aerial photos of her Malibu estate that have been posted on an
environmental group’s web site. Reduced to one of those cheesy film review
blurbs, the judge’s 46-page decision would read, “Egad! Babs puts the ‘ass’ in
harassment lawsuit!!!” Details at:
We’re not sure what, if any, criminal defense Michael Jackson will have to
mount, but he’ll be hard-pressed to top the innovative legal strategy being
crafted by R. Kelly. You see, it wasn’t actually him cavorting with those
underage girls, just stunt doubles and morphed images made to look like the R&B
singer. If it was CGI, he must not fry:
Prison food has hit a new low:
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