'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, December 03, 2004

Cointelpro Lives 

The ACLU has started a new national initiative to shed light on the FBI's illegal surveillance and harassment of dissident political organizations: (from the press release)

Citing evidence that the FBI and local police are illegally spying on political, environmental and faith-based groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and its affiliates in Iowa and other states today filed multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests around the country to uncover who is being investigated and why.

"The FBI is wasting its time and our tax dollars spying on groups that criticize the government, like the Quakers in Colorado or Catholic Peace Ministries in Iowa," said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson. "Do Americans really want to return to the days when peaceful critics become the subject of government investigations?"

Ben Stone, Executive Director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, said that the ICLU is involved because of what the U.S. Attorney’s office did to Des Moines peace activists in February of this year.

Post-911 entities called "Joint Terrorism Task Forces", teams of state and local police, FBI Agents, and other federal agents, are responsible for investigations of questionable legality across the country. The ACLU plans to use FOIA requests to obtain the FBI files of those targeted and information about "how the practices and funding structure of the task forces" are encouraging spying on innocent citizens and the persecution of peaceful political groups.

In the quote above, the line about "Quakers in Colorado" refers, I believe, to the FBI "visiting" Sarah Bardwell, an intern at the Denver office of the AFSC:

On July 24th, four FBI agents and two Denver police officers "visited" the home of Sarah Bardwell. Bardwell, a Quaker youth and militarism intern with the Denver branch of the American Friends Service Committee, was questioned about a range of topics including the identities of everyone in the intentional community where she lives and whether anyone she knew planned to protest the upcoming Democratic or Republican conventions. She was told the FBI was investigating "anarchists and terrorists." The agents and officers refused to give ID when asked, and did not leave any type of business cards that could confirm their identities. Shortly after leaving Bardwell’s residence, another team of agents and officers descended on a second Denver house. This time they entered the property without a warrant, aggressively demanding identification of all who resided there, and again focused their questions on the activist’s possible participation in the upcoming conventions. They threatened and otherwise coerced people into providing identification. Following their refusal to answer any other questions without first consulting a lawyer, the FBI arrested two well-known anarchists for charges related to outstanding bike parking tickets. The night before the agents and police visited these activists’ homes, there had been a legal and non-disruptive demonstration at the City and County Building calling for police accountability and reform. At the demo, there had been one counter-protestor with a sign. This counter-protestor was with the agents who came to Bardwell’s home, and at that time identified himself as an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

and the part about "Catholic Peace Ministries in Iowa" refers to the Drake University subpeonas:

[Federal prosecutors have] subpoenaed four people who attended a November 15 antiwar forum at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. And they got a judge to order the university to hand over all available records of who attended the forum--a measure that may be the first of its kind in decades.

Those served with subpoenas--the leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry, a former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member of the Catholic Worker House and an activist who traveled to Iraq in 2002--had to appear before a federal grand jury on Tuesday.

The justice department intended for these subpoenas to be issued quietly, but, alas, the story ended up getting full-on media attention, largely because of the work of the ACLU aided by liberal blogs, and all of the subpoenas were eventually dropped.

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