Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New 'NY Times' Shocker: FBI Spied on Activist Groups

Nation: OMG! Editor and Publisher the left falling truthsayers puts up a laughable edition of th New York Times story about the FBI spying.

NEW YORK Following up on its revelations about a National Security Agency domestic spy program approved by President Bush, The New York Times reports Tuesday that counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation "have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, newly disclosed agency records show." The reporter, Eric Lichtblau, was also co-author of last week's spy bombshell, with James Risen. Documents were provided to The New York Times over the past week as part of a series of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. For more than a year, it said, the ACLU has sought information in F.B.I. files on about 150 protest and social groups that it says may have been improperly monitored. "One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a Vegan Community Project," the Times reveals. " Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's 'semi-communistic ideology.' A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
First off, this story is a couple of months old as the Washington Post reported on this in July.
Monday, July 18, 2005; A03 FBI agents monitored Web sites calling for protests against the 2004 political conventions in New York and Boston on behalf of the bureau's counterterrorism unit, according to FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. The American Civil Liberties Union pointed to the documents as evidence that the Bush administration has reacted to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States by blurring the distinction between terrorism and political protest. FBI officials defended the involvement of counterterrorism agents in providing security for the Republican and Democratic conventions as an administrative convenience. The documents were released by the FBI in response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights, animal rights and environmental groups that say they have been subjected to scrutiny by task forces set up to combat terrorism. The FBI has denied targeting the groups because of their political views.
So why were these groups targeted? Something the E&P leaves out of its breathless summary? New York Times answers it and I have no problem with it.
"....After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.'s investigative powers, giving the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or disruptive activities. "....The F.B.I. had previously turned over a small number of documents on antiwar groups, showing the agency's interest in investigating possible anarchist or violent links in connection with antiwar protests and demonstrations in advance of the 2004 political conventions. And earlier this month, the A.C.L.U.'s Colorado chapter released similar documents involving, among other things, people protesting logging practices at a lumber industry gathering in 2002. The latest batch of documents, parts of which the A.C.L.U. plans to release publicly on Tuesday, totals more than 2,300 pages and centers on references in internal files to a handful of groups, including PETA, the environmental group Greenpeace and the Catholic Workers group, which promotes antipoverty efforts and social causes. ....The documents indicate that in some cases, the F.B.I. has used employees, interns and other confidential informants within groups like PETA and Greenpeace to develop leads on potential criminal activity and has downloaded material from the groups' Web sites, in addition to monitoring their protests. In the case of Greenpeace, which is known for highly publicized acts of civil disobedience like the boarding of cargo ships to unfurl protest banners, the files indicate that the F.B.I. investigated possible financial ties between its members and militant groups like the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. These networks, which have no declared leaders and are only loosely organized, have been described by the F.B.I. in Congressional testimony as "extremist special interest groups" whose cells engage in violent or other illegal acts, making them "a serious domestic terrorist threat." In testimony last year, John E. Lewis, deputy assistant director of the counterterrorism division, said the F.B.I. estimated that in the past 10 years such groups had engaged in more than 1,000 criminal acts causing more than $100 million in damage. When the F.B.I. investigates evidence of possible violence or criminal disruptions at protests and other events, those investigations are routinely handled by agents within the bureau's counterterrorism division.
Washington Post has more with the logical beatdown of the whining from the ACLU and these rights groups.
"FBI officials said that the agency is not using the threat of terrorism to suppress domestic dissent and that is has no alternative but to investigate if a group or its members have ties to others that are guilty or suspected of violence or illegal conduct. "As a matter of policy, the FBI does not target individuals or organizations for investigation because of any political belief. Somewhere, there has to be a crime attached," FBI spokesman John Miller said. "At the same time, the fact that you have ties to an organization or political beliefs does not make you immune from ending up in FBI files when you go and commit a crime." "....PETA general counsel Jeff Kerr called the FBI's conduct an abuse of power that punishes activists for speaking out. "These documents show a disturbing erosion of freedom of association and freedom of speech that we've taken for granted and that set us apart from oppressive countries like the former Iraq," Kerr said, adding that the documents show no illegal activity by PETA. "You shouldn't have to wonder when you go to a speech at a college campus, or when you go to a meeting, whether you're being surveilled by the FBI. It goes back to the dark days of Nixon and the enemies list." John Lewis, the FBI's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism, told a Senate panel in May that environmental and animal rights militants posed the biggest terrorist threats in the United States, citing more than 150 pending investigations. The ACLU said it received 2,357 pages of files on PETA, Greenpeace, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the ACLU itself. One file referring to the committee included a contact list for students and peace activists who attended a 2002 conference at Stanford University aimed at ending sanctions then in place in Iraq. The FBI has said that when it interviewed members of groups planning demonstrations at last year's conventions, it did not yield information into criminal activity. But the agency said the interviews were prompted by specific threats. The latest data lay out a similar, broader pattern regarding 150 groups whose FBI files the ACLU has asked to see. For example, a June 19, 2002, e-mail cites a source offering information on Greenpeace regarding "activists who show a clear predisposition to violate the law." Other documents contain suspicions that PETA funds, supports or otherwise acts as a front for "eco-terrorist" groups that use arson, bombs or vandalism, such as the Animal Liberation Front or Earth Liberation Front."
What is the FBI supposed to do, twiddle its thumbs because its PETA, don't have to worry about them? I have yet to see evidence any of these groups are being shut down or pushed to the side as much I would personally like to see it, if they are not breaking the law, they are fine. If they are suspected in engaging in criminal activites like its members dumping dead dogs in garbage bins for example, you are going to attract attention.

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