A NY Times article today reports that the FBI was keeping tabs on activist groups.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 - 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.
F.B.I. officials said Monday that their investigators had no interest in monitoring political or social activities and that any investigations that touched on advocacy groups were driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings.
One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." 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.
The documents, provided to The New York Times over the past week, came as part of a series of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. For more than a year, the A.C.L.U. has been seeking access to information in F.B.I. files on about 150 protest and social groups that it says may have been improperly monitored.
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.
Many of the investigative documents turned over by the bureau are heavily edited, making it difficult or impossible to determine the full context of the references and why the F.B.I. may have been discussing events like a PETA protest. F.B.I. officials say many of the references may be much more benign than they seem to civil rights advocates, adding that the documents offer an incomplete and sometimes misleading snapshot of the bureau's activities.
"Just being referenced in an F.B.I. file is not tantamount to being the subject of an investigation," said John Miller, a spokesman for the bureau.
We recently had some local news where a anti-war meeting in Lake Worth was part of pentagon database. One attended by Quakers.
Members of that group, which now calls itself The Truth Project, consider themselves a harmless band of idealists and peaceniks.
But the Pentagon considered their inaugural 2004 meeting a "threat," according to a classified database of information obtained by NBC News that lists information about suspicious people and activity inside the United States.
The Truth Project meeting, held at the Quaker Meetinghouse, was one of nearly four dozen antiwar meetings or protests listed on the 400-page document generated by an obscure Pentagon agency that analyzes intelligence reports on suspicious domestic activity, according to the report aired Tuesday on NBC's Nightly News.
The database classified the Lake Worth meeting as one of more than 1,500 "suspicious incidents" across the country over a recent 10-month period.
People who attended the meeting were shocked to see their organization's name on the database, but it got them thinking about a few strange faces at the gathering, people none of them had seen before. Since then, strangers have shown up at various group rallies to snap photos of the activists.
The group now thinks those strangers may have been "spies," said Rich Hersh, spokesman for The Truth Project.
"When the Pentagon does something like this, they trample my constitutional and my civil rights," Hersh said. "I'm 59 and disabled, and if I'm being spied on and judged a credible threat to recruiters, then a soccer mom is going to end up being the next person who's judged a threat."
The Pentagon released a statement Wednesday that implied — but did not explicitly acknowledge — that some information on the database had been handled improperly.
You combine this with the recent NSA story, and I am just having a hard time swallowing all of this. I know we're at war, but the evidence continues to mount that our government in Washington feels its free to do anything it wants. Constitution or no constitution. I'm starting to lose faith in the Bush administration, for it looks like to me they have no respect for anyone's rights.
Update- Michelle Malkin thinks the NY Times is practicing Chicken Little journalism above. After a while the Chicken is starting to sound right.
Hat tip- Outside the Beltway
Open Post- Is it just me?, Third World County, Adam's Blog, Pursuing Holiness,