Well, we can relax, because the bad old days of the Bush administration, when government agencies routinely spied on the antiwar movement and other dissidents, are over — right?
Wrong — very wrong.
The indispensable Amy Goodman has the scoop: The Seattle Port Militarization Resistance (SPMR) group in Washington state thought their listserv coordinator, who went by the name "John Jacob," was one of them: a dedicated antiwar activist and self-described anarchist. They trusted him, they put him in a key position, they befriended him — and then they found out that he was a government informant.
His real name: John Towery (here‘s his myspace page, and here is a photo). He claimed to be a civilian employee at Washington state’s Ft. Lewis: in reality, he was and is a functionary of the force protection unit, i.e. military personnel. His job: spying on the antiwar movement.
Towery was "outed" when one of SPMR’s members filed a public records request in the city of Olympia for any documents, including emails, in the city’s possession that referenced communications between the city police and the military regarding "anything on anarchists, anarchy, anarchism, Students for a Democratic Society or the Industrial Workers of the World," as local antiwar activist Brendan Maslauskas Dunn described it to Amy Goodman on her "Democracy Now" program. The results were startling: "I got back hundreds of documents from the city."
It was in going through this material that he and his fellow activists discovered the truth about "John Jacob": that he was a spy sent in to keep track of antiwar activity in the area, and a member of the Force Protection Service at Ft. Lewis. His fellow activists confronted him, and, as Dunn stated:
"He admitted to several things. He admitted that, yes, he did in fact spy on us. He did in fact infiltrate us. He admitted that he did pass on information to an intelligence network, which … was composed of dozens of law enforcement agencies, ranging from municipal to county to state to regional, and several federal agencies, including Immigration Customs Enforcement, Joint Terrorism Task Force, FBI, Homeland Security, the Army in Fort Lewis. … He admitted to other things, too. He admitted that the police had placed a camera, surveillance camera, across the street from a community center in Tacoma that anarchists ran called the Pitch Pipe Infoshop. He admitted that there were police that did put a camera up there to spy on anarchists, on activists going there."
Oh, but he had a story: it wasn’t as bad as it seemed, he hadn’t completely betrayed his friends and associates, who had known him since 2007, when he first insinuated himself into local activist circles: because, you see, the Olympia and Tacoma cops had been planning to raid the Pitch Pipe Infoshop, as well as a house in Olympia where many activists lived, and they wanted their informant to tell them about all the guns, and drugs, and bombs that they imagined — hoped — were stockpiled there. Because, as everyone knows, no self-respecting anarchist is ever without a bomb to throw. "And, of course," says Dunn, "John told them, no, we didn’t have any of that stuff. He told them the truth."
"Of course" is maybe giving Towery too much of the benefit of a doubt: after all, if his friends were arrested, and the anarchist "conspiracy" broken up, his intelligence-gathering activities would be rendered more difficult. Perhaps Dunn is allowing his residual feelings for someone he describes as a former "close friend" get in the way of a more realistic assessment. Towery did his job all too well.
Be that as it may, this incident throws the spotlight on a shadowy national network of domestic spies — in effect, Obama’s political police, who infiltrate dissident groups of whatever sort and send the information back to what are called "fusion centers," part of the new "integrated" approach to fighting our eternal "war on terrorism" — a war that isn’t only being fought on the battlefields of Afghanistan.
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.