by Jim Lobe
classified FBI intelligence memorandum, leaked to the New York
Times last weekend, has raised concern among some civil-rights
groups and lawmakers who worry that it reflects a growing tendency
on the part of the Bush administration to promote security measures
at the expense of key freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism.
other things the Oct. 15 memorandum calls for local law enforcement
officials to report any suspicious activities at protests to its
counter-terrorism squads. The Times described it as "the
first corroboration of a coordinated, nationwide effort to collect
intelligence regarding demonstrations."
General (John) Ashcroft has dismissed critics of the Justice Department
's tactics as 'hysterical' and has even said that such criticism
aids the terrorists," said
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties
this bulletin confirms that the federal government is targeting
innocent Americans engaged in nothing more than lawful protest and
dissent," he said, adding that citizens "deserve an explanation
for what is clearly a return to the days of (former FBI director)
J. Edgar Hoover's spying tactics."
Center for Constitutional Rights
(CCR) raised similar questions and also called for an investigation
of what the FBI and other intelligence agencies were planning. CCR
is calling on Attorney General John Ashcroft to resign.
spying on dissidents is a sign of a police state, and unless we
stop this administration's cavalier attitude towards fundamental
rights we face a serious threat to our democracy," said Michael
Ratner, president of CCR.
to a front-page story in Sunday's Times, the memorandum was
circulated last month to local law enforcement agencies across the
country in advance of anticipated antiwar rallies in Washington,
DC and San Francisco.
disclosure comes amid increasing controversy about measures the
government is taking to prosecute the war on terrorism at home,
as well as abroad.
week Congress passed a new intelligence authorization bill that
included a provision tacked on at the last moment that would expand
the FBI's ability to demand that certain kinds of businesses turn
over documents about their clients without any prior judicial review.
Ashcroft has also indicated that he hopes to broaden the coverage
of the 2002 USA PATRIOT Act to make it easier for the FBI to obtain
information about suspected terrorists.
is it only the expanded powers of the FBI that are causing concern.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times Sunday, national-security
analyst William Arkin warned that the military and intelligence
communities are implementing far-reaching changes designed to break
down long-established barriers to military action and surveillance
in the US.
the creation of the new US Northern Command, he wrote, the military
has begun to focus on waging the war on terror at home, as well
as abroad. He quotes Command chief Gen. Ralph E. (Ed) Eberhart,
as saying, " 'We must start thinking differently.' Before 9/11,
the military and intelligence systems were focused on 'the away
game' and not properly focused on 'the home game.' "
doesn't seem far-fetched to imagine that those charged with assembling
'actionable intelligence' will slowly start combining data bases
of known terrorists with seemingly innocuous lists of contributors
to charities or causes, that membership lists for activist organizations
will be folded in, that names and personal data of anti-globalization
protesters will be run through the 'data mine,' " warned Arkin.
another military expert, ret.
Gen. Tommy Franks, who ran the military campaigns in Afghanistan
and Iraq, told Cigar Aficionado magazine of his concern
that another major terrorist attack on the order of 9/11 could cause
citizens to "question our own Constitution and to begin to
militarize our country in order to avoid another mass casualty-producing
memo, according to the Times, described how protesters have
sometimes used "training camps" to rehearse "tactics
and counter-strategies for dealing with the police and to resolve
any logistical issues." It also noted their use of the Internet
to raise money and "coordinate their activities prior to demonstrations"
all perfectly legal activities.
said protesters use "innovative strategies," like videotaping
arrests as a means of "intimidation" against local police,
and that protesters may raise money to help pay for lawyers for
those who are arrested.
reminds me of the old Nixon times and the enemies list," said
Sen. Edward Kennedy, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, who noted that that the administration has gone to "extraordinary
lengths" in attacking lawmakers who question Bush's policy
on Iraq. "How could we be fighting abroad to defend our freedoms
and diminishing those freedoms here at home?" he asked.
and Justice Department officials stressed that the memorandum offered
normal intelligence guidelines targeted exclusively against terrorist
activity and based on the assumption that terrorists or "anarchists"
may infiltrate peaceful demonstrations to pursue their ends. They
noted that black-clad anarchists had caused widespread property
damage in attacks on businesses in Seattle during the 1999 World
Trade Organization ministerial meeting there and in subsequent,
smaller protests elsewhere in the US.
American University law professor Herman Schwartz told the Times
that the memorandum and the operations behind it would very likely
exercise a "serious chilling effect on peaceful demonstration.
If you go around telling people, 'We're going to ferret out information
on demonstrations,' that deters people. People don't want their
names and pictures in FBI files," he said.
ACLU's Romero was particularly disturbed by the warning about demonstrators
videotaping arrests. "Most mainstream demonstrators often use
videotape during protests to document law enforcement activity and,
more importantly, deter police from acting outside the law."
saying that the FBI possesses no information about any planned unlawful
activity, the memorandum goes on to urge local law enforcement "to
be alert to these possible indicators of protest activity and report
any potentially illegal acts" to federal authorities.
Raimondo, a libertarian commentator for the website Antiwar.com,
was especially struck by the FBI's concern about training camps,
suggesting that the Bureau may be misinterpreting what is taught
there. "Visions of wild-eyed anarchists learning how to make
Molotov cocktails dance in the head, but the reality is much more
prosaic: it's just a bunch of hippies playing touchy-feely games
with each other and training in techniques designed to MINIMIZE
violence," he noted.
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2003 One World