Federal Bureau of Intimidation?

Feature story - 21 July, 2005
The FBI has been working hard lately, gathering files on potential threats to the president under the Bush administration's anti-terrorism laws. But the files weren't all on Saddam and Osama. It has recently come to light that Greenpeace, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and a range of domestic critics of George Bush may be the new "axis of evil". Who's the next 'terror' target? The Democratic Party? The New York Times?

Who is really the Bush Administration's "Most Wanted"?

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in US federal court charging that the FBI iswrongfully withholding information about its investigations of peacefulorganizations. The FBI has thousands of pages on Greenpeace, the ACLU,and other organisations but to date less than 20 pages have beenreceived under Freedom of Information Act requests.

The lawsuit seeks to compel the Justice Department to comply withrequests that the ACLU filed last year for records kept on a wide rangeof organisations, including Greenpeace, the American-ArabAnti-Discrimination Committee, People for the Ethical Treatment ofAnimals, United for Peace and Justice, Code Pink, the Muslim PublicAffairs Council, the National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU itself.

The controversial Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) createspartnerships between the FBI and local police, in which local officersare "deputized" as federal agents. This allows police to targetpeaceful political and religious groups with no connection toterrorism. It's pure coincidence, of course, that targets forinvestigation tend to be vocal opponents of George Bush's environmentaland social policies.

A classified FBI memorandumdisclosed publicly in November 2003 revealed that the FBI has actuallydirected police to target and monitor lawful political demonstrationsunder the guise of fighting terrorism.  Under policies put inplace by former Attorney General John Ashcroft, the FBI - working withlocal police through JTTFs - can now gather information about peoplewho express their disagreement with U.S. government policies - for nobetter reason than that they disagree.

Ivan Blokov, campaign director for Greenpeace Russia, is familiar withthe model. "This looks exactly like the mandate that the KGB had inSoviet times in my country."

John Passcantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, says "Americawill have no credibility as an advocate of democracy abroad if we can'tconduct democracy at home. A government that can't maintain adistinction between terror and non-violent dissent is not a healthygovernment."

Suppressing dissent

In July 2003 the Bush administration brought an unprecedented legalcase against Greenpeace in attempt to shut us down.  It was thefirst time ever in the US that an organization was criminallyprosecuted for the free speech activities of its supporters; in thiscase, a non-violent direct action against a shipment of mahogany whichwas itself illegal under US law.  Despite massive resources andtruly strained legal manoevering by the Justice Department, whichattempted to prosecute Greenpeace under a century-old law barringprostitutes from boarding ships in port, a federal judge threw out thecharges during trial in May 2004.

Having failed to shut us down via the courts, it appears the BushAdministration has decided that, given how hard it is to findterrorists abroad, the investigative resources of the fight againstterror should go into spying on Greenpeace.  This is a bit likelooking for a coin across the street from where you lost it because thelight is better.

It's also an absurd and criminal waste of time and money.

As Rainbow Warrior captain Pete Willcox said recently, "We're prettyopen about what we're doing and don't have many secrets. InfiltratingGreenpeace is like infiltrating the YMCA."

The FBI has better things to do than ensure George Bush is insulatedfrom criticism.  A government that wants to promote democracy hasto practice it.

More info

Check out the ACLU's story on the case

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