We really need to go after these threats to our country:
Jim Bensman thought his suggestion during a public hearing was harmless enough: Instead of building a channel so migratory fish could go around a dam on the Mississippi River, just get rid of the dam.
Instead, the environmental activist found himself in hot water, drawing FBI scrutiny to see whether he had any terrorist intentions.
The case "shows just how easy it is to be labeled a suspected terrorist," he says.
It all started on July 25 in Alton, Ill., when the Army Corps of Engineers invited public discussion about options for improving fish movement at the nearby Melvin Price Locks and Dam, considered a major impediment to roughly three dozen species that migrate upstream.
During the 90-minute hearing that included on the agenda whether to build a fish channel, Bensman says, he reiterated he's no fan of dams, contending they're environmentally destructive and amount to billions of dollars in corporate welfare for boating interests.
He urged that the dam be torn out. He said he never mentioned blowing the dam up, though the corps' presentation of possible options included a picture of a dam being dynamited.
The next day, however, a local newspaper reported that Bensman "said he would like to see the dam blown up and resents paying taxes to fix dam problems when it is barge companies that profit from the dam."
Workers at the corps' St. Louis office "took a dim view (of the article) and questioned if it was a potential threat," and a security manager forwarded the clipping to the FBI, said corps spokesman Alan Dooley.
Within days, the FBI had Bensman on the phone, asking whether he was any threat.