How much more will the people of this nation tolerate? How many more rights
will be allow to be squashed by the government in the name of “security”. Bush
defends his wiretapping as being a tool to keep American’s safe. The strongest
argument, out of many, is the fact that we have no oversight to know when that
power is being abused.
If today’s New York Times is any indication, then any American involved in
social groups should worry and wonder if they have been tapped or watched by the
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.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney
general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.’s investigative powers, giving
the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other
public entities in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that
authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign
terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or
But the documents, coming after the Bush administration’s confirmation
that President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting
terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government
had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil
disobedience and lawful protest.
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
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Last week we learned the Pentagon was doing these activities and even spying
on Quaker groups. Now we are hearing more and more about the FBI possible over
stretching their bounds to monitor other groups around the country.
Yesterday, President Bush said we are fighting a “quick and lethal”
enemy when it comes to al Qaeda. Considering his assessment of the enemy then he
should be just as outraged as I am over these actions. We are diverting major
assets in the war on terrorism to spy on our citizens? This is not just an
outrage, its a neglect of duty.
“It’s clear that this administration has engaged every possible agency,
from the Pentagon to N.S.A. to the F.B.I., to engage in spying on
Americans,” said Ann Beeson, associate legal director for the A.C.L.U.
“You look at these documents,” Ms. Beeson said, “and you think, wow, we
have really returned to the days of J. Edgar Hoover, when you see in F.B.I.
files that they’re talking about a group like the Catholic Workers league as
having a communist ideology.”
The documents indicate that in some cases, the F.B.I. has used employees,
interns and other confidential informants within groups like PETA and
Greenpeace to develop leads on potential criminal activity and has
downloaded material from the groups’ Web sites, in addition to monitoring
In the case of Greenpeace, which is known for highly publicized acts of
civil disobedience like the boarding of cargo ships to unfurl protest
banners, the files indicate that the F.B.I. investigated possible financial
ties between its members and militant groups like the Earth Liberation Front
and the Animal Liberation Front.
There it is right there. We have returned to the days of Hoover running the
F.B.I. At the same time we are a nation being led by a McCarthy like President.
The worst of both worlds.
Now these actions don’t really shock me. Hell, I bet they have a huge file
just on Cindy Sheehan and every single employee at Air America. It is becoming
more evident that the President is overstepping the bounds of his power in the
worse way. He is now going after groups that also do not support him. This is
the problem when Congress neglects its roll of oversight.
Hearings into the wiretap case are almost certain to come in the near future.
Those hearings will provide an opportune moment to push issues like this before
Congress. The best part is that these hearings will take place in 2006 and at
that point many on Congress will know they are in election season. The best
defense for the American people at this time is to be loud and object these
actions. Speak up and let your Senators and Congressmen know you will not
tolerate a government trampling the rights of its citizens and ignoring the
cornerstone of our democracy.