Domestic Surveillance Targets Political Activists

Antiwar activists beware: the government is watching you.

The Washington Post yesterday reported that a widespread FBI investigation has been invading the privacy of various groups of political activists, prompting objections from many civil libertarians on First Amendment grounds. This particular probe included “subpoenas to 23 people and raids of seven homes last fall.”

The search was part of a mysterious, ongoing nationwide terrorism investigation with an unusual target: prominent peace activists and politically active labor organizers.

…The apparent targets, all vocal and visible critics of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and South America, deny any ties to terrorism. They say the government, using its post-9/11 focus on terrorism as a pretext, is targeting them for their political views.

They are “public non-violent activists with long, distinguished careers in public service, including teachers, union organizers and antiwar and community leaders,” said Michael Deutsch, a Chicago lawyer and part of a legal team defending those who believe they are being targeted by the investigation.

Add this to the multi-year FBI effort to investigate self-described anarchist and political activist Scott Crow who has been deemed a domestic terrorist and arrested a dozen times, despite having never been convicted of anything. They tracked his phone calls and emails, infiltrated his community of activists with undercover informants, sat outside his house in unmarked cars surveying his activities and visitors, went through his trash to find his personal finance documents, colluded with the IRS in a failed attempt grab him for tax evasion, and installed cameras along street poles outside his home, among other things. Mr. Crow filed a Freedom of Information Act request and got about 440 semi-redacted pages of the 1200 total pages of FBI documents on him.

This is a serious problem and is happening as the FBI is expanding its domestic surveillance powers dramatically. This is obviously a huge waste of time and resources, never mind a remarkable violation of individual rights. But the most ominous part about this is that we don’t know how big and how numerous are these and similar investigations throughout the country.