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FBI Expands Probe into Antiwar Activists

Democracy Now! speaks with two of the antiwar activists being targeted and two former FBI agents.

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And we have Freedom of Information Act requests outstanding for the eGuardian program. We’re interested in a lot of different new FBI programs. There’s a Domain Management program, which purports to allow the FBI to collect racial and ethnic demographic information and map our communities across the nation by race and ethnicity. So, again, this suspicion-less collection information is a huge and growing problem, and all of this data just is being warehoused, literally—I mean, that’s what they call it, the Investigative Data Warehouse—for any kind of abuse that might occur later. And, of course, you know, the ACLU has already documented these types of spying operations being directed against political advocacy in 33 states across the nation. In fact, when the latest Washington Post report came out, one of the intelligence collection operations it focused on was the Tennessee fusion centers. And one of our legal fellows became interested upon reading the article and went to the website, and sure enough, one of the suspicious activities reported on the website was an ACLU advocacy effort regarding the celebration of religious activities in public schools. So, clearly, they’re collecting information about political advocacy, and this is part of the larger problem across the country.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Mike, I’d like to ask you—this is not the first time in U.S. history that we’ve had these problems. I think back—you mentioned Total Information Awareness. But going back even further, several decades ago, the Church Commission uncovered all kinds of spying by the U.S. government on legal dissident groups in the United States. And, of course, back in the 1920s during the Palmer Raids, there was all kinds of government attempts to round up people who were involved in what is normally legal, but opposition, politics of one kind or another. How come there is so little outcry in the general population of these enormous attempts by the government to take away civil liberties and to spy on the citizens?

MIKE GERMAN: You know, you’re exactly right. There is, you know, a long history of abuse of secret domestic intelligence powers. And that’s why after the Church Committee uncovered those abuses in the 1970s, there were guidelines put in place, the Attorney General Guidelines, that required a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing before the FBI could start aggressive investigations. And those were the standards that I operated on, doing domestic terrorism investigations. And I found they were very helpful, that what it did is it helped me focus on people who were actually doing bad things, rather than people who were saying things that I didn’t like or didn’t agree with, and that that helped me use my resources in an efficient way to target the people who were doing bad things. And unfortunately, after 9/11, those standards have been diluted significantly to where now the FBI literally requires no factual predicate to start an investigation.

And as far as the public outrage, a huge part of the problem is, again, these activities are taking place in secret. So it’s hard to know how they’re impacting any particular group or individual. And that’s why we set up a website, the Spy Files website, aclu.org/spyfiles, where we’re collecting a lot of this material. And, you know, it’s not just the FBI that’s spying now; it’s Department of Homeland Security, it’s the Department of Defense, it’s state and local law enforcement agencies that are involved in these activities. So, you know, this Washington Post story, I think, will be a big help to let people know that, you know, your innocence doesn’t protect you anymore, that they can literally start collecting information on anyone.

 
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