In its highly publicized campaign against terrorism, the FBI has been spending funds to monitor nonviolent activist groups, place wiretaps on civilians and conduct unwarranted searches.
Additionally, the National Security Agency has been eavesdropping on terrorist suspects since Sept. 11, 2001, without court approval through an electronic surveillance program.
The FBI stresses that it must be aggressive in terrorism investigations after Sept. 11, and that it is obligated to serve and protect our nation from terrorism, but where does it draw the line?
The FBI has gathered information on environmental and anti-war groups in Denver, in an attempt to curb violence.
Groups and peaceful demonstrators such as Food Not Bombs are doing our country a public service by offering vegetarian meals to the homeless, but find themselves on the FBI’s list of possible terrorists.
The FBI says that its greatest target is international terrorism, but it cannot ignore domestic terrorism or turn its shoulder on activists that serve as a potential threat.
For years the FBI's definition of terrorism has included violence against property such as throwing a bottle or a rock into a window.
It claims to monitor only those groups that have committed crimes, and occasionally, the FBI succeeds in intercepting domestic terrorists. It arrested environmental activists who were accused of bombing an unfinished ski resort in Vail, Colo.
It seems that history is quickly beginning to repeat itself. In 1975 and 1976 an investigative committee found the FBI guilty of spying on private citizens and civil rights groups, which were referred to as “black-bag jobs.” The Watergate scandal soon brought many reforms and laws including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978.
However, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, this act was amended and allowed investigators to place wiretaps and conduct unwarranted searches without notifying the court for 72 hours.
Defense Attorney Thomas Nelson, whose client was a subject of terrorist investigation, was a target of warrantless searches. For nine months he had strong indications of unwarranted searches in his house and office.
On two occasions one of his colleagues noticed a middle-aged white man claiming to be a member of an all-Hispanic cleaning crew.
Oddly, Nelson’s security company did not find a breach in the alarm system even though Nelson reported that it was malfunctioning. Subsequently he filed a complaint to U.S. Attorney Karin Immergut. Immergut replied, saying that the FBI doesn’t target lawyers whose clients are terrorist suspects with out warrants.
Nelson went on to file a complaint to the NSA under the Freedom of Information Act; however, he was told that the existence or nonexistence of responsive records is classified information.
Rather than spending resources to track down Osama Bin Laden, the FBI keeps a thorough record on peaceful activists and protesters that are not suspected of any crime and, oddly enough, the government throws left-wing activists into the terrorist group as well.
In a presentation at the University of Texas, the Justice Department revealed that the FBI not only keeps a thorough list of militia, Neo-Nazi and Islamic groups, but also keeps a tab on groups whose intents might be somehow vaguely linked to terrorism in a file labeled “Anarchism.”
Other groups such as Indymedia, a group that publishes radical online journalism found itself on the list even though most members don't have any connections with terrorists.
At times, it seems the FBI has its hands full pursing anti-war protesters, and letting terrorists slip by.
The government should stop sticking its nose into every niche that it sees unpleasing to them and focus on the real terrorists that lurk around it.