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Posted at 2:35 PM ET, 09/20/2010

FBI misled Justice about spying on peace group

By Jeff Stein

There was a time in the 1960s when the FBI’s illegal surveillance of left-wing groups seemed, and maybe even was, sinister if not broadly menacing. Parts of today’s Justice Department report on its more recent activities, however, evoke that old saw about history repeating itself as farce.

The Inspector General’s report covered a number of FBI targets following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: an antiwar rally in Pittsburgh; a Catholic peace magazine; a Quaker activist; and members of the environmental group Greenpeace as well as of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

My favorite story was about the rookie FBI agent who was dispatched to an antiwar rally in Pittsburgh with a camera and told to look for terrorism suspects.

It was “a slow work day,” the IG report said -- the Friday after Thanksgiving 2002.

The “possibility that any useful information would result from this make-work assignment was remote,” the report said. The sponsor of the rally was the Thomas Merton Center, named for the Catholic priest who advocated pacifism and interfaith dialogue.

“The agent was unable to identify any terrorism subjects at the event, but he photographed a woman in order to have something to show his supervisor,” the IG report says. “He told us he had spoken to a woman leafletter at the rally who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, and that she was probably the person he photographed.”

The agent’s report, described as “results of investigation of Pittsburgh antiwar activity,” characterized the Merton Center as a “left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacificism [sic],” according to the IG report.

When the FBI activity surfaced in 2006, it caused a hullabaloo, of course. Activists raised the specter of a return to the bad old days, when the FBI was breaking into antiwar offices and fabricating poison-pen letters to create rivalries in the Black Panther Party, among others, in its infamous COINTEL program, which was designed to wreak havoc in left-wing groups.

The rookie agent’s post-Thanksgiving sojourn seemed nothing like that.

And compared with other, far more worrying invasions of civil rights by the government, such as its ongoing monitoring of Americans’ telephone calls and e-mails, it seems merely hapless.

But what came next is not.

According to the Justice Department’s report, FBI officials, including the Pittsburgh office's top lawyer, engaged in distinctly COINTELPRO-style tactics after the American Civil Liberties Union sued for the release of documents relating to the surveillance.

Boiled down to their essence, those tactics involved officials generating post-dated “routing slips” and other paper to create a terrorism threat that didn’t exist.

Or as the inspector general put it, the FBI's elaborate, “after-the-fact reconstruction” of the Pittsburgh events, designed to fabricate a counter-terrorism rationale for the rookie’s surveillance mission, “was not corroborated by any witnesses or contemporaneous documents.”

It was on the basis of their fabrication, moreover, that FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III gave “inaccurate and misleading” testimony to Congress, the IG said.

The IG’s recounting of the Pittsburgh events is lengthy and meticulous.

The FBI, however, continues to deny that bureau officials engaged in an elaborate and deliberate scheme to deceive investigators, Congress and the pubic about what was, in retrospect, one rookie agent's minor, misdirected surveillance of the Pittsburgh antiwar demonstration.

“Nobody," the FBI says, "had a motive to provide an intentionally misleading account of it.”

The IG found the agency's explanations, however, "unconvincing."

If the FBI punished anyone in its ranks, moreover, the IG makes no mention of it.

Now that is a return to the bad old days.

By Jeff Stein  | September 20, 2010; 2:35 PM ET
Categories:  Intelligence, Justice/FBI, Lawandcourts  | Tags:  Greenpeace, PETA, Quakers, Robert S. Mueller III, Thomas Merton  
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I was used by ### agents in 1968-9 to infiltrate and record small peace meetings.
My activity was illegal.
Knowing these agents first hand, I was quite shocked when they appeared on campus and from the balcony photographed anyone who spoke for peace at a Viet Nam peace rally.
I still feel the shame for my disgraceful assistance and find it hard to support the "the honorable mission of the ###"

Posted by: tom84 | September 20, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

It was during the George Walker Bush years and tyranny was all the rage.

Posted by: whocares666 | September 20, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

When pacifism is considered a "threat" to violence and war, we should all know something is terribly wrong.

Terror is the tool Bush sought and won, with all the help in the world from both sides of the aisle.

America has been victimized by its supposed leaders, who steal office every time and call it winning.

There is no meaning in words anymore when Peace is suspect.

Posted by: forestbloggod | September 20, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse


A multi-agency fusion center Gestapo apparently has had this veteran journalist on some kind of a targeting watch list for more than six years. I am subjected to pervasive GPS and telecom surveillance and malicious stalking of my every move by uniformed police and by community "watch" civilian vigilantes who literally hold me hostage in my own home -- making surreptitious entry while I sleep to vandalize and terrorize.

I have been the object of a vicious campaign of character assassination. I have been to the Philadelphia field office of the FBI numerous times, and I have met with my local police chief, who indicated to me his awareness of my persecution.


Extrajudicially, unjustly "targeted individuals" are being financially and personally destroyed in this country, granted no due process -- and, my reporting confirms, they are being silently assaulted, impaired and harmed by a U.S. government microwave radio frequency weapon system installed on cell towers everywhere.

Thus, I must consider this inspector general's report a huge WHITEWASH.

The FBI knows that Americans are being unjustly targeted and persecuted -- yet we, the victims, cannot get a formal investigation of these gross violations of constitutional and human rights, abuses that I believe rise to the level of crimes against humanity.

Lawmakers, please read my articles below, and conduct formal hearings into what amounts to a multi-agency fusion center- based American Gestapo that is serially violating the rights of thousands of Americans.

Posted by: scrivener50 | September 20, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Easy to counter:

Everyone who attends any gathering for any reason but especially legitimate gatherings such as town meeting, public hearing etc take your camera and take pictures of ereryone who is taking pictures of you.

them post the piture of the person who took your picture on the website for rogue fbi agents.


ya think they would spend their time looking fo rwhitey bulger.

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | September 20, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Easy to counter:

Everyone who attends any gathering for any reason but especially legitimate gatherings such as town meeting, public hearing etc take your camera and take pictures of ereryone who is taking pictures of you.

them post the piture of the person who took your picture on the website for rogue fbi agents.


ya think they would spend their time looking fo rwhitey bulger.

Posted by: JohnAdams1 | September 20, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Meanwhile, the troops are busy hunting humans:

Posted by: hiberniantears | September 20, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

So where is the news? Oh..finally someone is pointing out what most of us knew already: The bad ol' days have never left. And now the Obama administration has given the green light to the FBI to increase its use of NSL's. What administration has not used the FBI for political purpose to intimidate, to harrass, to play dirty "black-op" tricks...all to retain power and control.

Posted by: tsnell1 | September 20, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Does Congress think washed up sports freaks lying about steroids is more important than the head of the FBI lying about terrorism investigations?

Either Mueller is held accountable or testimony before Congress is just a sad joke.

Posted by: lostinthemiddle | September 20, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

They were working for Bush. The word from the top was politics is war. Those anti-war types didn't know that Hey-zues Christo (Mr. Peace Himself) personally spoke to GW Bush and told him that killing millions of Iraqis was OK because they didn't believe like George did and besides, America neededthat oil.

Never trust Republicans to run the Government.

Posted by: thebobbob | September 21, 2010 1:38 AM | Report abuse

I have been spied upon and have had my entire life disrupted by secretive oficials for over 20 years. In the last 20 years local, state and federal officials have perpetrated upon me..... constitutional, civil and human rights violations , malicious and vindictive persecution in my social life designed to injure me in person and reputation, and police, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct. Over the last 20 years, I have contacted every president, attorney general and congressional representative asking for an investigation. None have investigated.

Over the last year and a half I have sent president Obama certified mail, email and called his comment line leaving my name with my comment. His office hasn't even acknowledged the request with a letter or phone call. So, I made a video hoping to get his offices' attention. See " Obama Conspiracy Letters " and " Supreme Court Fraud" on Youtube.
This thing is deeper than you can imagine. This entity is so pwerful that it can steal and destroy US Supreme Court filings or possible STEAL THE PRESIDENTS' MAIL.

Posted by: edwinjones | September 21, 2010 5:53 AM | Report abuse

Yet they drag their knuckles at investigating wrongdoing by the GOP & right wing extremists. The FBI badly needs reform, but it's not going to happen because they only want to protect some Americans, not all Americans.

Posted by: Nymous | September 21, 2010 7:03 AM | Report abuse

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