CNN November 23, 2003:
FBI keeps eye on anti-war protesters
(Reuters) -- The FBI has collected information about
tactics and training used by anti-war protesters in an effort to
blunt potential violence by extremist elements, a federal law
enforcement official said Sunday.
The FBI warned of tactics used by such groups in a weekly
bulletin circulated to 15,000 law enforcement agencies around the
country last month before large demonstrations in Washington and San
Francisco to protest the Iraq war.
The bulletin discussed tactics, training and organization of
groups, some of which have Web sites that refer to training camps to
teach activities like disrupting traffic and law enforcement during
large public events, the official said.
It described activist strategies like videotaping arrests to
intimidate police and using the Internet to recruit and raise funds.
The memorandum was first reported by The New York Times in its
Sunday editions, and the contents were confirmed to Reuters by a
federal law enforcement official.
"It contains information that we gleaned through investigation
and through other means," the official said.
"In the experiences that law enforcement agencies have had in
other cities such as Seattle, Washington D.C., San Francisco, where
there have been large scale protests, where there was a potential
for violent activity, that information was then passed on ... to law
enforcement agencies for future planning," the official said.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said he was
concerned about reports that the FBI was monitoring anti-war
"We have the stories going on this morning where they're using
the FBI to look into demonstrations in order to find out who is
demonstrating and getting into their background. That reminds me to
the old Nixon times and the enemies list," he said on ABC's "This
Week." White House officials in the administration of former
President Richard Nixon kept a list of political enemies.
Kennedy said the Bush administration had gone to "extraordinary
lengths" to attack lawmakers who question the White House policy on
Iraq and that was a "fundamental flaw" of the administration. "How
could we be fighting abroad to defend our freedoms and diminishing
those freedoms here at home?"
The federal law enforcement official said the FBI was only
interested in individuals and groups who plotted violence.
"Our interest is not in individuals or groups expressing their
constitutional right to protest. It is only those individuals or
groups that would be involved in either conspiring, or actively
involved in violent or criminal activity in support of a particular
cause," the official said.
Civil rights groups and legal scholars quoted by The New York
Times expressed concern that monitoring protesters could signal a
return to the abuses of the 1960s and 1970s, when J. Edgar Hoover
was FBI director and agents routinely spied on political protesters
including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The resulting restrictions on FBI investigations of political
activities were relaxed last year when Attorney General John
Ashcroft, citing the September 11, 2001 attacks, issued guidelines
giving agents authority to attend political rallies, mosques and any
other public events.