FBI documents indicate Denver activists were monitored en route to the
The American Civil Liberties Union says the FBI is gathering information on
protesters, including some who attended this 2003 peace rally in Palmer
Photo By Drew Wyeth
New documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado
show that FBI agents planned to monitor anti-war groups in Colorado Springs
two years ago. The documents also indicate the bureau opened domestic
terrorism investigations, which could have spanned months, on the groups.
The ACLU obtained the papers last week after filing a Freedom of Information
Act request with the FBI in December. The civil liberties organization made
the query because it fears the nation's lead agency for combating terrorists
inside U.S. borders -- the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force -- is failing to
distinguish between peace activists and fanatics bent on harming the nation.
One two-page document, dated Feb. 11, 2003, was drafted by the FBI just days
before thousands of people converged at Palmer Park to oppose the impending
war in Iraq. The protests ended when city police arrested 35 people and used
tear gas to disperse crowds.
The documents open domestic terrorism investigations of the Rocky Mountain
Peace and Justice Center of Boulder, the Colorado Campaign for Middle East
Peace of Denver and the Revolutionary Anti-War Response group. After viewing
Web sites that promoted the demonstrations, an unnamed agent concluded that
some activists were preparing to engage in civil disobedience, including
But fear of such activity doesn't justify opening a domestic terrorism or
acts of terrorism investigation, says Mark Silverstein, legal director for
ACLU of Colorado.
Such measures, he says, should be saved for secretive and violent extremists
like Timothy McVeigh, the former Army soldier who was put to death after
killing 167 people by exploding a truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah
Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
"I think that the FBI has clearly cast a wide net in its search for
terrorists," Silverstein says.
Monique Kelso, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Denver, defends the FBI's
efforts, adding that such monitoring will continue in situations where it is
"It's our obligation to report credible threats of violence," Kelso says.
The heavily redacted documents, however, don't illuminate any specific
They do show that on Feb. 15, 2003, an FBI special agent planned to monitor
a parking lot in Denver's Capitol Hill neighborhood, where
pink-and-black-clad activists were expected to gather for a carpool to the
demonstrations in Colorado Springs.
The agent would observe protesters and communicate their size and "any
relevant information" to an FBI observation team and Colorado Springs
The FBI blanked out portions of the documents for reasons ranging from
assuring that information about individuals remains private to protecting
the identities of agents and/or informants.
The ACLU of Colorado currently is representing 26 political organizations
and activists to find out whether the FBI terrorism task force considers
them terrorists. So far, Silverstein has received 15 documents from the FBI.
He expects more in coming months.
Since last fall, Colorado Springs police have assigned an unnamed detective
to work full-time with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. The purpose of
the assignment is to enhance information-sharing between the agencies as
they search for terrorists, says Sgt. David Whitlock of the department's
He declined to comment on specific operations during the Palmer Park
protest, but says the department limits its investigations to those
involving potential criminal activity.
-- Michael de Yoanna
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