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FBI interrogated anti-war activists

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    FBI illegally interrogated anti-war activists Washington Post article reveals flagrant civil liberties violations The article below reports on information
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2007
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      FBI illegally interrogated anti-war activists
      Washington Post article reveals flagrant civil liberties violations


      The article below reports on information uncovered from a lawsuit
      filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice (PCJ) in defense of
      anti-war protesters who were arrested in Washington DC on April 20,
      2002 and then illegally interrogated by an FBI Intelligence Unit. The
      ANSWER Coalition had organized a mass demonstration of over 100,000
      people that day in support of the Palestinian people.

      Those arrested were simply participating in a mass assembly protest
      and were detained and interrogated by the FBI when they went back to
      the parking garage where their vehicles were parked. The demonstrators
      were young and "dressed in black" which made them the target of this
      now exposed FBI secret police tactic.

      The Partnership for Civil Justice is a member group of the ANSWER
      Coalition Steering Committee. PCJ attorneys have filed a number of
      groundbreaking legal actions on behalf of wrongfully arrested
      demonstrators, in support of the right to use Central Park for mass
      assembly protests in New York City, the right of anti-war protestors
      to demonstrate along the parade route at the Inauguration of George W.
      Bush, and in a host of other major Free Speech battles. To get more
      information and regular email updates about this and other legal
      actions in defense of the Bill of Rights you can go to
      http://www.justiceonline.org/
      <http://www.pephost.org/site/R?i=340Iysd9wBYhU0CqAI2Rvg..> and sign up
      for email updates. Only the aggressive action of the people, in the
      courts and in the streets, can serve as defense against the repressive
      actions of the government.

      ===

      Police Log Confirms FBI Role In Arrests
      Group Detained, Questioned During D.C. War Protest*

      By Carol D. Leonnig
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Tuesday, April 3, 2007; B01
      http://www.pephost.org/site/R?i=1c7Zq5a8bRBnqXjDVwLnLQ


      A secret FBI intelligence unit helped detain a group of war protesters
      in a downtown Washington parking garage in April 2002 and interrogated
      some of them on videotape about their political and religious beliefs,
      newly uncovered documents and interviews show.

      The revelations, combined with protester accounts, provide the first
      public evidence that Washington-based FBI personnel used their
      intelligence-gathering powers in the District to collect purely
      political intelligence."


      For years, law enforcement authorities suggested it never happened.
      The FBI and D.C. police said they had no records of such an incident.
      And police told a federal court that no FBI agents were present when
      officers arrested more than 20 protesters that afternoon for
      trespassing; police viewed them as suspicious for milling around the
      parking garage entrance.

      But a civil lawsuit, filed by the protesters, recently unearthed D.C.
      police logs that confirm the FBI's role in the incident. Lawyers for
      the demonstrators said the logs, which police say they just found,
      bolster their allegations of civil rights violations.

      The probable cause to arrest the protesters as they retrieved food
      from their parked van? They were wearing black -- a color choice the
      FBI and police associated with anarchists, according to the police
      records.

      FBI agents dressed in street clothes separated members to question
      them one by one about protests they attended, whom they had spent time
      with recently, what political views they espoused and the significance
      of their tattoos and slogans, according to interviews and court records.

      Ultimately, the protesters were not prosecuted because there wasn't
      sufficient evidence of trespassing, and their arrest records were
      expunged.

      Similar intelligence-gathering operations have been reported in New
      York, where a local police intelligence unit tried to infiltrate
      groups planning to protest at the Republican National Convention in
      2004, and in Colorado, where records surfaced showing that the FBI
      collected names and license plates of people protesting timber
      industry practices at a 2002 industry convention.

      Several federal courts have ruled that intelligence agencies can
      monitor domestic groups only when there is reason to believe the group
      is engaged in criminal activity. Experts in police conduct say it is
      hard to imagine how asking questions about a person's political views
      would be appropriate in a trespassing case.

      The Washington case centers on activities that took place April 20,
      2002 -- a day of three cacophonic but generally orderly rallies that
      drew an estimated 75,000 people to the Mall. They included groups
      demonstrating against the prospect of war in Iraq, numerous supporters
      of the war, and Palestinians and others rallying for an end to U.S.
      aid to Israel and for peace in the Middle East.

      The police logs for that day show how events developed: Secret Service
      agents had some concern about a group near the JBG Co. building's
      garage at 1275 K St. NW just after 5 p.m.

      "Intell 53 advises that five members of the anarchist group have
      entered a parking garage," reads an entry from 5:12 p.m.

      Ten minutes later, an entry notes the FBI's role.

      "FBI, JOCC advises that an FBI intell team is responding to area of
      13th and K/L Streets regarding a report of alleged anarchists in the
      vicinity," it reads. "There are reportedly 15 anarchists at 13th and K
      being interviewed. The subjects reportedly had a passkey to a
      building, but it's unknown how they came to be in possession of it."

      The entry notes that D.C. police also were at the site. The protesters
      were detained at the garage for more than an hour, logs show, until
      police decided to arrest them for alleged unlawful entry.

      D.C. police officials acknowledged in 2003 that the department had a
      secret intelligence unit that infiltrated and monitored protest groups
      in the Washington area, even if authorities had no evidence of
      criminal activity. The practice drew complaints from the D.C. Council,
      and police promised to develop guidelines.

      The Partnership for Civil Justice, a civil liberties group, helped 11
      protesters sue D.C. police in 2003 and the FBI last year, alleging
      that the questioning and detentions violated their civil rights.

      In response to the suit, D.C. police at first said that no police
      intelligence officials were involved in the arrests. Last year, city
      officials revealed under additional questioning that five members of
      the police intelligence unit were present.

      The plaintiffs argue that the newly released police logs make clear
      that the FBI, working hand in hand with local police, is engaged in a
      concerted effort to spy on and intimidate U.S. citizens who are
      lawfully exercising their free-speech rights. They contend that this
      is a national effort that abuses the FBI's broad counterterrorism
      powers and equates political speech with a risk to national security.

      "It really is a secret police: This is an effort to suppress political
      dissent," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil
      Justice. "If this was happening in another country that the U.S. was
      targeting, U.S. officials at the highest levels would be decrying this
      as a violation of human rights,"

      FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman said the agency stands by its
      assertion in court filings that it maintains no records of the incident.

      A law enforcement official familiar with joint operations during
      protests said it would be typical for the FBI to hand over records of
      questioning to the lead agency -- in this case, the D.C. police.

      D.C. police said authorities only recently found the logs of police
      responses to that day's events. That discovery came after three years
      of police assurances in federal court that no such records or logs
      existed showing the FBI's role.

      The records turned up on the eve of a deposition in which a police
      records technician was to be questioned about the existence of a
      routine log that his office is responsible for maintaining during any
      mass protest in Washington.

      Sgt. Joe Gentile, a D.C. police spokesman, referred questions to the
      D.C. attorney general's office.

      Traci Hughes, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said
      the city's lawyers never intentionally misrepresent evidence to the
      court and come forward when discrepancies turn up.

      "We have to rely upon information that the client gives us," Hughes
      said, adding that police turned over the log as soon as they learned
      it existed.

      In November, as the Partnership for Civil Justice continued to try to
      get police records of the event, the FBI officials argued that the
      lawsuit against the agency should be dismissed. They said that the
      bureau had no relevant records and that if the FBI ever had any
      records, they had been disposed of when protesters' arrest records
      were expunged, or "they remain unidentifiable for other reasons."
      Justice Department attorneys noted, however, that questioning people
      in a criminal investigation was not improper.

      In their lawsuit, the partnership and protesters said the FBI's
      political and religious questioning was "wholly unrelated to any
      legitimate activities of law enforcement" and violated their free
      speech rights under the First Amendment. They noted that some of the
      protesters had parked their van in the garage and were merely
      retrieving food.


      Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

      *********************************************************************

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