Monday, August 16, 2004
( 1:26 PM )
They are out and about. Looks like the Feds (and others) are "investigating" and harrassing known activists and those planning to protest the GOP Convention in NY City.
But some people contacted by the F.B.I. say they are mystified by the bureau's interest and felt harassed by questions about their political plans.
"The message I took from it," said Sarah Bardwell, 21, an intern at a Denver antiwar group who was visited by six investigators a few weeks ago, "was that they were trying to intimidate us into not going to any protests and to let us know that, 'hey, we're watching you.' ''
The unusual initiative comes after the Justice Department, in a previously undisclosed legal opinion, gave its blessing to controversial tactics used last year by the F.B.I in urging local police departments to report suspicious activity at political and antiwar demonstrations to counterterrorism squads. The F.B.I. bulletins that relayed the request for help detailed tactics used by demonstrators - everything from violent resistance to Internet fund-raising and recruitment.
In an internal complaint, an F.B.I. employee charged that the bulletins improperly blurred the line between lawfully protected speech and illegal activity. But the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, in a five-page internal analysis obtained by The New York Times, disagreed.
That Office of Legal Counsel - those are the same folks that brought us the justification of torture of Iraqi prisoners.
This same thing happened in Seattle before the WTO. The whole tactic harkens back to Red Squads and the infiltration of activist organizations in order to sabotage, spy and intimidate. There is of course no excuse for this kind of intimidation, but what else can the government do? They know no other way to deal with the free expression of opinion except to find any way they can to subvert it and stifle it.
When hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to protest George W. Bush and his party, which specifically chose NY City for its convention in order to exploit 9/11, those people have the right to be in those streets. The right to demonstrate empowers people to use their voices. The power people have is in their numbers. They may not have military strength, they may not have money, but when there are enough of them, they can be heard. Seattle taught us that five years ago. That Tuesday in November 1999, when tens of thousands of us decided to use our voices, the world had to listen. This country can be crippled - not by massive demonstrations - but if the right to hold those demonstrations is removed. That right is what we must protect, not the sensitivities of the GOP.