FBI agents misled officials and the public, violated their own policy manual, used poor judgment, and engaged in sloppy police work when they investigated certain left-leaning, high-profile, domestic advocacy groups in the years immediately following 9/11, the Justice Department announced today following a four-year-long internal investigation by the Office of the Inspector General.
The official review of FBI conduct toward groups like PETA and Greenpeace and the Catholic Worker arose from revelations made public in 2005 that federal agents had used the threat of terrorism as a justification for tracking the legal, associative conduct of members of certain left-leaning groups. Concerned about the chilling impact of no-warrant domestic surveillance upon political advocacy groups whose members were exercising their constitutionally-protected free speech rights, Congressional Democrats and First Amendment activists had sought the probe. It began in 2006 and covered the the years 2001-2006 during the administration of President George W. Bush.
The 209-page report, signed by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, concluded that while none of the groups were targeted by the FBI for their views alone--one of the key allegations made by critics of the surveillance--the Bureau nevertheless engaged in tactics and strategies toward those groups and their members that were inappropriate, misleading, and in some cases counterproductive. Moreover, the OIG accused FBI witnesses of continuing to the present day to thwart a full and complete investigation into the matter by offering "incomplete and inconsistent accounts of events." An FBI spokesman said the Bureau "regrets that inaccurate information was provided."