The Department of Justice has found that the FBI improperly investigated several liberal activist groups, including Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), even placing them on the terrorist watch list. According to the DoJ's investigation, these investigations between 2001 and 2006 were not legally justified and were not based on any substantive threat from the groups. The report also accuses FBI director Robert S. Mueller III of unintentionally providing false information to Congress about on of the FBI investigations. However, it absolves the FBI of the most serious charge: that the groups were targeted in retaliation for their speech. Here's what people have to say about Justice's conclusion.
Echoes of Hoover's FBI The Washington Post's Jerry Markon writes, "The FBI was known for using questionable domestic spying tactics against antiwar demonstrators and others in the 1960s under longtime director J. Edgar Hoover. In recent years, the American Civil Liberties Union has accused the bureau of improperly monitoring antiwar demonstrators and environmental groups during the Bush administration."
- ...Except Now We Accept It The Washington Post's Jeff Stein writes, "There was a time in the 1960s when the FBI’s illegal surveillance of left-wing groups seemed, and maybe even was, sinister if not broadly menacing. Parts of today’s Justice Department report on its more recent activities, however, evoke that old saw about history repeating itself as farce. ... And compared with other, far more worrying invasions of civil rights by the government, such as its ongoing monitoring of Americans’ telephone calls and e-mails, it seems merely hapless."
- Examples of FBI Over-Steps Talking Points Memo's Ryan Reilly chronicles several. In one, FBI Director Mueller told Congress in 2006 that the FBI had monitored a 2002 anti-war rally because it expected international terrorism suspects to be present. In fact, a lone FBI officer had monitored the event because it was a slow day and his bosses wanted to keep him busy. Another: "The FBI had opened an investigation into Greenpeace members related to their planned protests of Exxon and Kimberly-Clark in Texas, but didn't articulate any basis to suspect they were planning a federal crime, and kept the investigation open for three years -- long after the corporate shareholder meetings they were planning to disrupt had passed. They also classified that case as an Act of Terrorism matter, but the OIG found there was scant evidence that Greenpeace members were planning activities involving force or violence."
- FBI's War on the ACLU The Washington Post's Jeff Stein reports, "According to the Justice Department’s report, FBI officials, including the Pittsburgh office's top lawyer, engaged in distinctly COINTELPRO-style tactics after the American Civil Liberties Union sued for the release of documents relating to the surveillance. Boiled down to their essence, those tactics involved officials generating post-dated 'routing slips' and other paper to create a terrorism threat that didn’t exist."
- This Is a Wrist-Slap Liberal blogger John Cole sighs, "This isn’t news, so I’m assuming this is the 'mistakes were made' announcement for closure where they admit to some minor wrongdoing, drop the case without prosecuting anyone, and then we are expected to pretend this never happened and go back to calling the [dirty f-ing hippies] crowd paranoid stoners. Because it would be unseemly to look backwards, and the FBI is 'keeping Murrika safe!' How can we hold them accountable for breaking the law?"
- Insight on FBI Culture McClatchy's Mike Doyle writes, "The report is replete with details and insight about the FBI's world. It's one in which bureaucracy and supervisor-pleasing matters a great deal. ... The report is worth checking out in its entirety, for anyone interested in the national security bureaucracy as well as the relationship between law enforcement and domestic dissent."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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