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New documents prove U.S. Army actively targeted leftist protesters, group says

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New records obtained by the Defending Dissent Foundation prove that the United States Army used a multi-agency spy network to gather intelligence on nonviolent, antiwar protesters and to disseminate their findings to both the FBI and local police departments.

Activists filed a lawsuit against Thomas Rudd and John Towery — Panagacos v. Towery — in 2007, alleging that the U.S. Army had directed operatives to infiltrate and collect information about the activist movement in the Washington area.

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According to the newly released documents, the U.S. Army paid Towery, a Criminal Information and Systems Officer, to spy on the antiwar group Port Militarization Resistance (PMR), as well as the Students for a Democratic Society, the Industrial Workers of the World, and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

In an email from November 2007, Towery wrote to a number of people he had met at a Domestic Terrorism (DT) conference in Spokane, Washington that “it would be a good idea to develop a leftist/anarchist mini-group for intel sharing and distro.”

Towery seemed very concerned that existence of this “mini-group” would become public knowledge. “[W]e will need to look at the third party rules and each individuals [sic] agency policy about email,” he wrote, because “[e]ven open source information and files should not be distributed, because it might tip off groups that we are studying their techniques, tactics and prcedures.”

Larry Hildes, a National Lawyers Guild attorney who filed the Panagacos lawsuit in 2010, said that “[t]he latest revelations show how the Army not only engaged in illegal spying on political dissidents, it led the charge and tried to expand the counterintelligence network targeting leftists and anarchist.”

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In a 2009 sworn statement, Towery denied that the Army had any involvement in his activities. “I was concerned at the outset that what I was doing should be legal and that the Fusion Cell [of Army, FBI, and local police departments] should not get in trouble because of what I was doing,” he said.

“Additionally I took steps to ensure that all of my activities would be conducted on my off-hours,” he continued. “For example, I would occasionally be contacted by one of the protesters during office hours on my cell phone; but I would wait to return the call until I was on a break or at lunch.”

The email obtained by the Defending Defense Foundation was sent from Towery’s us.army.mil address, and was sent at 10:16 a.m.

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[Image via theunabonger on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed]


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