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FBI casts 'overly broad net' in war against terror

Published: Sunday March 26, 2006

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The FBI casts an "overly broad net" by including antiwar and environmental protesters in its investigations "while waging a highly publicized war against terror," according to a story slated for the front page of Monday's edition of the L.A. Times, RAW STORY has learned.

Excerpts from the article written by Nicholas Riccardi:


The FBI, while waging a highly publicized war against terrorism, has spent resources gathering information on antiwar and environmental protesters, and activists who feed vegetarian meals to the homeless, the agency's internal memos show.

For years, the FBI's definition of terrorism has included violence against property, such as the window smashing during the 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization. Those activities have led the FBI to investigate the online chat rooms, organizing meetings and demonstrations of a wide range of activist groups. Officials say that international terrorists pose the greatest threat to the nation, but they cannot ignore crimes committed by some activists.


The FBI's encounters with activists are described in hundreds of pages of documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act after agents visited several activists before the 2004 political conventions. Details have steadily trickled out over the past year, but newly released documents provide a fuller view of some FBI investigations.

"Any definition of terrorism that would include someone throwing a bottle or rock through a window during an antiwar demonstration is dangerously overbroad," said Ben Wizner, an attorney with the ACLU. "The FBI will have its hands full pursuing antiwar groups instead of truly dangerous organizations."

ACLU attorneys say that most violence during demonstrations is minor and is better handled by local police than federal counterterrorism agents. They contend that the FBI, which spied on antiwar and civil-rights leaders during the 1960s, appears to be investigating activists solely for opposing the government.