Army Spying Campaign Leads to Anti-War Activists Being Labeled ‘Domestic Terrorists’
BY GRIFFIN BUR
WEDNESDAY JUL 3, 2013
Against the backdrop of growing concerns about domestic spying, new information has emerged about law enforcement agencies’ surveillance of antiwar activists in Washington State. Following the revelation that the activists, who are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit brought by attorneys with the National Lawyers Guild, were listed in a national domestic terrorism database as the result of a spying campaign by the U.S. army, the director of a Washington State “fusion center” was named as an additional defendant in the lawsuit last week.
Larry Hildes is the lead attorney for six plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which seeks to sue the military for spying on activist groups dating back to 2006. The six plaintiffs were members of the Olympia-based Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) group. Though the lawsuit was first filed in 2009, there are are several key pieces of new information that have prompted an amended complaint, Hildes tells In These Times.
The first concerns the role of John J. Towery, the undercover army agent who went by the alias John Jacob and is one of the original defendants in the lawsuit, along with his former supervisor at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State and several police officials. Towery, who was first outed in 2009, admitted on June 24 that he had “eavesdropped on a confidential, privileged attorney-client email listserve,” explains Hildes. The amended complaint alleges that Towery’s activities constituted a violation of “the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment[s].”
Another startling discovery is the scope of the groups involved in the infiltration. Towery shared the information he gathered with the Washington State Fusion Center (WSFC). Fusion centers are a product of Bush-era domestic intelligence policy and have the ostensible purpose of improving sharing of anti-terrorism intelligence between different law enforcement agencies. But civil liberties groups such as Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) have suggested that the centers have repeatedly breached privacy law in their intelligence-gathering efforts. A 2012 Senate Subcommittee report was broadly dismissive of their activities, claiming that intelligence they produced was rarely useful. The report also suggested that some of the fusion centers’ activities “potentially violated […] guidelines meant to protect Americans’ civil liberties”, according to EPIC.