---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 2002 15:43:56 -0700
From: radtimes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: For '60s Activists, Fear of Old Abuses in New FBI Powers
For '60s Activists, Fear of Old Abuses in New FBI Powers
by Wayne Washington
Published on Monday, June 17, 2002 in the Boston Globe
WASHINGTON - John Lewis remembers seeing them just on
the periphery of the action.
He and others would be rallying, meeting, or marching,
pressing for civil rights deep in the American South of
the 1960s, and the FBI agents would often be there,
They'd be nonparticipants, of course. But they'd be
there just the same.
Lewis, director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee, wanted the agents to take a more active
role, ''stopping the discrimination and the beatings,''
A few years later, Lewis learned why the G-men simply
scribbled down names and notes while he and others were
bitten by dogs and beaten by local police.
''They were spying on the movement,'' said Lewis, now a
US representative from Georgia.
The spying extended to individuals as well. Tom Hayden,
a former California state legislator who was a leader
of the civil rights and antiwar movements during the
1960s, found memos calling for him to be
The FBI's counterintelligence programs on civil rights
advocates, black radicals, and pacifists - code-named
Cointelpro - generated a backlash after they came to
light in the early 1970s. That backlash led to
restrictions on how agents could conduct surveillance,
how long they could conduct it, and who could be the
subject of such surveillance.
Sept. 11, however, has provided federal officials with
the motivation for a return to domestic surveillance.
New guidelines spelled out by the Justice Department on
May 30 make it clear that agents will be allowed to
conduct ''online research'' even if their efforts are
not linked to an established criminal investigation.
Preliminary inquiries, which allow agents to gather
evidence before a crime is committed, can take as long
as a year, well beyond the old 90-day limit. Special
agents in charge at the field office level can
authorize terrorism investigations that used to require
the approval of the director or assistant director of
The new rules also allow agents to enter public places
and events, such as religious gatherings and political
events, to investigate possible terrorist activities.
Justice Department officials have emphasized that the
excesses of the past won't be repeated.
But Lewis and others who found their names in
once-secret FBI files aren't so sure.
''If they start down this road, it won't be halfway,''
Lewis said. ''It won't be a little bit. This is a very
dangerous thing to do in a society such as ours.''
Supporters of the new policies argue that the safety of
that society depends on an FBI that can monitor some
residents to make sure all are protected. Even before
the new rules were announced, former FBI agent Michael
Miles was calling for more internal scrutiny.
''We're going to have to have an MI-5-type organization
that just does domestic intelligence,'' said Miles, who
was a counterterrorism consultant for Saudi Arabia.
''We can't win this war without domestic
intelligence.'' MI-5 is the British security
intelligence system. It is similar to the CIA, but has
more power to spy in domestic matters.
The British and people in some other European nations
are more comfortable with domestic surveillance than
Americans are, a fact that terrorists are well aware
of, he said. Germany is an example of how opportunistic
terrorists are, Miles said.
''There's a reason Al Qaeda based themselves in
Germany,'' Miles said. ''With the history of the
Gestapo, they know Germany's not going to spy on them.
So they've used Germany as a sort of base. It's
However, many Americans, particularly those who have
been the subject of domestic surveillance, find the
prospect of a newly aggressive FBI alarming.
Lewis recalls former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's
determined view, evident years later in the reams of
documents Lewis got through the Freedom of Information
Act, that the antiwar and civil rights movements had
been infiltrated by communists who were using them to
destabilize the United States.
And now, in Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's
statements and in the new insistence that terrorists
have burrowed deep into American society, Lewis sees
frightening parallels. ''It is eerie,'' he said. ''It
reminds me of another period in our history.''
After hearing how the bureau spied on the Rev. Martin
Luther King Jr., Lewis requested documents on the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He got one
batch on the organization and another on him.
The documents tracked Lewis's movements, noted people
he spoke to and what he did. He was outraged, he said,
but not shocked. ''We had lived with the possibility
that this was going on,'' Lewis said. ''I was more
surprised that they spent all of this time doing this.
I felt then and still do feel that it was a waste of
Hayden shares that view.
He obtained more than 20,000 pages of information
through the Freedom of Information Act documenting
domestic surveillance by both the CIA and the FBI.
''Included were memos from Hoover ordering that I be
`neutralized' and inviting FBI suggestions,'' Hayden
Louis Schneider, executive secretary of the pacifist
American Friends Service Committee from 1974 to 1980,
said he remembers the day he got copies of the secret
files the FBI had compiled on his organization.
The large stacks of boxes came with a 50-page summary
that concluded that AFSC is not a ''subversive
organization. It is a sincere pacifist organization.''
''I was amazed to see letters I had written to agencies
in other countries'' inside the boxes, Schneider said.
One letter, addressed to an agency head in Moscow, was
opened and resealed.
Hayden said he does not oppose monitoring groups that
could do serious harm, ''but my experience indicates
that our intelligence agencies always have a political
and ideological agenda that interferes with their
ability to understand the sources of hatred and
alienation,'' he said.
That fundamental lack of understanding is part of the
reason why the FBI has gone too far in the past, said
Brian Glick, a lawyer who has represented civil rights
era clients and written a book about the bureau's
actions during Cointelpro.
Glick said he believes the bureau never completely
stopped conducting Cointelpro-like operations; they
just did fewer on a smaller scale. But now, with old
restrictions removed, all bets are off, he said.
''My sense is the restrictions have operated somewhat
like speed limits,'' he said. ''If the speed limit is
55 miles per hour, we'll drive 65, 70, or even 80.''
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