[sixties-l] For '60s Activists, Fear of Old Abuses in New FBI Powers (fwd)

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Date: Mon Jun 17 2002 - 18:59:58 EDT

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    Date: Mon, 17 Jun 2002 15:43:56 -0700
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    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,''
    he said.

    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 bureau.

    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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