BY DALE MILLS
US civil liberties groups have reacted with alarm to a leaked FBI memo which equates demonstrations in the USA with terrorist activity. The memo, released by the New York Times on November 23, was dated October 15. Its purpose is to "provide law enforcement [agencies] with current, terrorism information developed from counter-terrorism investigations and analysis".
The memo concentrated on the tactics to be used by anti-war protesters at the October 25 demonstrations in San Francisco and Washington. It urged police to report the activities of demonstrators to the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The language of the memo recalled the well-documented role of the FBI in illegally infiltrating and disrupting the left and other domestic dissidents in the 1950s and '60s, including the civil rights movement and anti-war movement. These were known as COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence) programs.
The language of the leaked memo reeks of bureaucratic paranoia. The memo warns that "extremists may be prepared to defend themselves against law enforcement officials during the course of the demonstration... Activists may also use intimidation techniques such as videotaping" police.
The filming of police can be used, the memo says, "for documenting potential cases of police brutality and for distribution of information over the internet".
"There is a very clear difference between legitimate forms of civil disobedience and terrorism", said Anthony Romero from the American Civil Liberties Union. "What is the chilling effect that will be felt by Americans all across the country if they think they will come under FBI scrutiny just by going to a protest?"
A copy of the leaked memo can be found at <http://www.aclu.org/SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=14452&c=207>.
From Green Left Weekly, December 3, 2003.
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