Think the FBI is spying on you? Yea sure, you're paranoid, but you're probably right!
Doesn't matter if you are a Libertarian, Green, Commie, Anarchist, Gun Rights activist, anti-war protester, atheist, White Supremacist, Black Supremacist, religious fanatic, or an advocate of legalizing drugs. If you don't like the current governments policies and you are vocal about it, there is a good chance government thugs from the FBI, state police department, county sheriff's office, or local city cops are spying on you.
In addition to helping our royal government masters get rid of their enemies it's also a jobs program for overpaid and under worked cops.
And if you get this in an email, it's almost certain that some government nanny who works for the FBI, Homeland Security, or local cops will read it before you do.
For Anarchist, Details of Life as F.B.I. Target
By COLIN MOYNIHAN and SCOTT SHANE
Published: May 28, 2011
AUSTIN, Tex. — A fat sheaf of F.B.I. reports meticulously details the surveillance that counterterrorism agents directed at the one-story house in East Austin. For at least three years, they traced the license plates of cars parked out front, recorded the comings and goings of residents and guests and, in one case, speculated about a suspicious flat object spread out across the driveway.
“The content could not be determined from the street,” an agent observing from his car reported one day in 2005. “It had a large number of multi-colored blocks, with figures and/or lettering,” the report said, and “may be a sign that is to be used in an upcoming protest.”
Actually, the item in question was more mundane.
“It was a quilt,” said Scott Crow, marveling over the papers at the dining table of his ramshackle home, where he lives with his wife, a housemate and a backyard menagerie that includes two goats, a dozen chickens and a turkey. “For a kids’ after-school program.”
Mr. Crow, 44, a self-described anarchist and veteran organizer of anticorporate demonstrations, is among dozens of political activists across the country known to have come under scrutiny from the F.B.I.’s increased counterterrorism operations since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Other targets of bureau surveillance, which has been criticized by civil liberties groups and mildly faulted by the Justice Department’s inspector general, have included antiwar activists in Pittsburgh, animal rights advocates in Virginia and liberal Roman Catholics in Nebraska. When such investigations produce no criminal charges, their methods rarely come to light publicly.
But Mr. Crow, a lanky Texas native who works at a recycling center, is one of several Austin activists who asked the F.B.I. for their files, citing the Freedom of Information Act. The 440 heavily-redacted pages he received, many bearing the rubric “Domestic Terrorism,” provide a revealing window on the efforts of the bureau, backed by other federal, state and local police agencies, to keep an eye on people it deems dangerous.
In the case of Mr. Crow, who has been arrested a dozen times during demonstrations but has never been convicted of anything more serious than trespassing, the bureau wielded an impressive array of tools, the documents show.
The agents watched from their cars for hours at a time — Mr. Crow recalls one regular as “a fat guy in an S.U.V. with the engine running and the air-conditioning on” — and watched gatherings at a bookstore and cafe. For round-the-clock coverage, they attached a video camera to the phone pole across from his house on New York Avenue.
They tracked Mr. Crow’s phone calls and e-mails and combed through his trash, identifying his bank and mortgage companies, which appear to have been served with subpoenas. They visited gun stores where he shopped for a rifle, noting dryly in one document that a vegan animal rights advocate like Mr. Crow made an unlikely hunter. (He says the weapon was for self-defense in a marginal neighborhood.)
They asked the Internal Revenue Service to examine his tax returns, but backed off after an I.R.S. employee suggested that Mr. Crow’s modest earnings would not impress a jury even if his returns were flawed. (He earns $32,000 a year at Ecology Action of Texas, he said.)
They infiltrated political meetings with undercover police officers and informers. Mr. Crow counts five supposed fellow activists who were reporting to the F.B.I.
Mr. Crow seems alternately astonished, angered and flattered by the government’s attention. “I’ve had times of intense paranoia,” he said, especially when he discovered that some trusted allies were actually spies.
“But first, it makes me laugh,” he said. “It’s just a big farce that the government’s created such paper tigers. Al Qaeda and real terrorists are hard to find. We’re easy to find. It’s outrageous that they would spend so much money surveilling civil activists, and anarchists in particular, and equating our actions with Al Qaeda.”
The investigation of political activists is an old story for the F.B.I., most infamously in the Cointel program, which scrutinized and sometimes harassed civil rights and antiwar advocates from the 1950s to the 1970s. Such activities were reined in after they were exposed by the Senate’s Church Committee, and F.B.I. surveillance has been governed by an evolving set of guidelines set by attorneys general since 1976.
But the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 demonstrated the lethal danger of domestic terrorism, and after the Sept. 11 attacks, the F.B.I. vowed never again to overlook terrorists hiding in plain sight. The Qaeda sleeper cells many Americans feared, though, turned out to be rare or nonexistent.
The result, said Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent now at the American Civil Liberties Union, has been a zeal to investigate political activists who pose no realistic threat of terrorism.
“You have a bunch of guys and women all over the country sent out to find terrorism. Fortunately, there isn’t a lot of terrorism in many communities,” Mr. German said. “So they end up pursuing people who are critical of the government.”
Complaints from the A.C.L.U. prompted the Justice Department’s inspector general to assess the F.B.I.’s forays into domestic surveillance. The resulting report last September absolved the bureau of investigating dissenters based purely on their expression of political views. But the inspector general also found skimpy justification for some investigations, uncertainty about whether any federal crime was even plausible in others and a mislabeling of nonviolent civil disobedience as “terrorism.”
Asked about the surveillance of Mr. Crow, an F.B.I. spokesman, Paul E. Bresson, said it would be “inappropriate” to discuss an individual case. But he said that investigations are conducted only after the bureau receives information about possible crimes.
“We do not open investigations based on individuals who exercise the rights afforded to them under the First Amendment,” Mr. Bresson said. “In fact, the Department of Justice and the bureau’s own guidelines for conducting domestic operations strictly forbid such actions.”
It is not hard to understand why Mr. Crow attracted the bureau’s attention. He has deliberately confronted skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members at their gatherings, relishing the resulting scuffles. He claims to have forced corporate executives to move with noisy nighttime protests.
He says he took particular pleasure in a 2003 demonstration for Greenpeace in which activists stormed the headquarters of ExxonMobil in Irving, Tex., to protest its environmental record. Dressed in tiger outfits, protesters carried banners to the roof of the company’s offices, while others wearing business suits arrived in chauffeured Jaguars, forcing frustrated police officers to sort real executives from faux ones.
“It was super fun,” said Mr. Crow, one of the suits, who escaped while 36 other protesters were arrested. “They had ignored us and ignored us. But that one got their attention.”
It got the attention of the F.B.I. as well, evidently, leading to the three-year investigation that focused specifically on Mr. Crow. The surveillance documents show that he also turned up in several other investigations of activism in Texas and beyond, from 2001 to at least 2008.
For an aficionado of civil disobedience, Mr. Crow comes across as more amiable than combative. He dropped out of college, toured with an electronic-rock band and ran a successful Dallas antiques business while dabbling in animal rights advocacy. In 2001, captivated by the philosophy of anarchism, he sold his share of the business and decided to become a full-time activist.
Since then, he has led a half-dozen groups and run an annual training camp for protesters. (The camps invariably attracted police infiltrators who were often not hard to spot. “We had a rule,” he said. “If you were burly, you didn’t belong.”) He also helped to found Common Ground Relief, a network of nonprofit organizations created in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Anarchism was the catchword for an international terrorist movement at the turn of the 20th century. But Mr. Crow, whose e-mail address contains the phrase “quixotic dreaming,” describes anarchism as a kind of locally oriented self-help movement, a variety of “social libertarianism.”
“I don’t like the state,” he said. “I don’t want to overthrow it, but I want to create alternatives to it.”
This kind of talk appears to have baffled some of the agents assigned to watch him, whose reports to F.B.I. bosses occasionally seem petulant. One agent calls “nonviolent direct action,” a phrase in activists’ materials, “an oxymoron.” Another agent comments, oddly, on Mr. Crow and his wife, Ann Harkness, who have been together for 24 years, writing that “outwardly they did not appear to look right for each other.” At a training session, “most attendees dressed like hippies.”
Such comments stand out amid detailed accounts of the banal: mail in the recycling bin included “a number of catalogs from retail outlets such as Neiman Marcus, Ann Taylor and Pottery Barn.”
Mr. Crow said he hoped the airing of such F.B.I. busywork might deter further efforts to keep watch over him. The last documents he has seen mentioning him date from 2008. But the Freedom of Information Act exempts from disclosure any investigations that are still open.
“I still occasionally see people sitting in cars across the street,” he said. “I don’t think they’ve given up.”
F.B.I. Casts Wide Net Under Relaxed Rules for Terror Inquiries, Data Show
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
Published: March 26, 2011
WASHINGTON — Within months after the Bush administration relaxed limits on domestic-intelligence gathering in late 2008, the F.B.I. assessed thousands of people and groups in search of evidence that they might be criminals or terrorists, a newly disclosed Justice Department document shows.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., has not changed policies on F.B.I. investigation rules that were relaxed by the Bush administration in 2008.
John Ashcroft, an attorney general in the Bush administration, loosened F.B.I. rules after the Sept. 11 attacks.
In a vast majority of those cases, F.B.I. agents did not find suspicious information that could justify more intensive investigations. The New York Times obtained the data, which the F.B.I. had tried to keep secret, after filing a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act.
The document, which covers the four months from December 2008 to March 2009, says the F.B.I. initiated 11,667 “assessments” of people and groups. Of those, 8,605 were completed. And based on the information developed in those low-level inquiries, agents opened 427 more intensive investigations, it says.
The statistics shed new light on the F.B.I.’s activities in the post-Sept. 11 era, as the bureau’s focus has shifted from investigating crimes to trying to detect and disrupt potential criminal and terrorist activity.
It is not clear, though, whether any charges resulted from the inquiries. And because the F.B.I. provided no comparable figures for a period before the rules change, it is impossible to determine whether the numbers represent an increase in investigations.
Still, privacy advocates contend that the large number of assessments that turned up no sign of wrongdoing show that the rules adopted by the Bush administration have created too low a threshold for starting an inquiry. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has left those rules in place.
Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now a policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the volume of fruitless assessments showed that the Obama administration should tighten the rules.
“These are investigations against completely innocent people that are now bound up within the F.B.I.’s intelligence system forever,” Mr. German said. “Is that the best way for the F.B.I. to use its resources?”
But Valerie E. Caproni, the bureau’s general counsel, said the numbers showed that agents were running down any hint of a potential problem — including vigilantly checking out potential leads that might have been ignored before the Sept. 11 attacks.
“Recognize that the F.B.I.’s policy — that I think the American people would support — is that any terrorism lead has to be followed up,” Ms. Caproni said. “That means, on a practical level, that things that 10 years ago might just have been ignored now have to be followed up.”
F.B.I. investigations are controlled by guidelines first put in place by Attorney General Edward H. Levi during the Ford administration, after the disclosure that the bureau had engaged in illegal domestic spying for decades. After the Sept. 11 attacks, those rules were loosened by Attorney General John Ashcroft and then again by Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey.
Some Democrats and civil liberties groups protested the Mukasey guidelines, contending that the new rules could open the door to racial or religious profiling and to fishing expeditions against Americans.
In 2006, The New York Times reported that the National Security Agency had each month been flooding the bureau with thousands of names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses that its surveillance and data-mining programs had deemed suspicious. But frustrated agents found that virtually all of the tips led to dead ends or innocent Americans.
When the Mukasey guidelines went into effect in December 2008, they allowed the F.B.I. to use a new category of investigation called an “assessment.” It permits an agent, “proactively or based on investigative leads,” to scrutinize a person or a group for signs of a criminal or national security threat, according to the F.B.I. manual.
The manual also says agents need “no particular factual predication” about a target to open an assessment, although the basis “cannot be arbitrary or groundless speculation.” And in selecting subjects for such scrutiny, agents are allowed to use ethnicity, religion or speech protected by the First Amendment as a factor — as long as it is not the only one.
An assessment is less intensive than a more traditional “preliminary” inquiry or a “full” investigation, which requires greater reason to suspect wrongdoing but also allows agents to use more intrusive information-gathering techniques, like wiretapping.
Still, in conducting an assessment, agents are allowed to use other techniques — searching databases, interviewing the subjects or people who know them, sending confidential informers to infiltrate an organization, attending a public meeting like a political rally or a religious service, and following and photographing people in public places.
In March 2009, Russ Feingold, then a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, asked the F.B.I. how many assessments it had initiated under the new guidelines and how many regular investigations had been opened based on information developed by those assessments.
In November 2010, the Justice Department sent a classified letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee answering Mr. Feingold’s question. This month, it provided an uncensored copy of the same answer to The Times as a result of its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
F.B.I. officials said in an interview that the statistics represented a snapshot as of late March 2009, so the 11,667 assessment files were generated over a roughly four-month period. But they said they believed that agents had continued to open assessments at roughly the same pace since then.
Some aspects of the statistics are hazy, officials cautioned.
For example, even before the December 2008 changes, the bureau routinely followed up on low-grade tips and leads under different rules. But that activity was not formally tracked as an “assessment” that could be easily counted and compared.
F.B.I. officials also said about 30 percent of the 11,667 assessments were just vague tips — like a report of a suspicious car that included no license plate number. Such tips are entered into its computer system even if there is no way to follow up on them.
Finally, they said, it is impossible to know precisely how many assessments turned up suspicious facts. A single assessment may have spun off more than one higher investigation, and some agents may have neglected to record when such an investigation started as an assessment.
Ms. Caproni also said that even though the F.B.I. manual says agents can open assessments “proactively,” they still must always have a valid reason — like a tip that is not solid enough to justify a more intensive level of investigation but should still be checked out.
But Mr. German, of the A.C.L.U., said that allowing agents to initiate investigations without a factual basis “seems ripe for abuse.” He added, “What they should be doing is working within stricter guidelines that help them focus on real threats rather than spending time chasing shadows.”
Senators Say Patriot Act Is Being Misinterpreted
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
Published: May 26, 2011
WASHINGTON — Two senators claimed on Thursday that the Justice Department had secretly interpreted the so-called Patriot Act in a twisted way, enabling domestic surveillance activities that many members of Congress do not understand.
At the same time, Congress and the White House were rushing to enact legislation to prevent a lapse in several of the federal government’s investigative powers under the Patriot Act that were set to expire at midnight. The Senate passed the bill 72 to 23 late in the afternoon, and within hours the House approved it 250 to 153. In an unusual move, a White House spokesman said that President Obama, who was in Europe, would “direct the use” of an autopen machine to sign the bill into law without delay.
During the debate, Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and a member of the Intelligence Committee, said that the executive branch had come up with a secret legal theory about what it could collect under a provision of the Patriot Act that did not seem to dovetail with a plain reading of the text. “I want to deliver a warning this afternoon: When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry,” Mr. Wyden said. He invoked the public’s reaction to the illegal domestic spying that came to light in the mid-1970s, the Iran-contra affair, and the Bush administration’s program of surveillance without warrants.
Another member of the Intelligence Committee, Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, backed Mr. Wyden’s account, saying, “Americans would be alarmed if they knew how this law is being carried out.”
The Obama administration declined to explain what the senators were talking about. Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman, said that Congressional oversight committees and a special panel of national security judges — known as the FISA Court — were aware of how the executive branch was interpreting and using surveillance laws.
“These authorities are also subject to extensive oversight from the FISA Court, from Congress, from the executive branch,” Mr. Boyd said.
Mr. Wyden has long denounced the idea of “secret law” — classified memorandums and rulings about the meaning of surveillance law developed by executive branch officials and the FISA Court. He and Mr. Udall had proposed requiring the Justice Department to make public its official interpretation of what the Patriot Act means. The chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, agreed to hold a hearing on their concerns next month.
The two had also sponsored a proposal to tighten the circumstances in which one of the expiring provisions, known as Section 215, could be used. It allows the F.B.I. to obtain “any tangible things” — like business records about customers.
Mr. Udall criticized Section 215, saying it lets the government get private information about people without a link to a terrorism or espionage inquiry.
In a 2009 debate over the Patriot Act, another member of the Intelligence Committee, Russell Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, also hinted that Section 215 was being used in a secret way that, he said, “Congress and the American people deserve to know” about. He was defeated for re-election in 2010.
The business records section of the Patriot Act had been set to expire, along with provisions allowing the F.B.I. to obtain “roving” wiretap orders to follow suspects who change phone numbers, and to obtain national security wiretaps against noncitizen terrorism suspects who are not connected to any foreign power.
Congressional leaders had agreed to extend the provisions before they expired. But Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican from Kentucky, initially blocked an expedited vote on the bill because he wanted Senate leaders to allow a vote on several amendments. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, allowed votes on two Paul amendments, which would have offered greater privacy protections for records involving gun sales and banking.
Big Brother Goes to West Egg
By LAWRENCE DOWNES
Published: May 4, 2011
Kings Point, N.Y., on Long Island’s gilded North Shore, wants to do criminal checks on every car that enters its placid realm. It has the technology — license-plate cameras hooked up to police computers — and is borrowing the money to install 44 of them. For about a million dollars, it will get what village trustees say is the snuggest security blanket money can buy.
Kings Point is not a gated community or club. It’s F. Scott Fitzgerald’s West Egg, 3.5 square miles of estates, McMansions and shady streets, home to about 5,000 people. It has little crime, though there has been a recent frightening spate of break-ins by a voyeur who snuck into girls’ bedrooms. Mayor Michael Kalnick says the cameras predate that and have been discussed for years as a good way to spot lapsed registrations, suspended licenses and stolen cars. They were approved in August, but most people didn’t know until Newsday published a big article.
Villagewide car surveillance seems like a big leap into the chilly postprivacy age. But at a village meeting last week, I waited in vain for someone to complain about civil liberties. Mayor Kalnick took some testy questions: Why are taxes rising 9.8 percent? Why is the police commissioner getting a raise (to $199,756)? Why wasn’t the camera contract put out to bid? Why didn’t you tell us about the last budget meeting? Why doesn’t the village have a working Web site?
He didn’t have to answer the privacy question because nobody asked it. I’m not sure why, but Big Brother lost to taxes as the bigger menace. Only one young man, who said he was from outside Kings Point and drove through on his way home, bristled a little. How come I wasn’t asked about this camera thing? he asked. If you’ve done nothing wrong, Mr. Kalnick told him, you should have nothing to worry about.
Court Revives Lawsuit Over Government Surveillance
By ERIC LICHTBLAU
Published: March 21, 2011
WASHINGTON — Civil libertarians opposed to the government’s expanded wiretapping powers were bolstered Monday after an appellate court reinstated a lawsuit challenging an eavesdropping law passed by Congress in 2008. Related in Opinion
In one of the few remaining lawsuits on the issue, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups charged that the expanded surveillance powers granted by Congress were unconstitutional and illegal. A Federal District Court judge in Manhattan had thrown out the lawsuit, saying the plaintiffs failed to show they were actually spied upon and therefore did not have legal standing to sue. But the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagreed, allowing the lawsuit to move forward.
It found that the groups challenging the wiretapping law, including lawyers and journalists communicating with people overseas who might fall under terrorism investigations, had a reasonable fear that their international calls and e-mail would be monitored by the government.
While the appeals court did not rule on the merits of the case, the groups bringing the case said they were glad to be able to bring the legal substance of their challenge to court.
“I have always thought that we had a very strong argument,” said Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the A.C.L.U. “The new law allows the government to engage in dragnet surveillance of Americans’ communication, and it makes the Fourth Amendment altogether irrelevant.”
The law, known as the FISA Amendments Act, followed a furious debate over the legality of President George W. Bush’s secret eavesdropping program. In amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Congress gave covert agencies greater leeway to monitor international communications without direct court oversight.
As a presidential candidate at the time, Senator Barack Obama opposed the broadening of executive power, but he angered some liberal supporters by reversing his position and voting for the measure.
The Justice Department, which could seek a rehearing in the Second Circuit to prevent the case from returning to the district court, had no comment Monday.