FBI Spied on PETA, Greenpeace, Anti-War Activists

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First Amendment Views Not an Issue

In the case of Greenpeace, the inspector general concluded that the FBI "articulated little or no basis for suspecting a violation of any federal criminal statute."

The investigation was started when the FBI suspected Greenpeace activists might try to disrupt corporate shareholder meetings of two Alaskan energy producers. The protests never happened, yet the FBI kept its investigation open for three years, "beyond the point at which its underlying justification no longer existed," the report concluded.

Mark Floegel, an investigator with Greenpeace, said Greenpeace was "disappointed but not surprised," and that grouping Greenpeace with terrorists was "paranoid and wrongheaded."

"It's nice to know these errors, we hope, are being corrected," Floegel said.

The Catholic Worker was investigated under the "Acts of Terrorism" classification after some of its members trespassed on a military facility and staged a peaceful protest. The inspector general found the classification "inappropriate" and reiterated that the FBI is not authorized to target civil disobedience.

In response to the review, FBI Deputy Director Tim Murphy wrote in a letter to the inspector general, "We are pleased the report concludes the FBI did not target any groups for investigation on the basis of their First Amendment activities.

"As noted in your report '[t]he FBI's investigations of these individuals were generally predicated on concerns about potential criminal acts by these individuals, not their First Amendment views.'

"Additionally," Murphy wrote in a Sept. 14 letter to inspector general Fine, "as described in the report, inaccurate information was provided to the FBI director and Congress regarding the basis for an agents presence at an anti-war rally that was sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center in November 2002. The FBI regrets that incorrect information was provided in this matter."

The inspector general recommended that the FBI determine whether any administrative action was warranted in regard to inaccurate information about the Merton Center surveillance being given to Congress and the public. The report also explored the possibility of revising the FBI?s domestic investigative guidelines that involve collecting information at public events.

The inspector general also recommended that the FBI Inspection Division conduct a review of the Pittsburgh field office case files.

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