FBI Spying on SOA Watch Print
Tuesday, 09 May 2006 00:00

Legislative Update

Tomorrow the Rules Committee will decide which amendments will be added to this year?s House version of the Defense Authorization Bill. One of the amendments they?ll consider is one to suspend training at the SOA/ WHINSEC. If the amendment is approved, Congress will begin debate as early as Wednesday!

If the amendment is approved, and the chances are slim, we?ll need you, your friends and family and fellow organizers on the phone this week, calling your Representative to give them a heads up about the amendment and making sure they?ll make their vote in support of human rights and accountability. We will keep you updated about the latest developments.

Keep your eyes open for another email from us and check www.SOAW.org for updates.

May 9, 2006

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia last week released new evidence that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting counterterrorism investigations into School of the Americas Watch. As we?ve seen time and again when the FBI targets social change organizations, the files demonstrate a clear attempt to stifle political opposition.

In the released documents, the FBI noted that ?the [SOA Watch November vigil] has grown dramatically over the past several years.? The FBI elevated its concern to ?priority? level and subjected SOA Watch to ?counterterrorism? surveillance. The Bureau monitored the media attention that the annual November vigil and the trials of people arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience received, and agents noted which court tactics had chilling effects on people?s decisions to participate in civil disobedience.

Nothing in the FBI files justifies counterterrorism as a basis for the spying. In fact, the FBI never identifies any criminal activity outside of public civil disobedience, and they consistently describe the SOA Watch Vigil as ?peaceful.?

These files unmask the political nature of the actions of the FBI, an agency that has a long history of being used as ?political police,? targeting groups in the United States who are working for social change.

When congressional investigations, political trials and other traditional legal methods of repression failed to counter the growing movements of the 1950s, '60s and '70s, the FBI moved outside the law. They used secret and systematic methods of fraud and force, far beyond mere surveillance, to sabotage constitutionally-protected political activity. The purpose of ?COINTELPRO,? the FBI's domestic counterintelligence program, was, in FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's own words, to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit and otherwise neutralize" specific groups and individuals.

The FBI?s targets in this period included the American Indian Movement, the Communist Party, Black Nationalist groups, and many social justice activists, including Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez.

According to Brian Glick, in War at Home, COINTELPRO used a broad array of methods, including infiltration; psychological warfare from the outside (false media stories, forged correspondence); harassment through the legal system; and extralegal force and violence (in the case of radical Black, Puerto Rican and Native American activists, these attacks, including political assassinations, were so extensive, vicious, and calculated that they can only be accurately called a form of official "terrorism").

But COINTELPRO tactics are clearly not a thing of the past. In September of 2005, 72-year-old Filiberto Ojeda Rios, a leading figure in the fight for Puerto Rican independence, was killed by the FBI in a raid that coincided with the Grito de Lares, the annual pro-independence celebration of the 1868 anticolonial revolt in Puerto Rico. Ojeda Rios was wanted by the FBI for his role in a 1983 bank heist. (Click here for more info).

The death of Ojeda Rios and the spying against SOA Watch ? and many partner peace organizations like the American Friends Service Committee and the Thomas Merton Center, as revealed by other ACLU filings ? illustrate the dangerously vague, politicized and expanding definition of "terrorism" employed by the Bush administration.

Instead of responding to political opposition with political means, the U.S. government is responding to it as a threat. This same type of mindset responds to Latin American protests against social inequalities with the training of repressive militaries at the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC).

When military action is the default solution for any problem abroad and the FBI is being employed against social justice activists in the United States, it becomes vividly clear that none of us are safe. The actions and values of the U.S. government are out of alignment with the majority of the people of the Americas.

Now is the time when it?s more important than ever that we build principled alliances with other social change organizations and build stronger ties with fellow movements for justice. Together we can overcome the racist system of violence and domination to work towards a culture of justice and peace.

Read more:

Read Matthew Rothschild's piece in The Progressive.

Read, listen or watch Democracy Now! interviews with SOA Watch and ACLU.

Check out SOA Watch's press release on the files.

Find out more info from the ACLU.

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