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Inside the School of Assassins by Belly of the Beast Films PDF Print E-mail
Written by Carl   
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 17:55

"A group of high school students visits the infamous School of the Americas, now known as WHINSEC. Accompanied by former US Senate candidate, Charlie Hardy, the students challenge military officers and State Department officials with pointed questions about the institution's dark past."

- Originally published on November 20th, 2015 by Belly of the Beast Films

Inside the SOA - Part 1

Inside the SOA - Part 2

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 December 2015 21:59
The Empire Files - The U.S. School That Trains Dictators & Death Squads PDF Print E-mail
Written by Hendrik Voss   
Monday, 07 December 2015 02:18

Abby Martin investigates this notorious school that is largely hidden from the American public; its crimes around the world, its star graduates, why it exists and the movement to shut it down. Featuring interviews with School Of the Americas Watch founder Father Roy Bourgeois and other SOAW leaders. -December 5, 2015

For more about the short documentary click the image below or visit The Real News.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 December 2015 21:57
Remembering Maura, Ita, Dorothy and Jean: A Scattering of Seeds and Words of Gratitude PDF Print E-mail
Written by Scott Wright and Jean Stokan   
Wednesday, 02 December 2015 14:32

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the martyrdom of four U.S. church women who were assassinated in El Salvador on December 2, 1980. Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan: two Maryknoll sisters, one Ursuline nun, and a young lay person.

Today, 35 years later, we live in a very different world, where the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor are joined together. Nearly 200 nations are gathered in Paris to address the urgent concerns of global warming and climate justice. What they decide there will determine in no small measure the future of the planet. Global warming is creating extreme weather events, severe droughts and flooding, rising sea levels and melting glaciers, and disrupting access to food and water for millions of people, and creating extreme violence in Sudan and Syria.

Today, 35 years later, 12 million Syrians – half the population of their country – are displaced from their homes, and four million are fleeing to distant lands and as far as Europe, seeking refuge. They risk their lives on sea and on land, and have been greeted with both generosity and with hatred. The same fears and threats hurled at European Jewish refugees seeking to escape Nazi extermination 75 years ago is being hurled at Syrian Muslim refugees today, in both Europe and the United States.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 December 2015 20:57
November Vigil 2015: Building a Culture of Justice and Peace PDF Print E-mail

Human Rights activists from across the Americas converged on Georgia in November 2015, and we are so grateful to have filled the streets of Columbus and Lumpkin with our transformative energy, and to have multiplied our resistance to US empire with so many around the world through livestream and social media.

If you have video or photos of the 2015 SOAW Vigil that you would like to share please contact: Mike Barr at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Your work will be credited and used to edit programs for use in promoting SOAWatch and next year's vigil at the US/Mexico border. Thank you.

On Sunday, November 22, SOA Watch Field Organizer María Luisa Rosal and SOA Watch Founder Father Roy Bourgeois made an important announcement about SOA Watch's move to the border in the Fall of 2016: Click here to watch the announcement (from the School of the Americas to the Border). Stay tuned for more information that will get released in January 2016!

THE SUNDAY Vigil was a beautiful act of resistance, called forth by our friends who are directly impacted by unjust systems of racism and violence. The names of the fallen, killed by graduates of the SOA/WHINSEC, rang out hour upon hour, as we responded, Presente!

Let's use our collective energy from this past weekend to continue building a culture of justice and peace! Will you join us in standing up against impunity in Honduras? Our call for urgent action is an impactful way to manifest our solidarity with the people of Honduras, who are still resisting the SOA-graduate led coup of 2009.

Sunday, 11/22 at Fort Benning, Georgia

See video of the 2015 November Vigil

Sunday Vigil to Close the SOA

and more photos of the whole weekend on the SOA Watch Flickr

Saturday, 11/21 in Lumpkin, GA

#ShutDownStewart: video of the rally and march

From the SOA to the Border - No Mas MuertesThe #ShutDownStewart team led a powerful rally and 1.7-mile march to the Stewart Detention Center on Saturday. Speakers included family members whose family was torn apart by deportation, Mary Hooks from Southerners on New Ground, Silky Shah of Detention Watch Network, Maria Luisa Rosal from SOA Watch, and #ShutStewartDown organizer Anton Flores from Alterna Community. The march was led by those whose lives are directly impacted by our country's unjust, inhumane and racist immigration policies, and more than 1,000 marchers joined in.

Eleven protesters were arrested on misdemeanor charges of Obstruction of Justice for obstructing the injustices that take place daily at Stewart Detention Center. Ranging from ages 29-81, from states across the US, they are Mary Anne Perrone, Kevin Caron, Betsy Lamb, Moe Fitzsimmons, Rebecca Kanner, Kelvin Ho, Ann Havill, Beth Harris, Rita Lucey, Beth Rosdatter, and Bill Wertheimer. (photo, below and left, by Steve Pavey).

Eleven protestors arrestedAfter the movement supported them by paying $100 for each arrestee, all were released and all charges dismissed within an hour of negotiations with the Sheriff and Magistrate Judge.

Thank you to all who donated to support those who take risks by using their bodies to cross lines and fences in solidarity with our sisters and brothers.

We do not forget that while we celebrate the release of our 11 comrades, thousands of men continue to be held unjustly, in terrible conditions inside Stewart. We will not stop until we #ShutStewartDown! and not one more family is divided by our country's barbaric practices.

Friday, 11/20 in Columbus, GA (See More Photos Here)

Activists arrived from Mexico, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Venezuela, Panama and around the US to gather for the first workshops in the 2015 Vigil, exploring resistance to US empire. Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition presented Why We Must #ShutDownStewart to get us ready for Saturday’s march to the Stewart Detention Center, discussing the intersections of racism, militarism, and mass incarceration that are embodied at Stewart and other detention centers throughout the US.

National Religious Campaign Against Torture screened Breaking Down the Box, exposing the torture of solitary confinement in the context of mass incarceration in the US. Two of the victims of the right-wing extremist violent attempts to overthrow the democratically-elected government discussed the Struggle Against Impunity in Venezuela. Pax Christi USA hosted a discussion led by youth organizers for the Dream Act in NJ, and SOA Watch activante Jonathan González Quiel spoke on human rights and militarism in Panama.

Two members of the jury of the International Tribunal of Conscience on Mexico on the anniversary of the disappearance of the students from the rural teacher’s school in Ayotzinapa were featured in a workshop on Mexico’s Crimes Against Humanity and the Complicity of the US. And SOA Watch LA screened Testimony: The Maria Guardado Story, shared personal remembrances and also poetry from Maria’s newly released (bilingual) book of poems, Quisiera Escribir Cosas Bellas.

We heard a report-back on the Colombian Peace Process from Witness for Peace, and from organizers in Costa Rica and Mexico about mining, militarization and the disappeared. NETWORK Lobby shared an analysis of 2015 congressional legislation, and another workshop discussed how early Christianity was co-opted and transformed into a violent, patriarchal tool of empire.  SOA Watch leaders also led Peacemaker, Legal Observer, Nonviolent Direct Action and Legislative trainings, and packed the house for an exciting opening plenary that closed out the transformative evening.

Exposed: FBI Surveillance of School of the Americas Watch PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 12 November 2015 00:00
Exposed: FBI Surveillance of School of the Americas Watch
by Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund

FBI used counter-terrorism authority to track pacifist human rights group for 10 years

For a decade, the FBI flagrantly abused its counter-terrorism authority to conduct a widespread surveillance and monitoring operation of School of Americas Watch (SOAW), a nonviolent activist organization founded by pacifists with the aim of closing the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (now renamed) and ending the U.S. role in the militarization of Latin America.

Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, on behalf of SOAW, once again reveal the FBI’s functioning as a political surveillance and intelligence operation and its use of its domestic terrorism authority against peaceful protest in the United States.

SOAW organizes annual protests in Fort Benning, Ga., the site where the U.S. Army has trained many of the military leaders and dictators in Latin America who were responsible for massacres of opposition forces and the creation of torture centers, among other crimes against humanity. The training at the SOA is ongoing and the graduates of the institute continue to engage in extrajudicial executions and the repression of social movements in countries like Chile, Colombia, Honduras and Mexico.

SOAW’s mission and proven track record are peaceful. Yet the FBI deployed its “domestic terrorism” resources, reported to the “Counterterrorism Unit” and reached out to the Miami Domestic Intelligence Terrorism Squad. It used confidential informants inside the movement to collect information. The FBI’s headquarters and counter-terrorism units were requested to provide the FBI’s Field Office in Atlanta with “all intelligence relevant to the SOA, so that this information can be provided to local/military law enforcement agencies.”

Tracked despite 'peaceful intentions'

A review of 10 years of redacted documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund on behalf of the SOAW show that, year after year, the FBI acknowledged that the organizers and the activities of the group were peaceful. And year after year, the FBI continued to keep its case open with claims that it was possible that there could be “more aggressive protest participants” or “factions of a radical cell” or other such pretextual alarmist warnings to justify its spying on protected First Amendment political activity.

The documents have been made public and are searchable at

In 2005, FBI reports admitted “the peaceful intentions” of the SOA Watch leaders but justified its work on the basis that “a militant group would infiltrate the protestors and use of the cover of the crowd to create problems.” Yet they admitted that “At this time, there are no specific or known threats to this event.”

The vague, unspecified threat of future violence functioned as the annual excuse for the surveillance of peaceful dissent. Under this logic of counter-terrorism law enforcement activity, all constitutionally protected peaceful protest carries the seed of potential terrorism — we are all potential terrorists.

This pattern of significant surveillance, allusions to violence and then reports of peaceful activity after the fact continued for years.

Mass arrests and Confidential Informants

The protests for many years involved thousands of people, and included arrests for peaceful, organized, nonviolent civil disobedience. Law enforcement described the mass arrests of 1,700 protesters in November 2000 as arrests for “acting in an overt manner.” This included “wearing masks, coffins, puppets or pouring the red substance upon themselves."

In 2006, Confidential Informants provided information about planning events in Massachusetts, and the numbers of buses coming from around the country. The FBI obtained shelters and command centers "at no cost" from real estate companies to work on logistics for the protest, which was again labeled an FBI “Special Events Readiness Level.” Later they reviewed the 2006 protest as “uneventful” and came to a similar assessment for 2007.

In 2008, undercover FBI agents traveled with protesters to the event to follow the activities of several “subjects of FBI-Minneapolis” although they had “never expressed or exhibited a propensity for violence.”

The FBI used Confidential Informants who dutifully reported on the planned schedule of activities for the protests, the names of organizers, including a person “who is or was a Maryknoll nun,” and the name of a legal advisor to SOAW. The legal advisor, whose name was redacted but is otherwise identified with Loyola University, is evidently renowned human rights lawyer Bill Quigley.

By 2009, after 10 years of surveillance, the FBI admitted “there has never been any significant incidents of violence or widespread property damage.” Describing the demonstrations more as a “street festival,” they finally closed the case.

FBI's operating practice of political surveillance

In 2012, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund uncovered hundreds of documents exposing that the FBI was treating the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency similarly acknowledged in its own reports that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did “not condone the use of violence.”

The PCJF obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.  

Other documents obtained and released by the PCJF demonstrated that the Department of Homeland Security and the sprawling network of Fusion Centers in the United States similarly expended huge resources monitoring, tracking and reporting on peaceful, lawful and constitutionally protected protest activities.

The FBI has recently been further exposed as monitoring and tracking, including through surveillance aircraft, the activities of the Black Lives Matter movement in cities around the United States.

Unlearned lessons and unfinished work of the Church Committee

In the mid-1970s, the Church Committee of the United States Senate conducted an investigation into U.S. intelligence agencies’ abuse of law enforcement authority to target First Amendment activity and peaceful organizing through investigations, surveillance and disruption. As a result of the disclosures of the Committee, the FBI was required to enact restrictions on the use of its intelligence and law enforcement powers, prohibiting investigations into non-violent free speech activities. While Congress could have enacted binding legislation, the U.S. Attorney General was allowed to promulgate guidelines instead — guidelines that have been watered down by successive administrations over the past 40 years.

These repeated revelations of the FBI unconscionably abusing its counter-terrorism authority against peaceful political movements — from SOAW to Occupy to Black Lives Matter — make it clear that the FBI cannot be its own watchdog or self-regulate. It makes it clear that surveillance, monitoring, tracking and infiltration of peaceful social justice movements is a programmatic, institutionalized and ongoing effort of the FBI. It is time for there to be legislatively enacted prohibitions on the FBI’s use of domestic terrorism authority against peaceful protest and First Amendment-protected free speech activities in the United States.

It is a fundamental right of the people to organize, to assemble, to speak and to peacefully demand change in U.S. policies and practices — without monitoring and investigation from the government’s domestic terrorism agencies. Democracy and the Constitution require no less.

Converge on Fort Benning from November 20-22

SOAW activists from across the Americas are not intimidated, and will once again take a stand at Fort Benning, Georgia, from November 20-22 to speak out against repressive U.S. policies, and to engage in nonviolent direct action. The SOAW Legal Collective will provide legal support and monitor police activities, to ensure that the family-friendly, permitted demonstrations will be safe for everyone.

Last Updated on Saturday, 21 November 2015 11:16
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