From 2001 through 2006, the FBI investigated U.S. peace and social>"/>
Update: Milner says Justice probers overlooked evidence that he was spied on. More below.
From 2001 through 2006, the FBI investigated U.S. peace and social activists, including Seattle's longtime anti-nuclear protester Glen Milner, a Justice Department Inspector General's report revealed today. But though the agency spent unnecessary time and money probing the activists, improperly retaining information in its files, and classifying acts of nonviolent civil disobedience as acts of terrorism, it did not necessarily misuse its powers to investigate Seafair protester Milner, the report says, concluding that the Quaker activist's name was in FBI files but none of his rights were violated.
The report says the FBI used a "factually weak" basis to launch investigations of such groups as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Thomas Merton Center for social justice in Pittsburgh, The Catholic Worker community, and Greenpeace. "FBI agents and supervisors sometimes provided the [Office of the Inspector General] with speculative, after-the-fact rationalizations for their prior decisions to open investigations that we did not find persuasive," the report said.
As part of its extensive review, the IG's office reported, it investigated whether or not Milner - along with fellow members of the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action in Kitsap County, who demonstrate regularly at the Bangor N-sub base - had been, as some media reports had indicated, improperly spied on by the FBI in recent years. Milner and the others were reportedly "under watch" for planning "some sort of demonstration" to mark the arrival of Navy ships at the Seafair Festival (as GZ's Peace Fleet has done annually).
"Our document request to the FBI sought all documents containing Glen Milner's name during our review period," the report says, "and the only case file the FBI produced containing any reference to Milner was the special events file for the 2003 Seattle Seafair. There is also no indication in the FBI file documenting that the FBI attended or monitored the Seafair event." No criminal activity took place at Seafair, and the special events case was closed two days after Seafair ended, says the report.
In sum, we found no evidence that the FBI improperly investigated Milner because of his exercise of First Amendment rights or otherwise acted in violation of FBI policies.
The IG says it was also attempting to answer a question by U.S. Sen. Pat Leahy who wanted to know whether the FBI was targeting Quake peace activists such as Milner.
After [a May 2006 Senate] hearing. Senator Leahy submitted a written question asking whether the FBI was involved in surveillance of protests at Seattle's Seafair Festival. We did not find any evidence to contradict the FBI response, which stated that it did not participate in the surveillance.
Milner couldn't be reached for comment. But he and Ground Zero have continued their fleet protests at Seafair. In July, he told SW the Coast Guard, rather than the FBI, was cracking down on his peaceful demonstrations.
"The Coast Guard makes the rules, enforces the rules, and then prosecutes violators in their own Coast Guard court system," he said. "It shows us what a true police state would look like if the Coast Guard were in charge."
Update:Milner says he was unaware the Justice Dept. was investigating his FBI investigation - no one contacted him. Thus the feds missed important information, he says. By apparently limiting its discovery to FBI office files, the Justice Department probe fell short, missing evidence that Milner and Ground Zero were spied upon by agencies associated with the FBI.
For example, Milner says, he has copies of public records he obtained from Seattle's state/federal/local spy center, the Washington State Fusion Center housed in the FBI's downtown Seattle headquarters, which monitors the activities of anti-war protesters and exchanges intelligence with the military.
The record details how law enforcement probed an erroneous report that Milner tried to board a Navy vessel in 2005, he says. It's something the FBI, which shares intelligence with the fusion center, could have been aware of, but didn't necessarily keep its own record of. The new Justice report makes no mention of the incident nor, for that matter, of the routine spying on non-violent protesters undertaken by the center's fusionistas.
Based on other public records he obtained, Milner learned, for one, that a Port of Seattle police officer had attended one of the Seafair protest planning meetings by posing as a sympathetic member of the Catholic Workers (ironically, one of the groups the FBI was indeed spying on, according to the new Justice report).
Actually, Milner now thinks, the portion of the Justice report concerning him was likely based at least in part of the Free Press story he wrote. Some of the report's terminology is the same, along with some conclusions. As he wrote:
The FBI record released in September 2005 stated that a government agent had actually watched two Peace Fleet vessels being launched from West Seattle on July 30, 2003. The FBI record concluded, "All of the boats remained outside the security zone and conducted a peaceful protest in accordance with their stated intent. There were no incidents reported."
That appears to match what the Justice report says is in the FBI files. However, that FBI report, as well as Milner's story, indicate that associated, information-exchanging agencies were doing such spying, and the FBI was aware of it. (The Seattle fusion center has so many agencies involved - federal, military, state, county, local - that "you have more spies than [protest] organizers," civil rights attorney Larry Hildes says).
As Milner also wrote:
In 2004, similar patterns of domestic spying on nonviolent activists were continued by government agencies. The Coast Guard, however, decided to actively work to restrict the civil liberties of Peace Fleet participants at Seafair. One organizer, in particular, was targeted by the U.S. Navy and the Coast Guard.
On July 22, 2004, as Peace Fleet skipper and organizer, I called Commander Karen Sellers of Navy Region Northwest to inform her that the Peace Fleet would be protesting the U.S. Navy fleet arrival at Seafair. I stated that as skippers of Peace Fleet vessels had done the year before, we would obey the law and stay 500 yards from naval vessels.
On July 30, 2004, the Seattle Police Department Criminal Intelligence Section released an Intelligence Bulletin on the Peace Fleet action planned for August 5, 2004. The bulletin stated, "Probable Issues: Interference, confrontation with U.S. Navy operations." The Seattle Police bulletin also stated, "The group 'Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action' is advertising its call for a nuclear-free Port of Seattle. The group intends to have 'peace vessels' meet incoming U.S. Navy ships in Puget Sound and follow the ships into Elliott Bay."
Though it was a non-violent protest, Milner and fellow demonstrator Mike McCormick were arrested by the Coast Guard for bobbing into a non-protest security zone in their inflatable boat. Milner faced a $30,000 fine.
At a hearing, he said in a statement: "I am the target of a conspiracy by the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy to purposefully violate and restrict my civil liberties for political speech in Elliott Bay. It appears that the Coast Guard, having realized that officers had acted on August 5, 2004 without justification, decided to press charges against me as a way of covering up their own improper and illegal behavior."
He fought the charges two years, successfully. He ultimately walked away with a warning.