FBI Document Labels Michigan Affirmative
Action and Peace Groups as Terrorists
www.aclu.org, August 29, 2005
The American Civil Liberties Union today
released an FBI document that designates a Michigan-based peace
group and an affirmative action advocacy group as potentially
"involved in terrorist activities." The file was obtained
through an ongoing nationwide ACLU effort seeking information
on the FBI's use of Joint Terrorism Task Forces to engage in political
"This document confirms our fears
that federal and state counterterrorism officers have turned their
attention to groups and individuals engaged in peaceful protest
activities," said Ben Wizner, an ACLU staff attorney and
counsel in a lawsuit seeking the release of additional FBI records.
"When the FBI and local law enforcement identify affirmative
action advocates as potential terrorists, every American has cause
The document released today is an FBI
report labeled, "Domestic Terrorism Symposium," and
describes a meeting that was intended to "keep the local,
state and federal law enforcement agencies apprised of the activities
of the various groups and individuals within the state of Michigan
who are thought to be involved in terrorist activities."
Among the groups mentioned are Direct
Action, an anti-war group, and BAMN (By Any Means Necessary),
a national organization dedicated to defending affirmative action,
integration, and other gains of the civil rights movement of the
1960s. The FBI acknowledges in the report that the Michigan State
Police has information that BAMN has been peaceful in the past.
"Labeling political advocacy as 'terrorist
activity' is a threat to legitimate dissent which has never been
considered a crime in this country," said Kary Moss, Executive
Director of the ACLU of Michigan. "Spying on people who simply
disagree with our government's policies is a tremendous waste
of police resources."
The FBI report was obtained through a
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the ACLU of
Michigan on behalf of nine local organizations and individuals,
including Direct Action. ACLU affiliates in 15 additional states
have filed similar requests on behalf of more than 100 groups
"We're disturbed and dismayed that
the FBI is misusing its power by spying on anti-war groups and
monitoring political dissent to target activist groups,"
said 23-year-old Sarah McDonald, a member of Direct Action and
recent graduate of Michigan State University. "We've protested
the war, racial discrimination and the military recruitment of
the high school students, but we're certainly not a terrorist
In addition to the state FOIAs, the ACLU
filed a lawsuit in federal court to expedite its request for FBI
surveillance files on its own organization as well as other national
groups including Greenpeace, United for Peace and Justice, Code
Pink, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
In response to the lawsuit, the FBI has revealed that it has thousands
of pages of documents that mention those groups.
The ACLU launched its nationwide effort
last year in response to widespread complaints from students and
political activists who said they were questioned by FBI agents
in the months leading up to the 2004 political conventions. The
FOIAs seek two kinds of information: 1) the actual FBI files of
groups and individuals targeted for speaking out or practicing
their faith; and, 2) information about how the practices and funding
structure of the task forces, known as JTTFs, may be encouraging
rampant and unwarranted spying.
Documents previously obtained by the ACLU
in response to the FOIAs include an FBI memo on Food Not Bombs,
a Colorado group that provides free vegetarian food to hungry
people and protests war and poverty, and a report on United for
Peace and Justice, a national peace organization that coordinates
For more information on the national lawsuit
and the FOIA requests, go to www.aclu.org/spyfiles.
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