June 2012 News
In the end, it wasn’t quite a police riot in Chicago. As protesters prepared to take to the streets last month to protest at the NATO Summit, we were concerned that the Chicago police would live up to the reputation they established during the1968 Democratic National Convention. These concerns were not unjustified. Media reports leading up to the event focused on the potential for violence, and police were armed with a variety of ‘less-than-lethal’ weapons and clad in protective armor including bullet-proof vests, helmets and face shields. They were prepared for war, and seemed ready for an encore of Mayor Daley’s infamous 1968 declaration, “the police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder.”
Instead, we faced a pre-emptive war against the protesters, waged in the media, not on the streets (although there were still an unjustified number of injured protesters). All sorts of wild predictions were floated for the credulous media, which willingly printed most without question. Authorities conceded that most protesters would behave, but they warned of violent “anarchists” who would terrorize the town. The narrative served to both dampen turnout at the protests, and prepare the citizenry to believe that any violence by the police would be justified.
To complete the picture and drive home the threat, high-profile preemptive arrests were made before the Summit convened. A total of five activists have been charged with terror-related crimes. Police made sure to emphasize that all are “self-proclaimed anarchists.” What police were not so open about is the fact that undercover agents were involved in each of the ‘plots,’ causing us to question how real these plots actually were. There are now five activists sitting in jail in Chicago on dubious charges, lured into talk (but not a single act) of violence by FBI or police informants. This is a dire situation.
Please read our “Anatomy of an FBI Terror Plot” in this newsletter, and consider helping us to educate activists about the resurgence of this law enforcement tactic aimed at disrupting and discrediting the movement.
As you know, DDF has been around the block a few times and we’ve seen all these scams before. We can speak with the voice of experience and bear credible witness to the way the government works to stifle dissent.
At the end of the summer, protesters will be in the streets in Tampa for the Republican Convention and Charlotte for the Democratic Convention. It is essential that our voice be heard and that we be able to educate the local media as well as activists to prevent a replay of events in Chicago.
P.S. While DDF works to protect your right to raise your voice in the streets, we are also your voice in Washington. The legislative agenda is getting very busy. You’ll read this month about the NDAA and our efforts to fix the indefinite detention provisions, but we’re also working on troublesome surveillance and privacy issues in the cyber security legislation Congress is considering this summer, as well as the FISA Amendments Act, due for reauthorization this fall. We’re counting on you to make those phone calls, send those emails, and to support our work with a financial contribution too!
JUNE 2012 NEWS
ON CAPITOL HILL…
The House approved the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act on May 18 with a vote of 299-120. On their way to passing the massive $643 billion spending bill, a majority of House members made clear their absolute ignorance of the Constitution and disregard for the rule of law. In a truly pitiful spectacle, the House rejected an amendment that would have addressed the problems created by the detention provisions in the 2012 NDAA; instead, they passed a bait and switch amendment which pretended to fix a problem that didn’t even exist, creating an even bigger problem.
Defending Dissent Foundation and a broad coalition of human rights groups fought hard for an amendment, which would have imposed an explicit statutory ban on any president or other government official from ordering the military to place anyone in the United States into indefinite detention without charge or trial, or from ordering anyone in the United States to be tried before a military commission. It was a bipartisan amendment that affirmed the due process rights already enshrined in the Constitution which had been called into question by the detention provisions in the 2012 NDAA. The vote was 238-182 against the amendment.
Then, in a stunning display of folly, 243 members of the House voted for an amendment which claimed to “preserve” the right of Habeas Corpus, but in fact narrows the scope of Habeas, placing confusing time limits on the right for U.S. citizens and guaranteeing the right only to people lawfully in the U.S. Furthermore, the right to Habeas was never in question, even under the 2012 detention provisions.
Are they idiots, or do they think we are?
The Senate will take action on the bill in July, but the shape of the debate is still unclear, and we don't know what amendments will be allowed to the floor for a vote. It's important to remind your Senators before debate begins that you want them to address your concerns about indefinite detention. Send an email here.
If you’d like to do more: DDF has endorsed the Amnesty International In-District Lobby Week, July 1-8. This is a great opportunity to talk to your Representative and Senators about issues of indefinite detention and torture… and the need to fight for human rights here at home. Please sign up at www.amnestyusa.org/lobby
IN FEDERAL COURT….
On May 16, just days before the House vote, a Manhattan federal court judge entered a preliminary injunction that bars the government from enforcing the indefinite detention provision of the NDAA. The case was brought by a group of scholars, activists and journalists led by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, who said their work would be chilled by the law. Judge Katherine Forrest agreed, ruling that the language of the law was too vague to ensure that it wouldn’t be used to silence journalists, activists or others whose speech could be viewed as being sympathetic to terrorist groups or “associated forces.” The government has filed a motion to reconsider.
On June 6, she re-iterated that her injunction applied to all persons nationwide in response to the governments motion which asserted that the injunction should apply only to the named plaintiffs in the case. (Read the opinion here).
AND IN TAKOMA PARK, MD…
DDF was one of the leaders of a local coalition that asked the City Council of Takoma Park to pass a resolution condemning the detention provisions of the NDAA and asking the members of Congress who represent the city to work to overturn the provisions. The resolution passed on May 21.
REPORT FROM CHICAGO
BEFORE THE PROTESTS…
The attempt to stifle the voices of dissent started months before the May 20-21 NATO summit. Federal and local officials aggressively raised alarms about the people planning to travel to Chicago to protest NATO. To those of us who have been around awhile, it's an all too familiar story: vilification of protesters, which serves to drive down turnout and set the stage for heavy-handed police tactics. Bull Connor did it in Birmingham in the 1950’s and 60’s, labeling civil rights protesters “communists,” then turning the fire hoses and dogs on them. Four years ago, officials in Denver and St. Paul raised the specter of violent protests at the Democratic and Republican Conventions to justify a huge, militarized police presence, arrests before the protests even began and the arrests of hundreds of peaceful protestors during the Convention (charges were dismissed for all but a few of the people arrested).
In Chicago: the president of the Fraternal Order of Police publicly insisted the city spend almost $1 million on new face shields to protect police from “anarchists” throwing bags of urine and feces (a fabricated threat also trotted out before both Conventions in 2008, and which never occurred); federal law enforcement agents began prowling The Loop dressed in battle gear, armed with “less-than-lethal” weapons weeks before the Summit began; and newspapers were full of talk of evacuations to Milwaukee, Illinois National Guard being called up, state troopers reassigned, preparations for hundreds of arrests and even temporarily reopening a long-shuttered out of town jail to storehouse the “worst offenders.”
FIVE ACTIVISTS CHARGED WITH TERRORISM
Just days before the NATO summit, Chicago police preemptively arrested several activists, charging them with terror-related crimes. On May 16, police raided a home in the Bridgeport neighborhood and arrested nine activists. Although six were released without charge, Brian Church, Jared Chase, and Brent Betterly were charged with possession of explosives or incendiary devices, material support for terrorism, and conspiracy to commit terrorist acts. Police also arrested Sebastian Senakiewicz, who was charged with “falsely making a terrorist threat,” and Mark Neiweem, charged with trying to obtain materials to make a pipe bomb. Details are still emerging but it is apparent that informers or undercover agents were involved in all three cases.
Lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild are representing the five activists. They have pointed out that they have not been shown any of the materials their clients were allegedly going to use to commit these acts of violence. Instead, it appears that some or all of the five may have bragged to informers that they intended to do something, whether or not they ever took steps to put their plan into action.
The highly sensational charges received extensive news coverage in Chicago. It fit into the narrative laid out by authorities and hammered home in the previous months: anarchists and occupy activists were coming to Chicago to commit acts of violence. Physical evidence to support the accusation was hardly necessary.
Getty photographer Scott Olson was hit on the head by a police baton on Sunday while he was covering the NATO protests in Chicago, leaving him bloodied and in need of a trip to the hospital. Credit: Josh Stearns
In the end, it was not a police riot as in 1968, but “the city was anything but tolerant to political dissent,” according to Kris Hermes, spokesperson for the Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers Guild.
The Occupy movement burst out of winter hibernation on May Day with dozens of protests in cities across the country -- but not in Cleveland. The Cleveland May Day rally was cancelled after five “self-proclaimed anarchists” were arrested and charged with trying to blow up a bridge. The FBI staged a high profile press conference to announce the arrests, taking care to make clear the connection to Occupy, although the men had all broken off from the movement because they felt it was too passive. The story behind the plot has become clear since the men were arrested: there was an FBI informant who befriended the five and facilitated every step of the plot, including finding a person who could supply the necessary materials. The informant hired some of the men to do manual labor, and supplied them with beer and pot.
This may be one of the most successful of the FBI’s manufactured crimes. Not only was the Cleveland May Day rally cancelled, but two days after the arrests, the Occupy camp was shut down.
SET’EM UP, KNOCK’EM DOWN
The FBI has seemingly hit upon a winning strategy to keep the war on terror alive and well-funded. Given the paucity of real terror attacks, the FBI has had to develop its own cottage industry – creating terror plots, than adeptly foiling them. Presto! The FBI can point to the plots as evidence of a continuing terror threat, and it can tout their success at nabbing the bad guys before anyone gets hurt. Win Win. It works equally well against anarchists, environmentalists and hapless young Muslim men. The plots unfold in the same pattern, time and time again. It behooves activists mobilizing for the Republican and Democratic National conventions to learn the pattern and devise strategies to protect each other from falling into the FBI trap, just as it behooves the Muslim community to review the scenario which plays out over and over in mosques across the country.
Educate fellow activists!
It’s only a winning strategy if people keep falling for it. Educate yourself and others. DDF has a copy of Better This World, a riveting documentary about Bradley Crowder and David McKay and the FBI informer who pushed them to consider violence. Please contact us (202-529-4225) about borrowing the DVD to screen for your group or community.
ANATOMY OF AN FBI TERROR PLOT
Step 1: Target a community based on their religious or political beliefs: mosques, Occupy groups, animal rights, environmental and peace groups. It’s unclear if the FBI is infiltrating anti-abortion, neo-Nazi or sovereign groups, but recently exposed right-wing plots have not involved FBI informers or undercover agents.
Step 2: Find the right informer. Informer should be in some legal trouble of their own. (FBI guidelines were recently revised to allow the FBI to search through the garbage of people who are not suspected of any crime, for the purpose of allowing the FBI to find information it can use to coerce people into becoming informers.)
Step 3: Find the members on the fringe, the ones spouting the most extreme rhetoric, generally ignored by the rest of the community. These will usually be young men with troubled lives, often with psychological problems, often lonely and without steady employment.
Step 4: Befriend these losers and wannabees. Offer them a job, a meal or drugs, anything to encourage their dependency and strengthen the relationship.
Step 5: Talk politics or jihad. Belittle them for being unwilling to move from talk to action. Suggest some very excellent plots; these plots always involve explosives, not guns.
Step 6: Facilitate every necessary action: from planning to financing to procuring the needed materials. The young men will likely need rides, help with building the device, understanding how the explosives will work.
Step 7: Record most, but not all conversations. Recordings of targets talking about violence will add credibility to assertions that there were un-recorded discussions in which the targets expressed a willingness to move from talk to action, callous disregard for human life, or anything needed to make the case.
Step 8: Make sure the targets have everything they need to implement the plan. If the targets are unable to procure necessary items, or unable to assemble an explosive device, do it for them.
Step 9: Foil the Plot! FBI agents will sweep in to save the day. Even if the targets never throw a Molotov cocktail, plant a pipe bomb or otherwise complete the plan, they will be charged with terrorism, and they will be found guilty. They always are.
Step 9a: In the case of “self-proclaimed anarchists,” the arrest should be made just days before a major protest.
A short list of recent cases that have followed this pattern:
Hemant Lakhani – sentenced to 47 years in prison in 2005 for smuggling a missile into the U.S. in a plot, developed and facilitated by the FBI.
Eric McDavid – environmental activist arrested in 2006 and serving 20 year sentence for planning to sabotage federal facilities in plot developed by FBI.
Liberty City Seven –accused of plotting to blow up the Sears tower in 2006, after two mistrials, five of the men were convicted, despite lack of physical evidence and the defendants complete inability to pull off such a plot without the leadership of two FBI informants.
Mohamed Osman Mohamud – a Somali-American college dropout awaiting trial for the 2010 plot to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting in Portland, Oregon. Plot suggested & facilitated by FBI
Bradley Crowder and David McKay –jailed for making Molotov cocktails at the 2008 Republican convention. Their story is told in Better This World.
Cleveland 5 – arrested for participation in FBI-led plot to blow up a bridge on May Day 2012 (see article above).
NATO 3 –charged with material support of terrorism and conspiring to commit terrorist acts before the NATO protests in Chicago, May 2012