FBI moving to silence dissent

As opposition to the war and occupation in Iraq grows, the Bush administration is becoming more desperate to stifle dissent. It has set the FBI on its political opponents.

Last October, just days before a demonstration in Washington, D.C., that drew 100,000 people, the FBI circulated a memo spelling out a far-reaching campaign against all anti-war groups and leaders involved in organizing large and legal mass actions.

The Partnership for Civil Justice and the National Lawyers Guild have filed First Amendment cases against the FBI, Secret Service, the Washington, D.C., police and other law enforcement agencies for unconstitutional actions against political demonstrators.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, attorney for the two groups, commented: “Under Bush and Ashcroft, the exercise of First Amendment rights has become synonymous with terrorism. A front-page report in The New York Times revealing that the FBI was targeting the recent national anti-war demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco must be understood as the tip of the iceberg.”

Brian Becker of the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, said: “Under the banner of the war on terrorism, Bush and Ashcroft are resorting to J. Edgar Hoover’s COINTELPRO tactics of the 1950s and 1960s against the rising anti-war movement of today. This is the domestic parallel of Bush’s doctrine of endless war.

“Internationally, the administration has carried out war, invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. On the homefront, the government has cynically manipulated its so-called war on terrorism to illegally use the FBI as a tool aimed at stifling dissent.

“The movement will defend its rights, and will never be intimidated by the FBI’s illegal targeting campaigns.

“Confronted with a rising tide of opposition, the Bush administration is using its secret police against the people of the United States,” Becker said.

Verheyden-Hilliard added: “The FBI’s so-called anti-terrorism efforts have intensely focused on political dissent since the resurgence of the U.S. social justice and peace movement. The big lie being foisted on the public is that these are post-Sept. 11 counter-measures, when in fact we have uncovered in litigation that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force as well as the District of Columbia police department have been conducting illegal domestic spying operations against political groups and activists since well before Sept. 11, 2001.

“This has nothing to do with terrorism,” she said, “and everything to do with using the repressive apparatus of the state as a political tool.”

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