The New Antiwar Release: “They can’t keep this stuff secret. Nothing is secret anymore.”

Two years ago, Antiwar.com became aware of files relating to the site, that had been requested and were posted in relation to a FOIA on allegations Israelis had observed the 9/11 attack. I wrote about those files here. The files — which started in relation to another investigation on Pakistani terrorism suspects and got picked up because Justin Raimondo had written about the Israeli allegations — were referred to San Francisco for further investigation. But since the FOIA that had returned the documents pertained to the Israeli allegations, it was not immediately clear what happened to the San Francisco investigation.

Antiwar FOIAed then — after FBI wouldn’t give them their file — sued, with the help of ACLU.

What they learned is that:

  1. A complaint Eric Garris made in 2001 was treated as a threat by San Francisco’s FBI office
  2. An investigation drummed up, in part, because of Garris and Raimondo’s antiwar views in 2004 used that misinterpreted complaint as one justification to demand further investigation

The substantive content of what they got includes:

  • 2 pages dating to 1972 (!) on a mock tribunal Garris served on as a judge for representing the Peace and Freedom Party. (Note, the file in question postdates J Edgar Hoover’s death by 4 months, so it can’t be called a genuine Hoover file.)
  • 2 pages pertaining to San Francisco’s utter fuck-up of an investigation into a threat Garris forwarded to them on 9/12/01. Antiwar had received a threatening email, but when Garris forwarded the email to the FBI, the FBI treated it as a cyberthreat to the FBI.
  • 22 pages from a much larger chunk of what was supposed to be a Threat Assessment conducted in Newark and dated 4/30/04 (this is the part that had been revealed before). I believe my comments on that material here remain valid; I’ll explain what’s new below.
  • 3 pages recording (sort of) San Francisco’s response to the Newark referral dated 7/29/04, though the FBI has redacted the results of that response.
  • 2 pages from Pittsburgh (missing a third page between the two) from what appears to be a referral of a lead from the Newark Threat Assessment dated 8/18/04. (Remember, according to a DOJ IG Report, Pittsburgh was one of the worst offenders for harassing anti-war protestors.)
  • 2 pages from some activity from Springfield, IL dated 9/12/05. The tie to Antiwar is tangential, but because it has a file, this office seems to have suggested digging up all the old documents on it. This file notes that “SF declined the recommendation of Newark,” which is how we can surmise San Francisco declined to open a preliminary investigation into them.
  • 2 pages from a referral to St. Louis dated 9/22/05. Given the timing, I suspect it is a follow-up to the Springfield lead, but most of the file is purportedly outside the scope of the FOIA (so unrelated to Antiwar).
  • 2 pages from the main Counterterrorism office referring back to the original Newark Threat Assessment dated 4/22/08 as part of a longer review (the Newark investigation of Antiwar is mentioned on page 6 of the document, and the earlier materials is deemed unrelated).

In other words, there was the San Francisco fuck-up, the Threat Assessment tied to a terrorism case in Newark, and then the effort to use that to drum up further investigation of Antiwar that way.

What’s particularly interesting is the material that had been withheld for privacy reasons in the earlier FOIA release (see pp 62-71) which are now unredacted. In addition to personal information on Garris and Raimundo, it includes observations about what had been written about and by them.

One entry, for example, describes a story about the FBI’s monitoring of peace groups in which Raimundo is quoted.

The Argus, dated 2/18/2003, HEADLINE: Watchlist resurrects ’50s fears; critics say FBI information in many ways is worse than Mc Carthy’s hunt for communists, by Sean Holstege. In this article Justin Raimondo states “They can’t keep this stuff secret. Nothing is secret anymore.”

Perhaps the FBI wouldn’t turn this file over without a lawsuit to prevent us from knowing they thought that was newsworthy?

Based on that, other writings, some of their readers (as laid out in my earlier post) and the fact that Raimondo had posted a very very early terrorist watchlist he had found on the Internet, FBI concluded Garris and Raimondo needed more attention. These two judgments about them were redacted in the earlier FOIA release.

Due to the lack of background information available on Justin Raimondo, it is possible that this name is only a pseudonym used on www.antiwar.com.

Many individuals do view this website including individuals who are currently under investigation and Eric Garris has shown intent to disrupt FBI operations by hacking the FBI website.

And from this the Newark office appears to have tried to get an Antiwar publication investigated.

One more observation. Page 15 and 16 of the current release seems to be the release notice for what I’ve been calling “the Newark investigation.” But in fact, it appears not to be the same files released in the earlier FOIA, because that one had extensive hand lettering (and so I suspect that version of the file were the documents that resided in Newark’s office files). Just as interesting, though, FBI withheld 64 pages (probably actually more) using a “trade secrets” exemption.

Now, I might think that file came from ECAU, the web monitoring part of the FBI at the time that Newark instructed to keep monitoring Antiwar.com. But the B4 exemption suggests it is some private entity. So is that chunk of 64 documents the work of some contractor?

I’d sure like to know. Cause apparently someone has (or had) made it their trade secret to read the writings of peace activists for the FBI.

 

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

7 replies
  1. Jeff Kaye says:

    “Many individuals do view this website including individuals who are currently under investigation…”

    I’d like to know how they knew who was viewing that website. Just how close was the monitoring? Did they utilize NSA programs to capture websites visited or searches made to find just who was visiting the website, and then cross-reference it with their persons of interest? Or did anyone visiting the website become a person of interest to them?

  2. Clark Hilldale says:

    I’m baffled at why a longtime activist-type would have looked to the feds for help against a threat or considered involving the FBI in their business under any circumstance.

    Its not like the inevitable series of misunderstandings would have been difficult to predict.

  3. lysias says:

    Cause apparently someone has (or had) made it their trade secret to read the writings of peace activists for the FBI.

    At least in Raimondo’s case, a right-wing, libertarian peace activist. You don’t have to be a leftist to raise the hackles of the FBI.

  4. Phil Perspective says:

    At least in Raimondo’s case, a right-wing, libertarian peace activist. You don’t have to be a leftist to raise the hackles of the FBI.

    Peace activist is what pisses off the FBI I bet. Otherwise they wouldn’t look twice at a right-wing Glibertarian.

  5. spongebrain says:

    This is the kind of thing former FBI agent Michael German, now ACLU Senior Policy Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office, was talking about when he recently said:

    “Basically, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights works to improve security by focusing law enforcement resources on criminal activity, rather than activity the police just don’t like, and by limiting the use of techniques that tend to produce unreliable evidence. By protecting behaviors that governments often find threatening, like political organizing by oppositional groups, the First Amendment keeps police away from activities that often get them distracted from crime prevention. By limiting their use of intrusive tools to cases where they have evidence of wrongdoing, verified by an independent magistrate, the Fourth Amendment forces police to focus their efforts appropriately and compels accountability, which makes the police more efficient and effective. By prohibiting coercion, the Fifth Amendment limits false confessions. By requiring counsel, the Sixth Amendment ensures that contrary evidence is discovered and presented to prevent false convictions, which would allow the real bad guys to go unpunished. All of this makes the police more effective, but the real strength of these tools is that they give the citizenry confidence in the legitimacy of police activities, which makes them more likely to cooperate and support government initiatives. Moreover, the lack of these protections make the citizenry angry, leading to less cooperation with the police, or even violence against them.”

    Yet the status quo passive-aggressively keeps that fear factory going. Nice, huh.

    http://dailycaller.com/2013/11/05/former-fbi-agent-mike-german-talks-about-the-nsa

  6. spongebrain says:

    “…apparently someone has (or had) made it their trade secret to read the writings of peace activists for the FBI.”

    Come on already. These are not peace activists. They’re antiwar activists. As anyone who’s properly parsed the matter knows, there’s a huge difference.

    Stupidity aside, most in the Stasi got away with it. So with any luck, many more will before anyone who matters notices the difference. Why should you ever care if chances are no one will ever hold you accountable? Roll the one-sided dice when you’re privileged enough to have been issued them, but don’t buy scratch-offs at the local convenience store. Wink wink.

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