How to Make Peaceful Protestors of America’s Torture School Look Like Terrorists

In 2001, it was uncorroborated reports that anarchists would be joining peace activists.
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In 2003, Anti-Free Trade of Americas protests were dubiously invoked (they were also invoked to investigate peace protestors in Pittsburgh that year).

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In 2007, the FBI tied the event with four other open cases, including two government trespass ones, a bank robbery, and a corruption case.

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In 2009, it was the expected presence of peace activists under investigation (among other things) for ties to Palestinians and Colombia’s FARC.

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The two undercover officers who long tracked this group, “Karen Sullivan” and “Daniela Cardenas” attended that year to spy on the event.

Year after year, however — from 2000 until 2009, when consultation with the FBI’s own domestic investigations guide finally led the FBI to shut the long-running investigation down — the FBI found an excuse to track the annual protest of the School of the Americas in the name of counterterrorism preparedness, as FOIAed documents released today reveal in detail.

In other words, year after year, even while recording how peaceful the event was, the FBI still tracked and coordinated with the Columbus, GA police in the guise of counterterrorism preparedness because a bunch of people use their First Amendment rights to protest the murder and torture propagated by the SOA.

Update: I originally got the year this investigation started wrong: it was opened in 2000.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

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 the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, 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 and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

8 replies
  1. TarheelDem says:

    SOP since forever. Just announce designated scary person and pre-emptively raid.

    Been around at least since A. Mitchell Palmer. And before then, it was an old Pinkerton trick. And before then….well, it gets mixed up because there was not a philosophical or tactical tradition of non-violence in protests and triggering mob violence was much easier.

    Today, riot gear theater doesn’t even have to trigger mob violence, merely create the appearance that the riot gear was necessary to protect the authorities.

  2. Jim White says:

    .
    The very worst part of having a daughter at Auburn for four and a half years was that every time we went to visit her, the most direct route involved driving through Fort Benning. Knowing that our torture school was there made my blood boil each time. As did the incredibly depressing fact that the primary businesses in Columbus are title pawn shops, used tire shops and seedy, cheap bars. The rank and file at Fort Benning are paid peanuts and rely on a surrounding community whose economy is built on the fact that these folks don’t even have enough to get paycheck to paycheck (while we are spending millions training the next generation of torturers to go back to foreign lands).

    • orionATL says:

      phenix city, alabama is right across the river from columbus, ga. it was where the boys could go on short leave, and was at one time was as corrupt an american city as ever you could wish.

      leura canary, the u.s. attorney during the rove-sponsored persecution of gov don siegelman, had a family connection to phenix city.

      http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/2011/10/notorious-siegelman-prosecutor-has.html?m=1

      see the comment at 8:45pm for a little story that gives a sense of the odor of alabama politics then.

      it’s all quite a story.

  3. orionATL says:

    this has the potential to be an extremely enlightening example for educating less well informed americans about what their government can and will do to suppress current dissent against its one of its misguided policies.

    for one, the school of the americas, in a well-documented way, ties the u.s. military and the u.s. paramilitary (cia) machineries, to coaching and practicing:

    genocide (in guatemala), paramilitary lawlessness (central america), torture, attacks on democratically sanctioned political parties and leaders, manipulating local media, dissappearances of protesters, and assassinations of leaders. not to mention drug smuggling, money laundering, and other criminal activity.

    for a second, from the american domestic side, involving citizens protesting this government activity

    the fbi has been investigating their behavior – that is, without doubt, developing informers thru threat or bribery, sending in its plainclothes spies, using electronic spying, and checking on personal behaviors of individuals – in order to intimidate individuals, and disrupt and paralyze legitimate collective political protests.

    in short, the federal police have acted over a long period of time to subvert some citicitizens’ constitutionally protected right to speech and protest against foreign policies with which they disagree.

    the educational value lies in the fact that this extended co-ordinated anti-democratic activity of our military (oversees) and our national police (domestically) involved matters in central and south america formerly believed to be central to national security, but now, with hindsight, clearly not a serious danger.

    precisely the same can be said of much contemporary national security (and environmental and anti-corporate) angst and its accompanying furious pawing activity vis-avis the muslim world.

    in short,

    citizen protests gov militaty/paramilitary’s overseas “natsec” activity.

    government police are sicced on citizen’s domestic political protest.

    media present issue as serious natsec issue and protesters as trouble makers.

    federal police violate repeatedly, with impunity and judicial sanction, the citizen’s constitutional guarantees of right to speech and protest against her gov’s policy.

  4. orionATL says:

    as for when the government police’s campaign against protesters began,

    the docs may say 2000, but since the communism in our back yard hysteria that led to the “torture and subversion training school of the americas’ ” becoming notorious began with ronald regan’s presidency in 1981, i’d guess the fbi spying has been going on since then too.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Standard operating procedure, accuse one’s legitimate critics of engaging in the behavior one is already engaged in but want to disavow.
    You and several commentators rightfully point out that the SOA, its precursors and successors, has for decades supposedly trained our Latin friends how to resist torture. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge aside, the SOA has really been teaching them how to commit torture using the latest intelligence community-developed standards.

  6. orionATL says:

    that was all then.

    we’re in the right now.

    but

    i’d bet good money it won’t be all that long before a “material support of terrorism” charge (especially in environmental and racial protest matters) achieves the utility and flexibility to a prosecutor of a “racketeer influenced and corrupt practices” charge.

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