Tuesday, January 31, 2006
(APN) ATLANTA–The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia released new documents on Pentagon spying on peaceful protesters, in a downtown press conference today at the Martin Luther King Federal Building. The documents are respondent to their Freedom of Information Act requests to several federal, state, and local agencies, regarding the Pentagon spying which occurred against local peace activists here in Georgia.
"We’ve taken it on behalf of ourselves to get to the bottom of this," Gerry Weber, 41, Legal Director for the ACLU Foundation of Georgia, said. "We have compiled a report on the spying we’ve seen so far. Protesters have been spied upon, videotaped, and infiltrated! The government had no legal justification for this spying. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg."
Meanwhile, members of Georgia’s Congressional delegation are adding their voices to those of many members of US Congress, especially in California, including US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and US Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who have already been vocal on this issue.
US Representative Lofgren’s office has advised Atlanta Progressive News that the Pentagon has scheduled a tentative initial briefing on January 31, 2006, with her office to respond to her recent letter over the spying on protesters.
US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who was himself a victim of unwarranted FBI surveillance as a civil rights leader, issued this statement: "It is unreal. The Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition (GPJC) and other peace activists in Atlanta are working to build pockets of the Beloved Community in America. These domestic spying programs seem to clearly violate the right to privacy protected by the U.S. Constitution... These actions must be completely and extensively investigated... Those who are responsible should be made fully accountable."
US Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) is extremely concerned about the issue as well, Press Assistant Kaia Shivers, told Atlanta Progressive News (APN).
As first reported in APN, the Pentagon has repeatedly spied upon concerned "peace moms" in Atlanta as well other peace protesters. NBC released pages of a Pentagon spying database late last year. The dots connected locally to a series of protests by the GPJC and "Leave My Child Alone" anti-recruitment campaign.
"The protests that we have evidence of spying of, are all peace groups, those who oppose the Administration’s policies," Weber responded to a press question from APN. "We have not heard of a case where a pro-war group was spied upon."
Three categories of documents were released. It is now clear the government has spied on (1) vegans with signs, (2) a protest medic, and (3) the protest actions around the G8 Summit.
First, the ACLU has released pages of reports and color photos assembled by the DeKalb County Police Department of a vegan protest against animal cruelty at a local Honey Baked Ham Store.
The second category of ACLU documents show that Jeanette Helen Windsor (aka Tabitha Chase), was approached and interviewed by the FBI last year regarding her plans to visit Iraq (plans which were later cancelled).
The third category of documents is a dossier of meticulously collected schedules, emails, and internet postings regarding the G8 Summit, provided by the State of Georgia.
But, getting back to the Pentagon spying on vegans. It’s difficult to imagine a more nonthreatening protest than vegans holding signs promoting the welfare of animals.
Except, that is, for medical first aid teams who assist at legal actions, says Jeanette Windsor. "Oh no they have Band Aids, holy crap, they know CPR, watch out, oh my god," she mocks despite the creepiness that she has been personally targetted by the FBI.
"Yes I saw mine [my file]... The ACLU sent me a page and a half, they [FBI] redacted everything else," Jeanette Windsor, 28, told Atlanta Progressive News in a phone interview.
"It’s obviously completely unwarranted," Windsor said.
"The file they sent doesn’t give the reason for the interview taking place. They called me five times from three different numbers, and they left a voicemail, a man named Special Agent Dante Jackson stating that I had to come in for an interview. So I immediately called my attorney to find out what it’s about. He told my attorney that if I didn’t come in, the FBI would come and pick me up," Windsor said.
"I’m affiliated with ACTIONMEDICAL, which provides medical assistance during demonstrations and also helps providing people, especially low-income people, [with information] about their own health issues," Windsor said.
"The part of the FBI investigating me is the domestic terrorism task force and their actions at this point seem akin to the beginnings in COINTELPRO. I’ve never been arrested, I’ve never been charged with a crime in my entire life," Windsor said.
"And almost all the questions they were asking me were about my affiliations," Windsor said.
"They kept saying it’s ok, this is America, you can believe whatever you want to believe but we need to know what that is. They asked me why I’m an anarchist, why I don’t have a car, why I don’t have a bank account, things that couldn’t have any bearing on a criminal investigation.
"They didn’t ask me about any organization I was affiliated with. They seemed really interested in the fact that I was involved in adult entertainment," Windsor said. The FBI file included various instances of private information where it is unclear what legitimate need the government might have for such information.
Windsor believes it was an intimidation tactic, she says. "It was, here’s these things that some people would think are bad things about Tabby, and we want you to know we have them here in a file for later just in case," Windsor said.
However, Windsor is still active in protesting, having recently attended a World Bank protest in DC.
The GPJC refuses to be intimidated as well, Ann Mauney said in a press conference. "The Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition will continue to exercise our constitutional rights," Mauney said.
"Why is our government spying? We’re not a terrorist threat. Indeed, we’re a threat to the administration’s policies. The administration knows the American people [oppose Bush’s policies] when they’re fully informed," Mauney said.
"BUSH LIES, HE ALSO SPIES," read one protest sign.
"We call on our government to cease and desist," Rev. Timothy McDonald of the First Iconium Baptist Church, a civil rights veteran, said.
"Many of us remember the days of J. Edgar Hoover. The Bush administration claims this is legal spying. That is hogwash," said Georgia State House Rep. Nan Orrock, who said she learned first hand of police surveillance of protesters in another incident where she approached a policeman and asked what he was doing.
For APN’s previous reporting on the Pentagon’s spying on Georgia protesters, see http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/pages/18/index.htm