A lawsuit challenging domestic military spying against citizens engaged in antiwar activism and acts of civil disobedience obtained a public record that further confirms the United States Army was involved in targeting “leftists” or “anarchists” as domestic terrorists in 2007.
Also, according to a “Democracy Now!” interview, one of the activists was pressured by the military officer, who infiltrated groups in the state of Washington, to become more interested in guns and to even publish an article in a magazine that was written from the perspective of hijackers behind the 9/11 attacks.
From 2006 to 2009, a group called the Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) in Olympia and Tacoma, Washington, organized demonstrations against the “use of civilian ports in Puget Sound for striker vehicles and other military cargo being shipped over to Iraq and then shipped to Pakistan or Afghanistan.” Some of these demonstrations included nonviolent civil disobedience
Thomas Rudd, head of Force Protection at Fort Lewis, sent in John Jacob Towery, a civilian employee of Force Protection, to infiltrate groups, build friendships, provide reports on what was happening and being planned, etc. Lists of individuals that needed to be targeted were made that included the targets’ license plate numbers.
Lawyers involved in pursuing the lawsuit have said activists were systematically harassed. There was a concerted effort to ensure targeted individuals were arrested over and over again and stopped multiple times.
In December 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the lawsuit could proceed to trial, the first time a court had ever said civilians could sue the military for damages for spying on them while engaged in activism.
The public record comes from an Olympia activist. It is an email from Towery on November 2, 2007, and it shows that the military was sharing information with local law enforcement agencies:
According to Larry Hildes, a lawyer in the case, Towery has maintained all along he never did any of this spying for the military during work hours. This clearly contradicts his sworn statements from 2009. The email was sent in the morning just after 10 am to law enforcement in Eugene and Portland, Oregon, Everett and Spokane, Washington, Los Angeles and to the FBI.
Towery acknowledges that he attended a regional domestic terrorism conference that was held in the state of Washington. He identifies himself as working for the Army. His signature at the bottom of his email contains two military email addresses and includes his title in the Army.
Hildes said this shows there was a much broader level of coordination going on amongst law enforcement, security and military agencies than previously known.
Towery, the Army and law enforcement routinely referred to anybody involved in the PMR actions as “anarchists.” Some of them probably were and some of them probably weren’t.
The word “anarchist” has a force of its own when it comes to spying operations. “Anarchist for these people is shorthand for anybody they don’t like,” Hildes suggested. “J. Edgar Hoover used to do the same thing. It’s a label for everyone whether they’re anarchists or not.”
Including the word in the justification for targeting any person becomes a “license” to do “whatever they want to folks, to arrest people for mere politics alone, to target them, to disrupt their lives. It’s as if being an anarchist was enough to make them a criminal.”
Glenn Crespo, an activist, described on “Democracy Now!” how Towery had allegedly operated with such a “license.” He showed Crespo his handgun one day. He invited him to go to shooting ranges and attend gun shows with him.
One year later, Crespo says he “started to become a little bit more sinister and dark in his demeanor, in his—the things he would talk about.” For example, a set of “military strategy documents,” were given to him and he suggested they use these in their actions. He then showed people “how to clear a building with a firearm.”
…He submitted an article to a magazine that I was editor of in early 2009, that was written from the perspective of 9/11 hijackers. And I remember this very specifically, because he gave me a copy, a physical copy, when we were on our way to go get coffee. And I remember reading it, and probably about a quarter of the way through realizing I didn’t even feel comfortable touching it, like touching the physical document with my hands. It was the weirdest thing in the world, because it was kind of—it was basically implying—or seeming sympathetic with the 9/11 hijackers. And he wanted me to publish this in his—in the next issue of the magazine I was editor of. So I just—I actually—because he was being so forceful, I just didn’t do the magazine again. That first issue was the last issue. And once he submitted that paper, I didn’t publish it ever again…
Remarkably, he did express his view of anarchism to Crespo. He believed “anarchists” were “very similar to fascists, in almost in a positive light, where he was saying that they don’t care about the law and don’t use the law to get what they need or what they want and that he believed that the only way anarchism or anarchy would ever work, in his words, would be if five billion people died.”
Such comments bear a similarity to the undercover Chicago police officer, Mehmet Uygun, in the case of the “NATO 3,” who were charged with committing state terrorism offenses (and ultimately acquitted). Ugyun talked about “terrorizing” Chicago during a NATO meeting that was planned in May 2012, a clear effort to get the three young men being targeted to talk aggressively and incriminate themselves.
Law enforcement in the “NATO 3″ case were engaged in “anarchist chasing,” seeking out anyone clad in what they considered to be “black bloc” clothing because they believed such individuals would pose a violent threat to the city of Chicago. They did not need probable cause or even reasonable suspicion. Appearance and/or involvement in the activist community was enough to get one with an alleged anarchist appearance mentioned in a police report.
On “Democracy Now!”, Hildes also said, “The Evergreen State College was giving regular reports to the State Patrol, to the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office and to Towery and Rudd about activities of SDS [Students for a Democratic Society] on campus at Evergreen. And there’s an extensive discussion about the conference about the DNC and RNC protests and that the chief of police is the source for the information.”
Towery did play a role in gathering counterintelligence on protests planned for the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in Denver and St. Paul.
“Entrapping people—attempting to entrap people into conspiracies where they can get charged with major felonies they had no intention of committing, dealing with law enforcement agencies around the country to keep tabs on activists, following them to protests in Denver and St. Paul that have absolutely nothing to do with military shipments, they crossed the line into law enforcement, into civilian law enforcement,” Hildes stated. (Intelligence provided helped aid in the preemptive arrests of individuals for conspiracy to commit terrorism. They became known as the “RNC 8.”)
At McGwire Air Force Base on the east coast, there was a PMR SDS Task Force. Emails were sent to commanding officers at the Olympia Police Department, who claimed to have no idea about what was happening yet still offered assistance. That suggests targeting activists involved in civil disobedience or nonviolent resistance around military shipments was a military-wide policy and operation.
“No reason to believe that this thing is limited to Fort Lewis. The Army doesn’t do things like that. If they find a tactic they like, they do it everywhere,” Hildes argued.
Thus far, lawyers have not uncovered or shared evidence suggesting the National Security Agency was involved. NSA signals intelligence missions would likely collect and disseminate intelligence on these groups in order to support the defense of military operations at bases like Fort Lewis, which was the target of antiwar activities.
Hildes has said it is “impossible given the pervasiveness of NSA spying and given the pervasiveness of this stuff” that the NSA was not working with the military in some capacity. However, there is not yet proof of NSA involvement.
The lawyers received an evidence dump of 9,440 pages in December of last year. Many of the documents are under a protective order but do not consist of “privileged information” they think should be kept secret from the public. While the case is scheduled to go to trial on June 2, 2014, the lawyers plan to contest the secrecy government is trying to preserve around the domestic military spying operation at the center of this lawsuit so Americans can see how authority was being abused.