The FBI Is Targeting, Surveilling, and Gang Stalking American Citizens (youtube interviews and transcriptions)
Compiled by Dr. Eric Karlstrom, Emeritus Professor of Geography, CSUS
ETK Introduction: Excerpts of Amy Goodman’s (Democracy Now) interviews with ex-FBI agent Mike German and activist, Scott Crow, prove that the FBI plays a critical and significant role in organized gang stalking of American citizens.
1) Mike German and Scott Crow Discuss FBI’s Expanded Domestic Surveillance Program (2011):
Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jdK13154wQ
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DChfdfb8di0
Amy Goodman: Civil liberties advocates are raising alarm over news that the FBI is giving agents more leeway to conduct domestic surveillance. According to the New York Times, new guidelines will allow FBI agents to investigate people and organizations proactively, without firm evidence for suspecting criminal activity. The new rules will free up agents to infiltrate organizations, search household trash, use surveillance teams, search data bases, conduct lie detector tests, even without suspicion of any wrong doing. The revised guidelines come as the FBI’s existing practices have already come under wide scrutiny.
Last month, the New York Times revealed a number of new revelations against activists targeted by domestic spying.
One of those activists is 44-year old Scott Crow, an Austin, Texas resident, self-proclaimed anarchist. He has just learned he was targeted by the FBI from 2001 until at least 2008. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Scott received 440 pages of heavily-redacted documents revealing the FBI had traced the license plates of cars parked in front of his home, recorded the arrival and departure of his guests, observed gatherings that he attended at bookstores and cafes. The agency also tracked his emails and phone conversations, picked through his trash to identify his bank and mortgage companies, visited a gun store where he’d sought to purchase a rifle for self-defense. Agents monitored also asked the IRS to examine his tax returns and even infiltrated activist groups he associated with.
While Crow has been arrested a dozen times in his years of activism, he has never faced a charge more serious than trespassing. He is among a growing number of people and groups finding themselves on the receiving end of government spying.
We are also joined from Washington, D.C., by Mike German, National Security Policy Council for the ACLU. He previously served as an FBI agent specializing in domestic counter-terrorism from 1988 to 2004.
Mike German we want to start with you on the most recent news of the new leeway granted to FBI agents, of which you were one, years ago, to monitor people, not under any criminal charges or even suspicion. Explain what you understand is happening right now.
Mike German: Right. You might remember that in 2008, Attorney General Michael McCassey altered the Attorney General guidelines. He created a new category of investigations called Assessments. And these required no factual predicate. In other words, no evidence that anybody had done anything wrong, much less the person who is under investigation. And there were a number of intrusive investigative techniques that were allowed to be used including, 1) physical surveillance, 2) recruiting and tasking informants, 3) FBI agents acting in ruse trying to gather information from the subjects of the investigation, 4) conducting interviews, and 5) even using Grand Jury subpoenas to get telephone records.
What the new changes to the FBI’s internal policy is- is to allow FBI agents, even without an Assessment being open, to search commercial data bases, these are subscription services of data aggregators that collect a broad swath of information and really have a lot of detailed private information about people. And also state and local law enforcement databases. Again, this is without any suspicion of wrongdoing, without even opening an investigation, agents can start searching for all this private information.
Another increase in their authority is with assessments that they use to determine whether they can recruit an informant. And one of the things they are allowed to do is that they are adding “trash haul.” Which means that when you put your garbage out for the garbage man to pick up, it’s an FBI agent picking it up instead and they go through all this material And when I asked why they would want to give agents that authority, again, before you have any evidence of wrongdoing. And they said:
“It’s often helpful to find something derogatory that could be used to pressure the person into becoming an informant.” So this is a technique being used specifically to coerce somebody to cooperate against their neighbors or co-workers.
Amy Goodman: The FBI declined our interview request today but did send us a statement about the new guidelines, quoting FBI General Counsel, Valerie Caproni, saying:
“Each proposed change has been carefully looked at and considered against the backdrop of the tools our employees need to accomplish their mission, the possible risks associated with use of those tools, and the controls that are in place. Overall, this is fine-tuning not any major change. The FBI’s authority to use specific investigative tools as determined through the U.S. Constitution, U.S. statutes, executive orders, and the Attorney General’s guidelines for domestic FBI operations. The domestic investigations operations guide cannot and does not confer additional powers to agents beyond that provided by those controlling authorities. Your thoughts on that, Mike German.
Mike German: Again, the 2008 Attorney General guidelines so loosened the standards for FBI investigations that they are basically non-existent. No factual predicate is required. So the idea that agents would be able to start those investigations without even going through the administrative hurdle of opening an assessment, I think is an expansion of power that is completely unaccountable.
Amy Goodman: I want to go to Scott Crow to hear real life stories.
Scott Crow: A local organization called the Austin People’s Legal Collective put together a FOIA request for about 30 activists, about 40 organizations, and about 10 events going back to about 2010 in Austin. We sent it to multiple field offices around the country to try to build a picture of what was kind of surveillance was going, to see if there was other infiltration…
Mine was an case where they had years of extensive documentation going on. I was able to find out that there had been five informants in my life. I was investigated in nine states for arson and other criminal acts that I was never charged with.
…. I first found out that I was listed as a domestic terrorist and an animal rights extremist in 2006. The FBI let the local D.A.s and local law enforcement officers know – it opened up this Kafka-eque world where I’d never been charged with anything but I could see all these things happening.
There was a BOLO (“be on the lookout report”) that was issued in 2008 in the Austin police department that said I might injure police officers, burn police cars, or incite riots. The way I knew about it is that people in the city I had worked with told me that they had seen this poster with my picture on it. I couldn’t do anything about this. Finally, I get these documents in 2010 that list me as a domestic terrorist list since 2001.
…. The infiltration happened over and over again in different groups, in different events, there would be people gathering information at all different levels, and private security too, it’s a revolving door,
The thing I think we should talk about is how much money they spent investigating me and not charging me with anything. If I’m the tip of the iceberg and there are many others in many other communities, how much is the government spending on this? And what kind of chilling effect does it have throughout this country. .
Amy Goodman: How extensive was the monitoring of you?
Scott Crow: They investigated me in nine states, in twelve field offices, there were five informants, one Austin, two in Houston, and one in Detroit. I can only identified three of those people. They sent a letter to the IRS to see if they get me for tax invasion. They also used closed-circuit television on my houses in Dallas and Austin where they put cameras on poles across the street from my house.
The levels that they went to are unimaginable to most people. Pretty much anything that you can think of, short of kicking in doors, happened to me. I was threatened with Grand Jury’s, trash digging, being visited at my work, being visited at my home. Mike German spoke earlier about how they try to put pressure on people to give information. I was first visited by the FBI in 1999. It was the first time I’d heard the words “domestic terrorism” and “animal rights activism” used together. Not only did they try to implicate me in some crimes Dallas, or suggest that I had some responsibility for those crimes, then they tried to get me to use that pressure to try to give information about other people. So how many people is that happening to across the country?
Amy Goodman: Mike German, you are with the ACLU. There have been a number of raids . These are the more obvious manifestations of this. Raids in Chicago and Minneapolis of of activists’ homes in Chicago. Can you talk about how wide this surveillance is?
Mike German: Sure, as Scott said, I think we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, the ACLU issued a number of Freedom of Information Act Requests for Joint Terrorism Task Force against a number of politically active groups who suspected that they were spied the same way Scott did. And we uncovered widespread surveillance of different Peace and Justice Groups, Environmental Groups, all kind of different groups. And that in turn started an Inspector General Investigation that was just released in 2010 that showed that the FBI was opening these investigations with what they called “Factually Weak Predicates” sometimes even “Speculative Predicates.” So it wasn’t that they thought that the groups were involved in any criminal activity now, but just that it was a possibility in the future. They might be. Well of course, that is true for all of us. We all might be future criminals. And that was the sole criteria the FBI was using to open preliminary inquiries.
Now these are supposed to be predicated investigations where there is some factual basis. And these investigations, unfortunately, the IG only looked at the cases that the ACLU had already uncovered He didn’t look beyond those. But what he found was that these investigations remained open for years, with no evidence of wrongdoing. That the victims of these investigations were put on terrorist watch lists. And you can imagine for a political activist, when the FBI is going around telling local officials that this political activist is a terrorist, that cripples their ability to be effective in their advocacy and it creates a huge chilling effect that affects not just the people under investigation but others active on those political issues.
And even further, people who want to be active but feel it’s not worth it to come under that kind of surveillance. So it has a real serious effect on our democracy and that is one of the most dangerous parts about this.
Scott Crow: I tell people not to be afraid. It’s been definitely traumatizing. But if we don’t come and be open about this, then they’ve already won. And the surveillance and the war on terror wins against us.
Gang Stalking: Mike German- The Abuses of Secret Domestic Intelligence Operations (2015)
Amy Goodman: Mike German, National Security Policy Counsel for the ACLU is joining us. He was an FBI specialist in domestic counter-terrorism for many years. Mike what is your assessment of this widening dragnet and its consequences.
Mike German: Part of the problem is the scope of this investigation, the aggressive tactics being used, when there isn’t any public evidence to suggest these people pose a threat. In fact the FBI spokesman said immediately after the raids that there wasn’t a threat to the community. Which leads to a question of why there is this nationwide “early morning raids” as if these are mafia groups. When it is clear from the materials being seized and requested in the search warrant returns that are public that a lot of this is associational information being requested, address books, computer records, literature and advocacy materials, first amendment of sort materials.
So this creates a huge chill beyond these activists and their associates to the entire activist community. And it damages our democracy because people start to be afraid to participate in the democratic process. And fact that the FBI is using terms like “terrorism” to describe these individuals creates a huge chilling effect that we really have to be concerned about.
Amy Goodman: (Can you give us) new details on how the United States has assembled a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices, and military criminal investigators. Another Washington Post expose on this:
“The FBI operating a massive data base known as Guardian with the names and personal information of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents who have never committed a crime but who were reported to have acted suspiciously by a local police officer or a fellow citizen. The data base containing over 160,000 suspicious activity files. Despite the sweeping size of the database, the Washington Post reports, the FBI says it’s resulted in only 5 arrests and no convictions. In addition, the Post reveals, the FBI storing 96 million fingerprints in Clarksburg, West Virginia. And the Post also reports that local law enforcement agencies have begun using surveillance equipment designed for war zones. In Memphis, Tennessee, some police patrol cars now contain military grade infrared cameras that can snap digital images of one license plate after another, while analyzing each almost instantly.
Mike German, you have worked in counter-terrorism for years (from 1988 to 2004) before being at the ACLU. What are the dangers with this?
Mike German: You might remember a program called “Total Information Awareness” that was started right after 9/11. The idea was if we can just grab all the available data that’s out there somehow we’ll be able to manage it in a way that we’ll know everything that’s happening. And while Congress killed that specific program that idea never disappeared. And the FBI appears to be at the center of one of these expansive collection programs. It’s called “E-guardian,” this is the new one, that’s part of a nationwide suspicious activity reporting program that encourages state and local law enforcement agencies as well as the general public to report behaviors that describe as inherently suspiciously. And these include things like taking notes, drawing diagrams, taking measurements, taking photographs or video.
So, of course, these are benign activities that have no inherent suspicion regarding them. So what we’re concerned with is what people will really be reporting is people that, because of their own personal bias, they are already suspicious of. It won’t be everybody who’s taking notes, it will only be people who are wearing particular religious garb who they are religiously biased against. Or a person of a specific races or nationality. So this reduction in standards allows the collection of material against people who are not even suspected being involved in wrongdoing. And that is really an open door to abuse.
And we have FOIA requests outstanding for the E-Guardian program. We’re interested in a lot of different new FBI programs. There’s a Domain Management Program which purports to allow the FBI to collect racial and ethnic demographic information and map our communities across the nation by race and ethnicity. So again, this suspicion-less collection of information is a huge and growing problem. And all this data is just being ware-housed, literally (it’s called “the Investigative Data Ware House”) for any kind of abuse that might occur later.
And of course, the ACLU has already documented these types of spying operations being directed against political advocacy (groups) in 33 states across the nation. When the latest Washington Post report came out, one of the intelligence collection operations it focused on was the Tennessee Fusion Centers. And one our legal fellows became interested and went to the website. And sure enough one of the suspicious activities reported on the website was an ACLU advocacy effort regarding the celebration of religious activities in public schools. So clearly, they are collecting information about political advocacy and this part of the larger problem across the country.
Interviewer: This is not the first time in U.S. history that we’ve had these problems. You mentioned Total Information Awareness. But going back several decades, the Church Commission uncovered all kinds of spying by the U.S. government on legal dissident groups in the United States. And, of course, back in the 1920’s during the Palmer raids, there were all kinds of attempts by the government to round up what is normally legal but opposition politics of one kind or another. How come there was so little outcry in the general population of these enormous attempts by the government to take away civil liberties and to spy on the citizens?
Mike German: You are exactly right. There is a long history of abuse of secret domestic intelligence powers. And that’s why after the Church Committee uncovered those abuses in the 1970s, there were guidelines put in place, the Attorney General guidelines, that required a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing before the FBI could start aggressive investigations.
Unfortunately, after 9/11, those standards have been diluted significantly to where now the FBI literally requires no factual predicate to start an investigation.
And as far as the public outrage: A huge part of the problem is that these activities are taking place in secret. So it’s hard to know how these are impacting any particular group or individual. That’s why we set up a website, the spy files website, ACLU.org/spyfiles, where we are collecting a lot of this material.
It’s not just the FBI that is spying now. It’s the Department of Homeland Security, it’s the Department of Defense. It’s state and local law enforcement agencies that are involved in these activities. So this Washington Post story will be a big help to let people know that your innocence doesn’t protect you anymore. They can literally start collecting information on anyone.
We had a recent case in Maryland where the Maryland state police were spying on political activists.