The Justice Department harshly criticized the Pittsburgh office of the FBI for providing misinformation, misleading testimony and false reports in connection with surveillance conducted at a 2002 anti-war rally sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center.And there's this from The Trib:
The 209-page report from the Inspector General's office was prompted by a 2006 congressional inquiry into whether the FBI was improperly spying on domestic groups and activities protected by the First Amendment.
Although the report concluded that the FBI was not improperly spying on anti-war protest groups, it noted that the Pittsburgh office had "no legitimate purpose for the FBI to attend the event."
The bureau is considering the inquiry after a separate Department of Justice investigation found that agents across the country improperly started investigations, put the names of environmental activists on a terror watch list and, in Pittsburgh, gave explanations for their actions that showed "extraordinary carelessness" or were "deliberately misleading."So what happened? Potter has a rundown:
The investigation by Inspector General Glenn Fine, which covered the years from 2001 to 2006, did not find the FBI targeted groups because of their political views. Fine's report includes FBI investigations involving the Garfield-based, anti-war Thomas Merton Center and the Pittsburgh Organizing Group, an anarchist organization.
FBI agents investigated the Thomas Merton Center and the Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG) because they literally didn't have anything else to do. An FBI agent surveilled and photographed a 2002 Merton Center rally, because "work was slow" the Friday after Thanksgiving. The agent, a new hire on probationary assignment, began taking photos of Merton Center activists leafletting in Market Square to "show his supervisor that he was 'earning his pay'." Similarly, an agent confesses that an investigation into POG got underway because "work is light ... [W]e are looking for work, which is why folks in POG even get on the radar."And then:
When the ACLU demanded records relating to FBI surveillance of the Merton Center event, a cover-up apparently ensued. Someone in the agency wrote up a "routing slip" -- which seeks to redact certain information before a document is released publicly -- that made it look like the FBI was really tracking individuals suspected of terrorist ties. The report makes a pretty convincing argument for why that isn't true. And it surmises that the routing slip was intended to make "a stronger justification for the surveillance of the Merton Center anti-war rally than was in fact the case." The routing slip became the basis for a misleading press release issued by the FBI in the matter, and for false Congressional testimony made by FBI chief Robert Mueller.The P-G has some fallout:
Michael Drohan, board president at the Thomas Merton Center, said the fact that more than one-quarter of the inspector general's report is dedicated to his organization is "extraordinary and unbelievable."Good to know that in the years directly following 9/11 our nation's premier law enforcement service was doing such a good job protecting us. Who knew we'd have to be protected from them?
"The Merton Center is an organization devoted to the pursuit of peace and justice with an absolute strict commitment to non-violence," Mr. Drohan said. "To mention us in the same sentence as 'terrorism' is an outrage. Everything we do and have done is to stop war, prevent war and promote economic and social justice.
"They really owe the Merton Center a profound apology for incriminating us."
The report, by the way, can be found here.