hmmm..... does the FBI consider jay walkers terrorists? and can the patriot act be used against jay walkers????
Documents suggest FBI casts broad anti-terror net
Nicholas Riccardi Los Angeles Times Mar. 27, 2006 12:00 AM
DENVER - The FBI, while waging a highly publicized war against terrorism, has spent resources gathering information on anti-war and environmental protesters as well as activists who feed vegetarian meals to the homeless, the agency's internal memos show.
For years, the FBI's definition of terrorism has included violence against property, such as the window smashing during the 1999 Seattle protests against the World Trade Organization. Those activities have led the FBI to investigate the online chat rooms, organizing meetings and demonstrations of a wide range of activist groups.
Officials say that international terrorists pose the greatest threat to the nation, but they cannot ignore crimes committed by some activists.
"It's one thing to express an idea or such, but when you commit acts of violence in support of that activity, that's where our interest comes in," said Bill Carter, an FBI spokesman in Washington.
He stressed that the agency targets individuals who commit crimes and does not single out groups for ideological reasons. He cited the recent arrest of environmental activists accused of firebombing an unfinished ski resort in Vail, Colo.
"People can get hurt," Carter said. "Businesses can be ruined."
The FBI's encounters with activists are described in hundreds of pages of documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act after agents visited several activists before the 2004 political conventions. Details have steadily trickled out over the past year, but newly released documents provide a fuller view of some FBI investigations.
"Any definition of terrorism that would include someone throwing a bottle or rock through a window during an anti-war demonstration is dangerously overbroad," said Ben Wizner, an attorney with the ACLU. "The FBI will have its hands full pursuing anti-war groups instead of truly dangerous organizations."
ACLU attorneys say that most violence during demonstrations is minor and is better handled by local police than federal counterterrorism agents. They contend that the FBI, which spied on anti-war and civil rights leaders during the 1960s, appears to be investigating activists solely for opposing the government.
"They don't know where Osama bin Laden is, but they're spending money watching people like me," said Kirsten Atkins, 40, an environmental activist. Her license-plate number showed up in an FBI terrorism file after she attended a protest against the lumber industry in Colorado Springs in 2002.
Attorneys for the ACLU acknowledge that the FBI memos are heavily redacted and contain incomplete portraits of some cases, but they say they are troubling. The documents show the agency has monitored groups that were not suspected of any crimes, the attorneys say.
FBI officials respond that there is nothing improper about agents attending a meeting or demonstration.