[News] JTTF interviews

News at freedomarchives.org News at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 19 08:33:16 EDT 2005



New documents confirm: FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force targets peaceful 
activists for harassment, political surveillance

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 18, 2005

The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado released documents today 
that it says confirm that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) in 
Denver is targeting peaceful political activists for harassment and 
building files on constitutionally-protected political activities and 
associations that have nothing to do with terrorism or other criminal activity.

The documents are the first FBI responses to a formal request that the 
Colorado ACLU filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) on behalf 
of 26 organizations and 10 individuals last December. At the time, the 
Colorado ACLU presented evidence that the JTTF was collecting information 
on peaceful advocacy groups whose issues ranged from animal rights, 
protection of the environment, labor rights, military policy, social and 
economic justice in Latin America, and the treatment of Native Americans. 
Six additional ACLU affiliates around the country filed similar requests in 
December, and ten additional ACLUs filed FOIA requests today.

“These documents confirm that the FBI’s anti-terrorism unit is targeting 
nonviolent activists and unjustifiably treating constitutionally-protected 
dissent as though it were potential terrorism,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU 
Legal Director. “They illustrate that the FBI is pursuing misplaced 
priorities that waste taxpayers’ money and pose a threat to freedom of 
expression and association. People will be reluctant to sign a petition or 
join a peaceful demonstration when they know that their names might wind up 
in an FBI file on ‘domestic terrorism.’”

The documents reveal that the FBI is particularly interested in Food Not 
Bombs, which opposes the government’s prioritization of war and military 
programs over social programs. Twice a week in Denver for the last six 
years, Food Not Bombs has been providing free vegetarian meals in a picnic 
setting in public parks to anyone who is hungry. Autonomous chapters of 
Food Not Bombs carry out in similar activities in Boulder, Fort Collins and 
Durango, as well as numerous cities throughout the country.

<http://www.aclu-co.org/news/pressrelease/release_jttf051805.htm../../docket/200406/JTTF_file_sarah_bardwell_12-07-04.pdf>One 
FBI report, written in December 2004, focused specifically on Sarah 
Bardwell, a young Denver activist who worked for the American Friends 
Service Committee for several years in the organization’s Youth and 
Militarism Program and who is also active with Food Not Bombs. The FBI 
report notes that Bardwell was listed as a “point of contact” for the 
organizers of an antiwar protest in downtown Denver in March, 2004. It 
further notes that her address is “associated with” Food Not Bombs and 
Derailer Bicycle Collective. (Volunteers at Derailer fix up old bikes, 
donate bicycles to the homeless, and teach people to work on their own 
bikes.) The author of the FBI report also states that Derailer hosted a 
meeting place during the Columbus Day protests in Denver two years earlier.

“This report on Sarah Bardwell collects information about her peaceful 
political activities and her constitutionally-protected associations,” 
Silverstein said. “It contains nothing that suggests that she is connected 
with terrorism or any other criminal activity.”

The FBI documents provide new information about a controversial JTTF 
operation that targeted political activists for aggressive and intimidating 
questioning in Colorado and other states in the summer of 2004. A 
three-page report discusses the events of July 22, 2004, when two teams of 
JTTF agents, accompanied by Denver police officers in SWAT gear, appeared 
at two Denver residences on Lipan Street that are home to a number of young 
political activists, including Bardwell. Bardwell explained at the time 
that the JTTF agents demanded to know if she and her housemates were 
planning to commit crimes at the upcoming Republican and Democratic 
conventions and whether they knew anyone who was planning such crimes. They 
also threatened that failing to provide information to the FBI was a 
criminal offense. Critics charged that the FBI was actively attempting to 
intimidate dissenters rather than conducting a legitimate investigation of 
reasonably suspected criminal activity.

The FBI report explains that 
<http://www.aclu-co.org/news/pressrelease/release_jttf051805.htm../../docket/200406/JTTF_file_sarah_bardwell_08-02-04.pdf>the 
Denver JTTF received several “leads” and was asked to conduct “pretext 
interviews” about plans for the political conventions. The first two 
“leads” the JTTF pursued were the two houses on Lipan Street. The FBI 
report states that no information about criminal activity was obtained. The 
report then states that the JTTF agents decided not to follow up on another 
lead, regarding a radical bookstore, because, as the report stated, “the 
purpose of the interviews was served by the contacts made at the two 
residences.”

“These accounts of the JTTF’s visits to the Lipan Street homes confirm that 
the FBI was more interested in intimidation than in trying to gather 
information,” Silverstein said. “The JTTF show of force, complete with SWAT 
teams, was an abuse of power apparently intended to deter persons who might 
be considering demonstrating at the political conventions.”

<http://www.aclu-co.org/news/pressrelease/release_jttf051805.htm../../docket/200406/JTTF_file_Scott_Silber_08-02-04.pdf>A 
similar three-page report reveals that the JTTF also intended to question 
Scott Silber, a labor consultant who had recently assisted janitors in a 
campaign that secured health insurance in 40 employer agreements. Silber 
reports receiving several phone calls from an FBI agent who demonstrated 
extensive knowledge of Silber’s recent addresses but who would not explain 
his interest in questioning Silber.

The FBI documents released today supplement documents released earlier by 
the Colorado ACLU, many obtained in connection with litigation over the 
Denver Police Department’s “Spy Files,” which also document the JTTF’s 
collection of political surveillance information. Those documents are 
available at 
<http://www.aclu-co.org/news/pressrelease/release_jttf051805.htm../../spyfiles/fbifiles.htm>http://www.aclu-co.org/spyfiles/fbifiles.htm. 


--end--

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This page was last updated 5/18/2005

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