[News] Here’s How One Activist Convinced the FBI to Leave Him Alone

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Mon Dec 7 13:59:00 EST 2015

  Here’s How One Activist Convinced the FBI to Leave Him Alone

by Will Potter on December 7, 2015



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pickering-fbi-forego-interviewNewly released FBI documents confirm what 
some activist groups have argued for years: when FBI agents come 
knocking, the best response is to shut the door and call the press.

Leslie Pickering is no stranger to FBI harassment. Years ago, he was a 
spokesperson for the radical environmental group the Earth Liberation 
Front. By publicly making statements in support of militant tactics like 
property destruction, he immediately drew the attention of law 
enforcement. Today, he helps run an anarchist bookstore — and has found 
that the government is still monitoring his mail and First Amendment 

Pickering has been working with his attorney, Michael Kuzma, to obtain 
FBI documents about him. The court has ordered the FBI to process and 
release 30,000+ pages of his FBI file. In the first batch of those 
documents he has received, there is an account of the FBI’s decision to 
“forego an interview” and not visit Pickering.

The reason?

Pickering never talked, and future visits could result in bad press for 
the FBI.

“In previous investigations, Pickering was not cooperative with 
interviewers,” the document says. “Additionally, Pickering has used a 
possible FBI investigation against him to gain publicity in the local 
and national press. SSA concurrence was obtained to forego an interview.”

Author Kristian Williams says Pickering’s documents are a good example 
of the power and importance of non-cooperation and public exposure. 
Williams is the author of/Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in 
/and has also written about FBI harassment.

“The FBI’s decision not to approach Pickering shows that, one, if you 
refuse to talk it reduces the likelihood that they’ll approach you again 
(and conversely, talking at all only increases the likelihood they’ll 
come back),” Williams told me. “And two, the FBI really doesn’t like it 
when the people they’re investigating publicize the fact, and if they 
think you will, they’re less likely to try to approach you in the first 

This often runs counter to activists’ instincts in these situations, 
which is to attempt to talk their way out of it. And activists sometimes 
don’t want to publicize the FBI visit, Williams said, because it could 
make other activists afraid to continue organizing, or it could be 
perceived as self-promotion.

Pickering says he understands those feelings, but documents like this 
show that non-cooperation, combined with media outreach, is the best 

“It’s never been easy resisting federal investigators or dealing with 
the mainstream media,” Pickering said. “However, I have no doubt that 
full and consistent resistance of all these investigations and extensive 
media exposure have both been essential in providing the best possible 
defense on a personal level, but more importantly for the struggle as a 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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