[Ppnews] How the FBI Tracks Eco-Terror Suspects

Political Prisoner News PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 15 08:45:32 EST 2005

Newsweek - Nov 21, 2005 issue

Profiling: How the FBI Tracks Eco-Terror [sic]

by Michael Isikoff

Nov. 21, 2005 issue - The FBI collected detailed data
on political activities and Web postings of suspected
members of a tiny environmentalist commune in southern
California two years ago as part of a high-profile
counterterrorism probe, bureau records show. Facing
further new disclosures about the matter, the bureau
last week agreed to settle a lawsuit and to pay
$100,000 to Josh Connole, a 27-year-old ex-commune
member who had been arrested-and later released-on
suspicions he was one of the eco-terrorists who had
firebombed SUV dealerships in the summer of 2003. But
the bureau's rare concession of error, expected to be
publicly announced soon, could bring new attention to
what civil-liberties groups say is a disturbing trend:
the stepped-up monitoring of domestic political
activity by FBI counter-terror agents.

Connole, an anti-Iraq-war protester, had been living
in a Pomona, Calif., vegan commune when a Joint
Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) targeted him after arson
attacks on four nearby Hummer dealers-acts blamed on
the shadowy Earth Liberation Front (ELF), which the
bureau considers a domestic terror group. The case was
considered serious enough that Director Robert Mueller
briefed President Bush. After concluding Connole
looked like a lanky, goateed suspect caught on
surveillance tape, agents arrested him at gunpoint on
Sept. 12, 2003, then raided the commune. After being
interrogated and held for four days, he was released.
Another suspect with no connection to the commune was
later arrested and convicted.

In their wrongful-arrest lawsuit, Connole's lawyers
demanded to know why the FBI looked at Connole in the
first place. Court documents show agents were
initially tipped off by a neighbor to "suspicious"
activity at the commune the night of the attacks. (In
fact, says Connole, members were simply helping one of the
residents move out.) Agents placed the commune under
surveillance and developed a political profile of the
residents, discovering the owner of the house and his
father "have posted statements on websites opposing
the use of fossil fuels," one doc reads. Another says
the owner had ties to a local chapter of Food Not
Bombs, an "anarcho-vegan food distribution group."
Among activities flagged in bureau docs: the father of
the owner had conducted a "one man' daily protest"
outside a Toyota office, was interviewed for an
article called "Dude, Where's my Electric Car!?" and
posted info on a Web site announcing "Stop Norway
Whaling!" Critics say such info has been increasingly
collected by agents since the then Attorney General
John Ashcroft relaxed FBI guidelines in 2002. "How
does advocacy of electric cars become the basis for
suspicion?" asks Bill Paparian, Connole's lawyer.
Bureau officials say they collect such info only when
there might be ties to violence or terrorism. A
spokesman declined to comment on Connole's case,
saying that because no settlement has been entered
into the court record, it remains "a pending legal

(c) 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

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