Documents Reveal Rampant Government Surveillance on Washington State Activists

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August 13, 2010

Documents released on Aug. 4, 2010 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reveal widespread government surveillance of political activists in Washington State.   Obtained through records requests to several government agencies, the public documents demonstrate anti-war groups have been the target of repeated infiltration by law enforcement officials from 2006-2010. According to the ACLU, the documents "reveal a disturbing abuse and misuse of government resources.”   

The documents describe surveillance activities by fusion centers employees, police officers and military personnel on political activists, including:

  • A March, 29, 2010 Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s Fusion Center bulletin warning a police department of public records requests by a “local activist group.”
  • Intelligence files from March 2007 containing photographs, birthdates and other information about Seattle Rainforest Action Group (SEARAG) members.
  • Notes from a February 7, 2008 Homeland Security Committee meeting about a coffee shop started by a veterans group called GI Voice.
  • A military report from Sept. 27, 2006 about the plans and political views of the Veterans for Peace, a peaceful anti-war group.

The ACLU also obtained heavily redacted documents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Command about a former Fort Lewis employee who is accused of spying on activists from September 2007 through July 21, 2009. Washington State peace activists allege John Towery posed as anarchist "John Jacob" at their public and private meetings, infiltrated their group, and collected private information that was later shared with several law enforcement agencies. The findings of the Army’s internal investigation into this matter were not included in documents released to the ACLU, but Towery is a defendant in a federal civil lawsuit filed by an Olympia Port Militarization Resistance (OlyPMR) activist.