FBI monitoring nonviolent immigration protesters at border: report

FBI monitoring nonviolent immigration protesters at border: report
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The FBI has targeted groups conducting nonviolent protests at the border against U.S. immigration policies for surveillance, according to a document obtained by Yahoo News.

The document, called an “external intelligence note,” was reportedly produced by the FBI’s Phoenix office for use by other agencies and law enforcement and lists several groups as “increasingly arming themselves and using lethal force” against U.S. immigration policy but overwhelmingly cites nonviolent activism.

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“It’s been a feature of the post-9/11 counterterrorism effort by the FBI to focus on nonviolent civil disobedience and to prioritize it,” former FBI Special Agent Mark German, now a New York University fellow, told Yahoo.

“For several years after 9/11, the FBI called environmental activists the No. 1 domestic terror threat, even though there’s not a single homicide related to environmental ‘terrorists’ in the United States,” he added.

The document attributes border demonstrations to “anarchist extremists” and focuses far more on what it says is the potential for their activity to escalate than to specific acts of violence. For example, it cites a social media post by antifascist activist Cory Lemley stating “Every ICE detention center shall be taken over, with ICE employees detained until every immigrant is freed.”

Lemley told Yahoo he does not advocate “proactive violence” and that other material the FBI flagged, such as pictures of him with guns, show legally-owned weapons that are no different than material one could “see in a redneck post on a daily basis.”

The document also cites a post on the leftist website It’s Going Down which refers to “attacks” and “targets” but outlines actions that are predominantly nonviolent, if sometimes disruptive protest tactics such as hanging banners and blocking streets. The only violent or criminal incidents are eight episodes of vandalism or fights at protests, according to Yahoo.

Several of the armed groups described in the document claim they are armed for self-defense, which the document briefly discusses before dismissing it, citing unnamed “human source reporting” that it says indicate “plans for ‘direct action’ and ‘offensive postures.’”

“Direct action” as the term is used in an activist context can be non-violent or violent and has been used in reference to strikes or civil disobedience.

“While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, FBI field offices routinely share information with their local law enforcement partners to assist in protecting the communities they serve," the bureau said in a statement to The Hill. 

"These products are intended to be informative in nature, and as such, they contain appropriate caveats to describe the confidence in the sourcing of information and the likelihood of the assessment. Additionally, when written at a local level, these products will note that the perspective offered may be limited to the field office’s area of responsibility," it added.