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FBI Is Monitoring War Protesters, Official Says

November 24, 2003|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The FBI has gathered data about tactics and training used by war protesters in an effort to blunt potential violence by extremist elements, a federal law enforcement official said Sunday.

The FBI warned of tactics used by such groups in a weekly bulletin circulated to 15,000 law enforcement agencies around the country last month, ahead of large demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco to protest the Iraq war.

The bulletin discussed tactics, training and organization of groups, some of which have Web sites that refer to training camps to teach activities like disrupting traffic and law enforcement during large public events, the official said.

It described activist strategies like videotaping arrests to intimidate police and using the Internet to recruit and raise funds.

The memorandum was first reported by the New York Times on Sunday.

"It contains information that we gleaned through investigation and through other means," a federal law enforcement official who asked not to be identified told Reuters.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), appearing on ABC's "This Week," said he was concerned about reports that the FBI was monitoring war protesters.

"We have the stories going on this morning where they're using the FBI to look into demonstrations in order to find out who is demonstrating and getting into their background. That reminds me of the old Nixon times and the enemies list," he said. White House officials in the administration of President Nixon kept a list of political enemies.

The federal law enforcement official said the FBI was only interested in individuals and groups who plotted violence.

Civil rights groups quoted by the New York Times nonetheless said the monitoring of protesters was alarming.

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