Protesters get FBI terrorism treatment

COLORADO SPRINGS – Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) confirm what many activists and civil libertarians have been claiming for several years – that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) collect information on nonviolent protest activities and consider them part of domestic terrorism investigations.

The documents, discovered due to a request by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado, show that the names and license plate numbers of about 30 people who protested in Colorado Springs during 2003 and 2003 were put into FBI domestic terrorism files.

"These documents confirm that the names and license plate numbers of several dozen peaceful protesters who committed no crime are now in a JTTF file marked ‘counterterrorism,’ " ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein told the Knight Ridder News Service. "This kind of surveillance of First Amendment activities has serious consequences. Law-abiding Americans may be reluctant to speak out when doing so means that their names will wind up in an FBI file."

"We do not open cases or monitor cases just based purely on protests," responded FBI Special Agent Monique Kelso, according to "It’s our job to protect American civil rights. We don’t surveil cases just to do that. We have credible information."

The documents cover the June 2002 protest of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association convention and an anti-war protest in February 2003, the ACLU said. Activists protested outside a lumber association event, accusing conferees of destroying endangered forests and needlessly logging on public land. A few activists were arrested after sneaking onto the roof of the conference site to unfurl a banner.

The 2003 rally was part of an International Day of Peace to oppose possible U.S. military action against Iraq. Protesters gathered at Palmer Park and outside Peterson Air Force Base. About three dozen protesters were arrested at each event for failing to disperse.