The ACLU has posted
to the web FBI documents detailing its surveillance of a nonviolent peace group in Pittsburgh, PA. A representative sample, dated Nov. 29, 2002:
The Thomas Merton Center. . . is a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism.
TMC holds daily leaflet distribution activities in downtown Pittsburgh and is currently focused on its opposition to the potential war with Iraq.
The report is about as outrageous as any Communists-under-the-floorboards dispatch from the Hoover era. But the real outrage is that it was written just a year out from the 9/11 attacks. Remember, tips were still pouring in about possible terrorist activities from all sources. We were still heeding warnings of a shadowy enemy who could strike at any time.
Amid that climate of immediate fear, at least one FBI special agent was assigned to spending several hours surveilling a political group, taking notes, and typing up reports on what he or she saw.
With Washington's ops centers and situation rooms still reeling with the very real concern of another terrorist attack, how could someone assign an agent several hours of watching (and writing about) a nonviolent political group? How many leads could that agent have run down, if political surveillance was not the priority of his or her superiors?
Then I saw an email from reader MM -- and keep in mind, this is all before my first coffee of the day -- which quoted RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman's latest note to supporters:
"Our President has no more basic responsibility than to protect the American people and fight terrorists who want to kill us. . . . Democrat leaders never miss an opportunity to put politics before our nation's security. Make your voice heard. Tell Democrat leaders to stop playing politics with national security."
I couldn't help but wonder: if an FBI agent got assigned to tail Ken Mehlman, what would the report read like?