The FBI had a weak factual basis for opening and extending some investigations of U.S. activist groups and put individuals affiliated with Greenpeace USA on the terrorist watch list improperly, a report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General released Monday found.
In addition, FBI Director Robert Mueller was also found to have unintentionally provided inaccurate testimony to Congress because he was given bad information. FBI personnel told him that certain persons of interest in international terrorism matters were expected to be present at an anti-war rally in Pittsburgh in 2002, according to the report.The review addressed FBI activities from 2001 to 2006 related to the Thomas Merton Center; People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); Greenpeace USA; The Catholic Worker; and an individual described as a Quaker peace activist.
None of these groups were targeted by the FBI on the basis of their First Amendment activities, the report found. But the factual bases for opening some investigations of individuals affiliated with the groups were weak. The FBI also extended the duration of investigations without adequate basis in some cases, and the bureau improperly retained information about the groups in its files.
In addition, the FBI also wrongly classified some nonviolent civil disobedience under its “Acts of Terrorism” classification, which led to subjects being added to the watchlist without merit.
Mueller’s false testimony came during an appearance before Congress in May 2006 that the surveillance was an “outgrowth of an FBI investigation.”
In reality, FBI agent was sent to observe the event as an ill-conceived “make work” assignment given to a probationary agent on a slow work day (the day after Thanksgiving) the report found.
In one case, the report concludes that the FBI had opened an investigation into Greenpeace members related to their planned protests of Exxon and Kimberly-Clark in Texas, but didn’t articulate any basis to suspect they were planning a federal crime, and kept the investigation open for three years — long after the corporate shareholder meetings they were planning to disrupt had passed. They also classified that case as an Act of Terrorism matter, but the OIG found there was scant evidence that Greenpeace members were planning activities involving force or violence.
In another case, the FBI placed two documents in a domestic terrorism file that contained information about nonviolent civil disobedience by Catholic Worker members.
While investigating PETA, the FBI opened several questionable full investigations rather than preliminary inquiries, and one case shouldn’t have been opened at all, OIG found. The Norfolk Field Division also kept that case open longer than they should have under FBI rules.
FBI deputy director Timothy P. Murphy said the FBI was “pleased” that Fine “concludes the FBI did not target any groups for investigation on the basis of their First Amendment activities,” according to the Washington Post.
The report is embedded below.