FBI Sad For All The Persecuted Nazis
It's amazing what you can learn from Freedom of Information Act requests. Like for instance this week we learn, via FOIA requests by a transparency non-profit, that the FBI investigated a lefty group after some of its members were assaulted by neo-Nazis, because what if those mean assault victims intended to bleed on the poor Nazis? The same group also FOIA'd another tranche of training documents in which the FBI warns about the threat of "pro-choice extremists," even though there aren't any such things in the real world. This whole mess really reminds us of that old saying: Who watches the watchers hand their beer to a buddy and say "Watch THIS!"?
The information on the FBI's latest weirdness was gathered by openness/transparency outfit Property of the People, which spends its time digging up government records on history secrets like the FBI's campaign against Nelson Mandela (in the name of fighting communism, you know) and more recent stuff like tracking down White House visitor's logs that the Trump administration refused to release. And wowie, if you thought misguided FBI operations were a thing of the distant past -- like, say, the Bureau's attempt to convince Martin Luther King to kill himself, or its investigation of John Lennon for aggravated peacenikery -- nah, they're still stupid and incredibly fucked up today, hooray!
Working from 52 pages of documents obtained by Property of the People, the Guardian details the FBI investigation into a California anti-fascist group called "By Any Means Necessary" (BAMN) following a 2016 event in which a member of BAMN was stabbed by the neo-Nazis the group was counter-protesting. Whole bunch of people got wounded by the Nazi dudes, so of course the FBI opened a counter-terrorism investigation of the protesters. Maybe they were just inspired by other police agencies that did the same.
Among the weirdnesses in that investigation, the FBI couldn't even identify the hate groups correctly -- the rally was held by two neofascist white supremacist groups, the Traditionalist Worker Party and its California pals the Golden State Skinheads, but the FBI documents repeatedly refer to them as the "Ku Klux Klan" and "KKK," which had no involvement in the rally or the violence. And dig this weird description of the groups' ideology:
In 2016, law enforcement learned that the Ku Klux Klan would be holding a rally at the State Capitol Building … The KKK consisted of members that some perceived to be supportive of a white supremacist agenda. In response, a number of groups mobilized to protest the rally. Flyers were posted asking people to attend in order to shut down the rally.
Why yes, "some" people do "perceive" the KKK to be "supportive of a white supremacist agenda." And Nazis too even! Like the membership of the Traditionalist Worker Party, we guess, what with all the calls for racial purity and hating on Jews. Or at least, they were into that in 2016, before the TWP imploded in a bizarre fucktangle of sex, spying, and battery in 2018.
The FBI was very, very worried about the potential that BAMN would turn to terrorist violence and commit "conspiracy" against the free speech rights of the Nazi dudes, so agents launched a surveillance operation. Ultimately, the investigation couldn't find any crimes to pin on BAMN -- even though they engaged in seriously suspicious activities like opposing rape and police brutality -- and the investigation went nowhere. But golly, the investigators sure found some stuff to worry about!
The "potential violations of federal law", the FBI said, included "conspiracy against rights" and "riots". The FBI cited Bamn's website, which encouraged supporters to protest against the KKK, featured slogans like "SMASH FASCISM!" and "NO 'FREE SPEECH' FOR FASCISTS!", and celebrated the "mass, militant demonstration" that "shut down" the neo-Nazi rally. The FBI also included screenshots of Bamn pages that referenced a number of the group's other advocacy issues, including campaigns against "rape and sexual assault" and "police brutality".
The FBI report included a careful disclaimer that the investigation was not "intended to associate" BAMN's protected free speech activities with "criminality or a threat to national security," but went on to note that even protected free speeching could stir up trouble and "invite a violent reaction towards the subject individuals or groups, or the activity could be used as a means to target law enforcement." It very generously added that if no evidence of illegal activity was found, then "FBI policy and federal law dictates that no further record be made of the protected activity." See? All nice and legal like! As it turned out, the investigation was dropped, so we suppose the FBI went back to its other priorities, like spying on climate change activists.
The other big find by Property of the People involved a strange change in how the FBI trains law enforcement agencies to deal with the fringe groups in the attempt to end abortion rights, as detailed by this piece at Jezebel last week. Ryan Shapiro, Property of the People's executive director, 'splained that for a very long time, FBI training materials only referred to "anti-abortion extremism," but a one-page 2014 training document changed the heading to "abortion extremism," with pointers on the threats posed by both "Pro-life extremists" and "Pro-choice extremists." Here's a portion of the document:
As you might notice, one of those things is not like the others; the document acknowledges "pro-choice extremists" is barely even a real category in the world, with exactly one example. As Jezebel notes, while anti-abortion crazies have bombed clinics and murdered at least 12 people since 1993 (all of them doctors or clinic staff), the "Both Sides" narrative just doesn't work:
To make the extent of the non-problem clear: Only one person could be fairly described as a "pro-choice terrorist" (he indeed described himself that way), and that is Theodore Shulman, who went to prison in 2012 for harrassing and threatening to kill two leading figures in the anti-abortion movement.
In addition, there's been one murder of an anti-abortion protester at a demonstration, in 2009, but the killer was severely mentally ill. He shot and killed two men; the other was a gravel pit owner, and the killings had nothing to do with politics. Instead, the killer believed "both men had wronged his mother." At his trial, the shooter said he was also offended that children might see the protester's sign depicting bloody fetuses. Not exactly a widespread terror network, huh?
Nonetheless, an FBI-sponsored website for teens warned the kiddos away from violent extremism of all sorts (mostly Islamic terrorist groups). In the domestic extremists section, the site warns about sovereign citizens, militias, anarchists, violent animal rights activists, and yep, the dangers of BOTH types of abortion radicals:
The site is lying about the murder, of course, since the killer in that case wasn't trying to "defend abortion rights" at all.
So why did the FBI turn to both-sidesing "abortion extremism" at some point during the Obama administration? The FBI wouldn't say nothing, because it's the fucking FBI:
The FBI's national press office responded to our request for comment by saying, in full: "We don't have any comment on briefings we provide to our law enforcement partners. We also don't have anything to add to the document you received via FOIA and attached in your inquiry."
Looks like it's time for another FOIA request! Our educated guess, of course, would be that the Bureau may have been inspired to include a nonexistent "other side" after the entire right wing freaked the fuck out in 2009, when a Homeland Security report warned about rightwing extremists and every rightwing blog cried that Obama was going to throw patriots in FEMA camps.
We're guessing maybe the official documents may have put it a little differently, but hey, you need balance, even if you have to invent it.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.