Well it certainly seems like it! Former Army Intelligence case officer in Vietnam, Jeff Stein writes for the Washington Post:
There was a time in the 1960s when the FBI’s illegal surveillance of left-wing groups seemed, and maybe even was, sinister if not broadly menacing. Parts of today’s Justice Department report on its more recent activities, however, evoke that old saw about history repeating itself as farce.
The Inspector General’s report covered a number of FBI targets following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: an antiwar rally in Pittsburgh; a Catholic peace magazine; a Quaker activist; and members of the environmental group Greenpeace as well as of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.
My favorite story was about the rookie FBI agent who was dispatched to an antiwar rally in Pittsburgh with a camera and told to look for terrorism suspects.
It was “a slow work day,” the IG report said — the Friday after Thanksgiving 2002.
The “possibility that any useful information would result from this make-work assignment was remote,” the report said. The sponsor of the rally was the Thomas Merton Center, named for the Catholic priest who advocated pacifism and interfaith dialogue.
“The agent was unable to identify any terrorism subjects at the event, but he photographed a woman in order to have something to show his supervisor,” the IG report says. “He told us he had spoken to a woman leafletter at the rally who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, and that she was probably the person he photographed.”
The agent’s report, described as “results of investigation of Pittsburgh antiwar activity,” characterized the Merton Center as a “left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacificism [sic],” according to the IG report.
When the FBI activity surfaced in 2006, it caused a hullabaloo, of course. Activists raised the specter of a return to the bad old days, when the FBI was breaking into antiwar offices and fabricating poison-pen letters to create rivalries in the Black Panther Party, among others, in its infamous COINTEL program, which was designed to wreak havoc in left-wing groups.
The rookie agent’s post-Thanksgiving sojourn seemed nothing like that.
And compared with other, far more worrying invasions of civil rights by the government, such as its ongoing monitoring of Americans’ telephone calls and e-mails, it seems merely hapless.
But what came next is not…
[continues in the Washington Post]
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