Veterans For Peace in Boston, the late VFP member Howard Zinn, and several other peace organizations in Boston have been routinely spied on for years, and records kept on their peaceful and lawful activities. The Boston Police Department and the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, BRIC, (the local “fusion center”) have collected and kept so-called “intelligence reports” documenting constitutionally protected speech and political activity. While not a single report refers to any engagement in or plans for violence, peace rallies are called “Criminal Acts,” and the reports are labeled as dealing with “Extremists,” “Civil Disturbance,” and “HomeSec-Domestic.”
Fusion center employees working for the Boston Police, the FBI, and the Homeland Security Department have been a constant presence at peace events and have interrogated peace activists about purely legal activities. The ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild have obtained documents and videotapes after suing on behalf of five organizations and four individuals. One of the organizations is Veterans For Peace – Chapter 9 Smedley D. Butler Brigade. The ACLU/NLG report and a related video are here: http://aclum.org/policing_dissent
The video includes commentary by Pat Scanlon, Coordinator of Veterans For Peace, Chapter 9. Pat is a decorated Vietnam Veteran, a graduate of the United States Army Intelligence School at Fort Holabird, Maryland. He was an Intelligence Analyst, held a top-secret clearance and worked in Intelligence at MACV headquarters in Saigon for the year of 1969.
“While in the Army,” says Scanlon, “I was in Military Intelligence. I saw and handled numerous files of investigations conducted by the U.S. Army on U.S. citizens and students participating in local peace activities in their communities and on college campuses. This recent revelation of the Boston Police monitoring peace activists in Boston is proof of what I believe is a continuation of forty years of this kind of surveillance and monitoring of peace groups and individuals around the country by police and other government agencies.”
Scanlon objects to being labeled an “extremist” for opposing war. “Who are the real extremists here, let me get this straight. Members of Veterans For Peace, veterans who have dutifully served our country, many in the line of fire, many with military decorations, who have personally experienced the horrors of war and now stand for peace are labeled as extremists and monitored by local police departments as a threat. While those who illegally took this country to war in Iraq resulting in over 4,700 deaths of our young men and women, 30,000 wounded, 30% suffering from PTSD, suicide rates increasing 15% each year, 1,000,000 Iraqis killed, 3,000,000 Iraqi refugees now scattered in countries around the world: These folks are not considered extremists, yet members of Veterans For Peace are? What is wrong with that picture?”
Michael T. McPhearson, National Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, and a Veterans For Peace Board Member, added, “I am saddened that my nation which I have served as a soldier in the army has wandered so far off track that calling for peace, justice and respect for life and liberty is considered an extreme position. Is the next step to quiet my voice and take my right to free speech?”
Leah Bolger, national president of Veterans For Peace, was dismayed to learn of these practices. “To learn that Veterans For Peace has been labeled as an ‘extremist’ organization is absolutely shocking,” said Bolger. “Veterans For Peace is an organization of military veterans who, from the day of our inception in 1985, have dedicated ourselves to using non-violent means to end war and militarism. Our experiences with combat and the military have taught us that war is immoral and counter productive; we now use our voices as veterans to denounce and resist the illegal and immoral military actions of our own country. It is quite disturbing to learn that our government is so threatened by our voice that they have resorted to spying on us, and characterizing us as ‘extremists.’ This is a very sad commentary.”
Fusion centers that combine federal and local departments and militarize policing are all over the country, not just in Boston. The ACLU/NLG report provides some context:
“These revelations come on the heels of a report by a bipartisan US Senate subcommittee, which found that the federal government’s work with state and local fusion centers — among them the BRIC — ‘has not produced useful intelligence to support Federal counterterrorism efforts.’ ‘Fusion centers’ were created in the aftermath of 9/11, ostensibly so the federal government could ‘share terrorism-related information with states and localities.’ One of two ‘intelligence fusion centers’ in Massachusetts, the BRIC was created in 2005 as ‘a way to further integrate the intelligence capabilities of Boston, local, state and federal law enforcement partners.’ Since then, it has received millions of dollars in federal funding and operated entirely absent independent public oversight or accountability. According to the Senate subcommittee report released earlier this month, the lack of accountability at fusion centers nationwide has translated into poor results: the report found that the millions of dollars poured into centers like the BRIC have failed to uncover a single terrorist plot. Instead, fusion centers have ‘forwarded “intelligence” of uneven quality — often times shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.’ When they were related to terrorism, intelligence reports produced by fusion centers ‘duplicated a faster, more efficient information-sharing process already in place between local police and the FBI-led Terrorist Screening Center.’ One Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official told investigators that fusion centers produce ‘a lot of…predominately useless information,’ and at times, said another, ‘a bunch of crap.'”
Watch WHDH-Channel 7 news report: http://bit.ly/TfIhnf
Listen to WBUR-90.9 news report: http://bit.ly/WEoUnb
Veterans For Peace was founded in 1985 and has approximately 5,000 members in 150 chapters located in every U.S. state and several countries. It is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization recognized as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations, and is the only national veterans’ organization calling for the abolishment of war.