A Review of the FBI's Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups
Chapter Six: Investigative Activities Directed at the Catholic Worker Movement
According to its website, the Catholic Worker movement began in 1933 as a newspaper published in New York City and edited by Dorothy Day, the movement's founder. Today, the Catholic Worker movement is a collection of an estimated 180 autonomous community groups located mostly in the United States.157 The Catholic Worker has no central organizational structure. It operates hospitality houses, located mostly in urban area. Catholic Worker volunteers and members, some of whom live in the hospitality houses, commonly provide "soup kitchen" meals to the needy.
The Catholic Worker's website states that it is a religious community whose members may adopt "lives of voluntary poverty" and share a Christian/ pacifist philosophy derived from the Sermon on the Mount and certain teachings of the Catholic Church. It has no official affiliation with the Catholic Church. An article on its website described Catholic Worker activities as follows:
Beyond hospitality, Catholic Worker communities are known for activity in support of labor unions, human rights, cooperatives, and the development of a nonviolent culture. Those active in the Catholic Worker are often pacifist people seeking to live an unarmed, nonviolent life. During periods of military conscription, Catholic Workers have been conscientious objectors to military service. Many of those active in the Catholic Worker movement have been jailed for acts of protest against racism, unfair labor practices, social injustice and war.
We selected the Catholic Worker for this review because it was one of the groups that had been featured in the news articles that, beginning in December 2005, reported that the FBI had improperly monitored the activities of advocacy groups. As noted in Chapter One, many of these news articles were based upon information contained in document disclosures resulting from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the FBI.
II. Specific FBI Activities Relating to the Catholic Worker
The FBI's investigative activity with respect to Catholic Worker groups' and their members' protest activities during the period of our review fell into three general categories: cases in which a local Catholic Worker group or its members were made the subject of an FBI investigation, cases in which the FBI investigated the activity of a local group or its members in connection with a "special event," and cases in which the FBI retained records of the activities of a local Catholic Worker group or its members based on reports submitted by other agencies.
A. Investigations in Which Catholic Worker Groups or Their Members Were Made the Subject of an FBI Investigation
We found three cases in which the FBI opened preliminary inquiries or full investigations in which local Catholic Worker groups or their members were named subjects or a member was an unnamed subject in connection with protest activity. We discuss below the two cases in which Catholic Worker members were named subjects or a member was an unnamed subject. Because the third case was an investigation of the Catholic Worker group, Greenpeace, and others, we discuss that case in Chapter Seven.
1. Milwaukee, WI Military Recruiting Station - Milwaukee Field Division
In an Electronic Communication (EC) dated June 18, 2003, the FBI Milwaukee Field Division opened a full investigation on unknown subject(s) for an act of vandalism that occurred at a military recruiting station near the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. According to the opening EC, in the early morning hours of June 17, 2003, unknown subject(s) damaged three large glass panel windows and shattered the glass front door of the building. In addition, the subjects threw four or five Christmas ornaments filled with red paint into the recruiting station, causing further damage. The EC did not state whether any military personnel or other persons were in the building at the time of the incident. Army personnel reported that it appeared nothing had been taken from the office. The EC also stated that an anonymous e-mail sent to a local newspaper and TV news station claimed responsibility and asserted the action was taken on "behalf of the people of Iraq who suffered under Saddam Hussein and now suffer under the United States." The FBI opened the investigation under the investigation classification that is designated for acts of terrorism by domestic terrorists occurring on government reservations.
According to an EC dated October 24, 2003, during the investigation a witness to the vandalism identified an individual, a member of the Casa Maria Catholic Worker, as a person who may have been involved in the vandalism. The EC did not describe in any detail what the witness saw but simply referenced "a witness to the captioned matter." According to the EC, the witness identified the Catholic Worker member as a possible suspect after viewing a videotape of a protest which occurred at the Federal building in Milwaukee.158
The Casa Maria Catholic Worker was a local group with a hospitality house located in Milwaukee. Twice the FBI interviewed the member of the Casa Maria Catholic Worker who the witness had identified, both times at his Milwaukee residence, which was also the Casa Maria Catholic Worker hospitality house.159 The individual denied any involvement in or knowledge of the vandalism. Following additional investigative activity, the FBI closed the case for lack of evidence that identified any subjects.
b. OIG Analysis
We concluded that under the applicable Attorney General's Guidelines the FBI had a sufficient factual basis to open an investigation on unknown subjects and to interview the Catholic Worker member suspected of the vandalism. The 2002 Attorney General's Guidelines in effect at the time of the investigation stated that a general crimes investigation may be opened "when facts or circumstances reasonably indicate that a federal crime has been, is being, or will be committed." The Special Agent who wrote the opening EC had a "reasonable indication" that a federal crime was committed from the report of vandalism at a military recruiting station and an anonymous claim of responsibility. See 18 U.S.C. § 1361 (willful injury or depredation to United States property.) Moreover, interviewing the Catholic Worker member at the Catholic Worker hospitality house was a lawful investigative technique under the 2002 Attorney General's Guidelines, based on the witness' belief that the Catholic Worker member might have been involved.
We also examined whether this investigation was properly classified as a domestic terrorism matter. The FBI policy in effect during most of this investigation stated that such classification "shall include any investigation of a criminal act which involves an individual(s) who seeks to further political and/ or social goals wholly or in part through activities that involve the use of force or violence and violate federal law."160 The act of vandalism, which involved the shattering of the glass front door of the military recruiting station, constituted a use of force or violence. Additionally, an anonymous individual claimed responsibility for the act and stated that the action was on behalf of oppressed Iraqis, showing a desire to further a particular political view. These facts therefore fit within the FBI's policy describing the classification of a matter as domestic terrorism.
2. Ithaca, NY Military Recruiting Station - Albany Field Division
In an EC dated June 1, 2004, the FBI Albany Field Division opened a full investigation, under the domestic terrorism classification, on four individuals for entering a military recruiting station in Ithaca, New York, and pouring human blood on the walls, pictures, and an American flag.161 The vandalism occurred on March 17, 2003, 3 days before the beginning of the Iraq War. Some of the individuals read a declaration encouraging military members to "refuse the order to go to war," and to "leave the military before it is too late." According to the opening EC, the four individuals were members of the Ithaca Catholic Worker.
The four individuals - who came to be known as the "St. Patrick's Four" - were initially tried for trespass and felony criminal mischief in state court (Tompkins County, New York). According to the FBI's opening EC, in April 2004, after a jury was unable to reach verdicts, the county court judge declared a mistrial. The Tompkins County District Attorney then requested that the U.S. Attorney (Northern District of New York) file charges against the St. Patrick's Four in federal court, which the U.S. Attorney did. The four individuals were subsequently prosecuted in U.S. District Court on federal charges of conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States by force, intimidation and threat, 18 U.S.C. § 372; injury or damage to government property, 18 U.S.C. § 1361; and two counts of trespass on a military station, 18 U.S.C. § 1382.
The FBI's opening EC stated that the Ithaca Catholic Worker was an organization the FBI believed to be a support group or chapter for the Prince of Peace Plowshares. The EC provided detailed information on the Prince of Peace Plowshares, including a list of criminal acts that group had previously committed targeting secure government facilities, including destruction of government property, destruction or disabling of military weapons systems, and trespass onto military facilities. The EC stated that these actions were believed to have been conducted to support the Prince of Peace Plowshares's anti-war/anti-nuclear views. The EC also stated that the Prince of Peace Plowshares's website described criminal actions previously taken against the military by two of the four individuals, including damaging military aircraft and a submarine by the use of hammers and pouring human blood and damaging another submarine by ramming a vehicle into it.
The opening EC also stated that Prince of Peace Plowshares actions may be planned at community centers using names such as "Jonah House" or the "Catholic Worker." The EC stated that the Jonah House website published the declaration that was read by one of the four individuals during the action taken against the Ithaca military recruiting station. The Jonah House website also contained signatures of individuals who subscribed to the ideology stated in the declaration. One of the signers was an individual who was not one of the St. Patrick's Four but who was then being investigated by the FBI Albany Field Division for attempting to firebomb a military recruiting station in Vestal, New York.
The opening EC also stated that the Jonah House website had recently announced a protest, to be held on June 5, 2004, of the launching of a nuclear submarine, the USS Jimmy Carter, in Groton, Connecticut. The EC stated that the protest was being organized by the Hartford Catholic Worker. The FBI case agent sent a lead to the New Haven Field Division requesting that it disseminate the information on the planned protest against the USS Jimmy Carter to local law enforcement and shipyard security personnel. The case agent sent another lead to the New Haven Field Division requesting local law enforcement to conduct checks on the St. Patrick's Four and forward to him any police reports.
The FBI case file indicates that the St. Patrick's Four were indicted on federal charges in February 2005. In preparation for the trial, the FBI case agent requested in an EC dated September 20, 2005, that the FBI Los Angeles Field Division contact the Los Angeles Police Department to obtain the police report for the Los Angeles area arrest of one of the four individuals. The file did not contain any other evidence of investigative activities directed at the St. Patrick's Four.
The defendants were tried and convicted on the federal offense of damage to government property and two counts of trespass on a military station in September 2005, and sentenced in January 2006. The four were acquitted of the most serious charge of conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States by force, intimidation, and threat.
b. OIG Analysis
We concluded that under the Attorney General's Guidelines the FBI had sufficient predication to open a full investigation on the four alleged members of the Ithaca Catholic Worker for a general crimes investigation, including for the crime of trespassing onto government lands or military installations. The 2002 Attorney General's Guidelines, which were in effect at the time of the investigation, stated that a general crimes investigation may be opened "when facts or circumstances reasonably indicate that a federal crime has been, is being, or will be committed." The predication for the investigation was the allegation of a crime itself and not the First Amendment activities of the protesters.
We also concluded that the Albany Field Division's action in sending a lead to the New Haven Field Division to alert it to a planned Hartford Catholic Worker protest at a shipyard did not violate any guidelines or FBI policies. We based this conclusion on several factors, including: (1) the Ithaca Catholic Worker members were alleged to have committed a federal offense at an Albany military recruiting station; (2) an affiliated group had a long history of criminal acts directed at military weapons systems; and (3) the website that published the declaration read at the Albany military recruiting station also publicized the Hartford protest.162
We also considered whether this investigation was properly classified as a domestic terrorism matter. The FBI policy in effect at the time stated that acts of domestic terrorism matters "shall include any investigation of a criminal act which involves an individual(s) who seeks to further political and/or social goals wholly or in part through activities that involve the use of force or violence and violate federal law."163 The FBI made a determination that the acts of spilling human blood on the walls, an American flag, and pictures were forceful acts - going beyond simple trespass - resulting in damage to government property.164 We concluded that it was not improper for the FBI to classify this matter under the Act of Terrorism classification.
B. "Special Events" at which Catholic Worker Organizations Participated in Protests
We found eight incidents in which FBI records reference the Catholic Worker in an FBI "special events" file, most of which simply noted the expected participation of a Catholic Worker group and other groups in demonstrations connected with an FBI-designated special event or on federal property. Below we discuss two of these incidents that we determined raised issues meriting examination.
1. USS Ronald Reagan Commissioning - Norfolk Field Division
On March 5, 2003, the Norfolk Field Division issued an EC that opened a "special events" matter in connection with the commissioning of the USS Ronald Reagan in Norfolk, Virginia, scheduled for May 8-11, 2003. The EC stated that the event would generate significant media attention, that all living former presidents had been invited to attend, and that President Bush and other senior government officials were expected to attend. The EC also stated that past Navy commissioning events "have drawn protest from the [Prince of Peace] Ploughshares and Little Flower Catholic Worker Party (anti-war demonstrators)." The EC did not report that these past protests resulted in any disturbances or the commission of terrorist or criminal acts. It stated that since the event "has the potential for similar type protest/demonstrations" the Norfolk Field Division classified it as special events readiness level (SERL) IV. As described in Chapter Two, SERL IV is the lowest special events readiness level; generally events classified as SERL IV are supported by state and local resources and only minimally by the FBI.
The EC requested assistance from all FBI Field Divisions "in identifying individuals associated" with the groups it referenced who would be "traveling into the Norfolk Field Division territory or any potential threats." The EC requested that the offices provide only "positive intelligence" of a threat or identified problem.
The records provided by the FBI did not contain any responses to this request. It also appears that the EC's request for intelligence on the Little Flower Catholic Worker did not result in any interviews or other investigative techniques directed at its members. The Special Agent who wrote the EC told us he does not believe any such actions were taken. The case agent told us that when he wrote the EC, he had information that the leader of the Little Flower Catholic Worker had a prior criminal history involving damage to government property in connection with protest activities, although this information was not included in the EC. The agent also said he had information that the Little Flower Catholic Worker and the Prince of Peace Ploughshares consisted of the same membership using different group names.
We found no indication in the records provided by the FBI that there were any criminal acts or other disturbances at the event. FBI records provided to us did not contain any description of the First Amendment activities of the Catholic Worker group during this event.
b. OIG Analysis
The FBI's MIOG, Part 1, § 300-1(2) defines a "special event" as an event "which, by virtue of its profile and/or status, represents an attractive target for terrorist attack." The FBI considered the commissioning of the USS Ronald Reagan to be such an event. Having designated the commissioning as a special event, the Norfolk Field Division was authorized to collect information relevant to assessing the threat of a terrorist incident at the event, including the solicitation of background and threat information from other FBI offices about individuals associated with groups known to have previously protested at similar events.165
2. Strategic Command Conference, Offutt Air Force Base
The FBI Omaha Field Division distributed an EC dated July 7, 2003, that sought threat information from other FBI offices in connection with a conference at the Offutt Air Force Base regarding U.S. nuclear policy sponsored by the United States Strategic Command (the "Stockpile Stewardship Conference"). The EC stated that the purpose of the conference was to evaluate various aspects of U.S. nuclear policy and that it would be attended by 126 participants from various government agencies. According to the EC, the Offutt Air Force Base is the home of the United States Military Strategic Command (STRATCOM), the command center that oversees all U.S. strategic nuclear weapons. In an EC dated July 21, 2003, the FBI designated the Stockpile Stewardship Conference a SERL IV event.
The EC stated that the Air Force had requested the FBI to provide threat information regarding "any individuals or groups who may target this event to determine the level and method of force protection needed at the air base." The EC stated that an anti-war advocacy group had posted on its website its intention to hold a "counter-conference," including rallies and protests to be held over the course of 3 days in Omaha culminating with a demonstration at the base. The group described itself as "a coalition of concerned citizens, dedicated to nonviolent pursuit of a peaceful world, organized in response to the emerging nuclear threat." The EC stated that 16 organizations had endorsed the "counter-conference," including Catholic Worker organizations from Des Moines, Iowa, and Duluth, Minnesota. The FBI Special Agent who wrote the EC told us he had no specific information that any of the 16 groups were involved in unlawful activities and that he did not receive any information in response to the EC from other FBI offices indicating that any illegal activity should be expected at the conference.
In a subsequent EC dated August 11, 2003, the Special Agent reported attending (along with another FBI Special Agent) a public rally held by the organizing group in Omaha on August 2. This EC identified the name of the organizing group and stated that the rally was in support of the counter-conference.166 The EC stated that "[r]ally attendance was estimated to be 100 people which included various vendors and organizers" and stated that no "illegal activity was observed."167 The EC stated that the FBI shared the information on the number of rally attendees with local and military law enforcement officials from offices involved in security preparations for the special event.
b. OIG Analysis
The FBI Omaha Field Division's action in seeking information about potential threats to the Stockpile Stewardship Conference was authorized under the MIOG's special events planning authorities. The MIOG, Part 1, § 300-1(2) defines a "special event" as an event "which, by virtue of its profile and/or status, represents an attractive target for terrorist attack." The FBI considered the STRATCOM's conference regarding nuclear policy to be such an event.
As noted in Chapter Two, threat assessments are authorized pursuant to the FBI's lead agency responsibilities for countering terrorism threats within the United States, including at designated special events.168 The EC at issue solicited potential threat-related information from other FBI offices regarding any groups or individuals who may have targeted the event.
We did not find any specific rationale described in the July 2003 ECs or in the FBI file for the conclusion that this event was in fact an attractive target for attack. The ECs did not characterize the 16 participating groups beyond the brief description quoted above, and the ECs did not suggest that the groups were suspected terrorist organizations or posed any threat. However, in light of the high profile subject of the conference, the large number of senior government officials who were participating, and the sensitivity of the location, we did not conclude that the FBI abused its discretion in designating the conference as a special event.
We also considered whether the FBI was authorized to attend and monitor the public rally held in Omaha on August 2 at which Catholic Worker activists may have been present.169 At the time, Part VI.A.2 of the Attorney General's Guidelines provided that "[i]or the purpose of detecting or preventing terrorist activities, the FBI is authorized to visit any place and attend any event that is open to the public, on the same terms and conditions as members of the public generally." As noted above, by designating the Stockpile Stewardship Conference as a "special event," the FBI had determined that it posed a potential target for terrorist activity. Accordingly, the FBI was authorized to attend the rally under Part VI.A.2.170 Part VI did not require any objective evidence of a threat in order to attend this public event.
We also considered whether the FBI complied with applicable policies regarding the retention of information about First Amendment activity. We concluded that the FBI should not have retained the information contained in the August 11 EC that described the public rally's organizing group, its purpose, and number of attendees. Part VI.A.2 of the 2002 Attorney General's Guidelines stated: "No information obtained from such visits shall be retained unless it relates to potential criminal or terrorist activity." As noted in Chapter Two, the FBI also issued Field Guidance dated October 7, 2002, explaining that if a visit to a public event does not develop information relating to potential criminal or terrorist activity, the only information that should be recorded is the "date, time and place visited, and that the visit had negative results." The August 11 EC stated that no "illegal activity was observed" at the August 2 rally in Omaha and contained no observations relating to potential future criminal or terrorist activity. Therefore there was no basis to retain the information about the public rally that went beyond noting "the date, time and place visited and that the visit had negative results." We also considered whether the FBI Omaha Field Division complied with applicable policies in retaining the First Amendment information from the umbrella group's website, describing the purpose of the counter-conference, and identifying the groups that had endorsed it. The MIOG, Introduction, § 1-4(4), provided: "Information concerning the exercise of the First Amendment rights should be made a matter of record only if it is pertinent to and within the scope of the authorized law enforcement activity." We concluded that at the time information about the participation of Catholic Worker and other groups was originally recorded and disseminated, it was pertinent to the FBI's authorized activity in assessing the potential threat of terrorist activity in connection with the conference, as discussed above.171
C. The FBI Recorded Information Provided by other Organizations Regarding the First Amendment Activities of Catholic Worker Organizations or their Members
We found two incidents in which the FBI recorded and retained information provided by another organization regarding peaceful incidents of civil disobedience involving the Catholic Worker or its members.
1. Offutt Air Force Base Protest
In 2004, a Special Agent in the FBI's Omaha Field Division distributed an EC based on information provided by the Air Force that described an anti-war protest by Catholic Workers at the Offut Air Force Base. The EC recorded the names, social security numbers, and contact information for eight protesters who were briefly detained (but not arrested or charged) after peacefully trespassing on base property. We found no indication that the FBI was involved in surveilling the protesters at the time of the incident; the FBI merely recorded facts about the incident provided by the military after the fact.
The EC attached a news article that quoted the protest organizer describing the incident, stating that the Catholic Worker group planned to return to the base, and inviting others to join them. Although the Special Agent said he did not believe that either the individual protesters or the Catholic Worker Group were the subject of any FBI investigation, the EC was sent to the attention of domestic terrorism supervisors in field offices corresponding to the addresses of the eight detained protesters for whatever action the field offices deemed appropriate. The EC was placed in two files in the Omaha Field Division: a file relating to administrative matters and a "control file" relating to terrorist enterprise investigations of suspected domestic terrorist groups. Control files are administrative tools "established for the purpose of administering specific phases of an investigative matter or program."172 The EC was also placed in a control sub file that the Omaha Field Division opened in 1997 to store intelligence information obtained from federal, state and local law enforcement agency contacts who report on domestic security/terrorism problems in the Field Division.173
When we asked the Omaha FBI Special Agent how a nonviolent protest resulting in the detention but not the arrest of some individuals could be viewed as potential domestic terrorism matter, he stated that when the FBI reports information or intelligence the act need not be serious and it need not be a criminal act or domestic terrorism attack. He said the FBI's intent is to create a database of intelligence in case "there is a planning or a process that's going on with a certain group or individual that we can track that. We can notice indicators if there is going to be an attack." The Special Agent also stated that he believed that evidence of nonviolent civil disobedience, while not necessarily an indicator of terrorist activity, certainly indicates that a person is "willing to break the law and to disobey an authoritative command not to cross into military property" which he considered to be important information.
An attorney in the FBI's Office of General Counsel who provides legal support to the FBI's Domestic Terrorism Program told us that an EC should be filed in the most logically corresponding file or files and the decision on where to place the EC is within an agent's discretion. The attorney told us that placing an EC in a terrorism enterprise investigation file does not make it more easily retrievable than it would if it were placed in a non-terrorism file. The attorney also said that the individuals named in the Omaha Field Division EC were not at risk of facing any greater consequences because they were identified in a domestic terrorism control file and that the EC was placed in a file holding information that had been determined not to require investigative action.
b. OIG Analysis
The recording of information about the Offut Air Base incident in an EC was authorized under FBI policies because the information related not solely to First Amendment activity but also to a violation of a federal criminal statute prohibiting trespass on a military facility. The information about the protest was "pertinent to and within the scope of authorized law enforcement activity," specifically the "checking out of initial leads" relating to a federal crime of trespass on a military facility, 18 U.S.C. § 1382. See Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a(e)(7), 2002 Attorney General's Guidelines at Introduction, Part A; MIOG, Introduction, § 1-4(4).
Although we found that retention of this information was not prohibited by the Privacy Act, Attorney General's Guidelines or FBI policy, we questioned the FBI's retention and dissemination of information of this type. The acts in question were nonviolent civil disobedience, and the FBI has at times disavowed interest in such activity. For example, in April 2006, following the FBI's release of documents pursuant to a FOIA request, the FBI's Executive Secretariat Office responded to a letter from a citizen expressing concern that the FBI was "investigating the Catholic Worker" by stating: "[T]he FBI is not targeting lawful civil disobedience. Our organization does, however, seek to prevent unlawful violent activities. In order to do so, we advise our partners in law enforcement of the tactics used by those who wish to impinge on the civil rights of others by violently disrupting otherwise peaceful marches and assemblies." Yet, the information collected in this case had no relationship to any "violent activities," much less to terrorism.
In addition, we concluded that the FBI violated its own policies by retaining and disseminating a news article about the protest. The MIOG, Introduction, § 1-4(4) states that "[w]hen public-source printed material concerning the exercise of First Amendment rights is obtained and a decision made to retain such material, a notation must be placed on the material describing the reason(s) it was collected and retained. The notation must clearly indicate the specific investigative interest(s) which led to the decision to retain the item." The required notation was not included on the article in FBI files or in the EC.
We also believe that it would have been more appropriate to retain the EC in a file corresponding to crimes occurring on government reservations than under the Acts of Terrorism classification. The EC did not state, nor did the Special Agent tell us, that the individuals detained on the base were involved in any terrorist or violent acts or associated with any suspected terrorists. In addition, as the FBI Office of General Counsel Attorney noted, the retention of an EC in a terrorism enterprise investigation file does not make it more easily retrievable to the FBI if it later becomes relevant to a terrorism investigation.
2. Norfolk Naval Station Protest
The FBI's Norfolk Field Division distributed two ECs based on information provided by the Navy that described the activities of two Catholic Worker anti-war protesters who obstructed traffic during a protest at the U.S. Naval Station in Norfolk in February 2003. The base police served the protesters letters ordering them not to return and released them.174 The FBI did not attend the protest. The information in the EC was provided to the FBI by Naval Station officials.
The first EC was written by a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agent who was detailed to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. The second EC repeated the contents of the first, and it is not clear why it was written. The ECs were placed in the Norfolk Field Division's "zero file" relating to domestic terrorist enterprise investigations. A zero file is a type of file used by the FBI to retain information relating to a classification that does not at the time it is collected "require investigation."175
The NCIS agent sent the first EC to the Richmond and the Boston FBI Field Divisions for their information. According to the ECs, one of the protesters had previously been arrested twice for unspecified "protest activities" and had been the subject of an investigation by the FBI's Richmond Field Division in connection with planned protests of the World Bank in April 2000. The ECs stated that at the time of the 2003 Norfolk protest, the second protester was a guest at a Catholic Worker group house in Norfolk that was also the residence of a different individual who had previously been convicted numerous times for destruction of U.S. property, including for a 1997 incident in which he and others associated with the Prince of Peace Plowshares damaged a U.S. Navy vessel with a hammer and by throwing human blood on it. An EC prepared by the Boston Field Division in 1997 stated that the damage to the ship was estimated at $10,000.
The NCIS agent who wrote the first EC regarding the Norfolk incident told us that the second protester's link to the individual involved in the 1997 Prince of Peace Plowshares incident was the primary basis for writing the EC. This link was what made the information potentially relevant to domestic terrorism, according to the agent. He stated that he was memorializing the possibility of a connection between the Catholic Worker group and Prince of Peace Plowshares, the individual involved in the 1997 Prince of Peace Plowshares incident, and the potential for a threat to the naval base.
We found no other FBI documents referencing the Catholic Worker indicating that the FBI conducted any further investigative activity with respect to the incident in Norfolk or the two detained Catholic Worker protesters.
b. OIG Analysis
The 2002 Attorney General's Guidelines authorized the "prompt and extremely limited checking out of initial leads" that "should be undertaken whenever information is received of such a nature that some follow-up as to the possibility of criminal activity is warranted." See 2002 Attorney General's Guidelines, Introduction, § A. We believe the agent's activities were authorized by this provision. The agent received information from another law enforcement entity and followed up on it by checking the criminal histories of the detained protesters, drawing a connection to a person with a criminal history, and forwarding this information internally to other field offices that might have use for the information. The brief references to the Catholic Worker's First Amendment activities provided context for the incident and were "pertinent to and within the scope of authorized law enforcement activity," within the meaning of the Privacy Act and Section 1-4(4) of Part 1 of the MIOG.
We also concluded that it was not a violation of FBI policy to retain the ECs in the Norfolk Field Division's zero file relating to the domestic terrorism program's classification for terrorism enterprise investigations. While the act of nonviolent civil disobedience described in the ECs did not alone appear related to a terrorism enterprise investigation, the FBI identified a link between one of the protesters, the Catholic Worker, and an individual who 6 years earlier had been convicted, along with other Prince of Peace Plowshares members, of damage to a U.S. Navy ship. The individual and his fellow Prince of Peace Plowshares members were convicted of damage to government property, an enumerated offense under the definition of the "federal crime of terrorism." Given this link, the FBI could place the ECs describing the Norfolk protest and the Catholic Worker's role in that protest in the Norfolk Field Division's zero file relating to terrorism enterprise investigations. However, as noted above, the EC placement in a terrorism file did not make it more easily retrievable to the FBI than it would if it were placed in a non-terrorism file.
As stated earlier, a zero file is a type of file holding information that does not require investigative action. We found no FBI documents referencing the Catholic Worker which show that, as a result of the EC, the FBI initiated any investigative activities against the Catholic Worker or the referenced individuals.
157 In this section, we will refer to the Catholic Worker movement generically as "the Catholic Worker," or "Catholic Worker group(s)" and, where a local community forms the context, by the local group's name (such as "the Des Moines Catholic Worker").
158 The EC did not describe the nature of the videotaped protest, state whether the Catholic Worker or its members were present at the protest, or identify the reasons the FBI had possession of the videotape.
159 The FBI memorandum that memorialized the details of the individual's first interview described the Casa Maria Hospitality House and provided its website address.
160 MIOG, Part 1, § 266-1(1) (July 2003). As noted in Chapter Two, this MIOG provision went into effect on July 9, 2003. Because this provision was in effect for all but 3 weeks of the investigation we used it as the controlling authority in this analysis, although we recognize it was not the version in effect at the time the FBI initially classified this case.
161 When the EC was written, the investigation was classified by the FBI as an act of terrorism by domestic terrorists involving violent crimes as the predicate offense. On October 6, 2005, the investigation was reclassified as an act of terrorism by domestic terrorists involving "other" predicate offenses.
162 The file index for this investigation does not list a document indicating what, if any, actions were ultimately taken by the New Haven Field Division, Groton, Connecticut local law enforcement, or shipyard security personnel as a result of this lead. The opening EC is the only document provided to us during our review that referenced the anticipated Hartford Catholic Worker protest of the USS Jimmy Carter on June 5, 2004.
163 MIOG, Part 1, § 266-1(1).
164 Willful injury or depredation to United States property is an offense listed in the definition of the federal crime of terrorism for which the 2002 guidelines authorized the FBI to open a terrorism enterprise investigation.
165 See generally MIOG, Part 1, § 300-1.
166 Because the organizing group is not one our selected groups, we do not identify it in our discussion.
167 We found only one reference in the file to illegal activity occurring at the Stockpile Stewardship Conference. An August 11, 2003, EC stated that one protester was detained for trespassing at an Offutt gate during a protest. This EC identified the protester by name but it did not state which if any groups were involved.
168 See generally MIOG, Part 1, § 300-1.
169 We believe that Catholic Worker activists were likely present at the August 2 Omaha event, given the participation of two Catholic Worker organizations in endorsing the counter-conference. However, the FBI report relating to this rally did not identify particular participants other than the umbrella group that organized the events.
170 In addition, the Omaha Field Division's action in obtaining website information about the group organizing the counter-conference was authorized under Part VI.B.2 of the 2002 Attorney General's Guidelines. That provision stated: "[flor the purpose of detecting or preventing terrorism or other criminal activities, the FBI is authorized to conduct online search activity and to access online sites and forums on the same terms and conditions as members of the public generally."
171 Under the 2008 Attorney General's Guidelines, the FBI would be authorized to attend rallies protesting the conference if it were held today, as part of an assessment. Any information obtained from such an assessment could be retained because the 2008 Attorney General's Guidelines do not have a provision analogous to the 2002 Guidelines, Part I.A.2, which stated that no information obtained from attending a public event shall be retained unless it relates to potential criminal or terrorist activity. However, as noted in Chapter Two, the DIOG states that if an assessment results in no sufficient basis to justify further investigation of an individual or group, the records must be clearly annotated to state that the individual or group identified during the assessment does not warrant further FBI investigation. See DIOG § 5.13.
172 See MAOP, Part 2, § 2-4.1.5. FBI policy states that leads on occasion may be assigned out of control files. Id.
173 The FBI policy addressing control files states that "kin circumstances where neither an investigation nor an inquiry is warranted, the FBI may ascertain the general scope and nature of criminal activity in a particular location or sector of the economy." MAOP, Part 2, § 2-4.1.5(2).
174 The ECs do not reflect the basis for letters of disbarment. However, trespassing on naval property is a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1382.
175 See MAOP, Part 2, § 2-4.1.2.
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