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A Review of the FBI's Investigations of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups

Chapter Eight: Investigative Activities Directed at Glen Milner

We examined the FBI's investigative activity relating to Glen Milner, an anti-war activist. Media accounts based on documents released under FOIA indicated that the FBI had monitored the First Amendment activities of several anti-war groups and individuals, including the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action (Ground Zero) and one of its members, Milner. Milner was described in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article as a "Quaker peace activist" who was "under watch" for protest activities carried out at the 2003 Seafair festival in Seattle, Washington. The article detailed various reports released from FBI files. As detailed below, although the FBI utilized its special events authorities in connection with the Seafair, most of the information in FBI files was collected by other agencies.

I. Facts

The Seafair, the largest festival in the Pacific Northwest, is an annual 5-week festival featuring various events in July and August. One of the annual events included in Seafair is a "Fleet Arrival," in which a Navy flotilla sails into Seattle's Elliott Bay. In 2003, the Fleet Arrival was scheduled for July 30.

According to the Ground Zero website, "Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action offers the opportunity to explore the meaning and practice of nonviolence from a perspective of deep spiritual reflection, providing a means for witnessing to and resisting all nuclear weapons, especially Trident. We seek to go to the root of violence and injustice in our world and experience the transforming power of love through nonviolent direct action."191 In 2003, Milner was elected to Ground Zero's Stewardship Council, which defines the policies for the organization and oversees all of its programs, assets, and finances.

According to the Seattle Field Division, on July 7, 2003, the Special Events Management Unit at FBI Headquarters designated the Seattle Seafair as a SERL IV special event. On that same date, the special events case agent in the FBI's Seattle Field Division sent a query to all FBI field offices asking them whether they had any information on potential threats against the Seattle Seafair.

The Seattle Division began working with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to develop information regarding Seafair. Relying primarily on publicly available information from antiwar websites, the participating law enforcement agencies identified four groups, including Ground Zero, that were planning "some sort of demonstration" for the arrival of the Navy ships in Elliot Bay on July 30. According to the FBI file, an agent from the Coast Guard Investigative Service contacted Milner under the pretext of being a Ground Zero sympathizer and began obtaining more information about the demonstration plans from Milner. The extent of the contacts between the agent and Milner is not clear from the FBI file.

According to the FBI file, the antiwar groups had informed the Navy and the Coast Guard that they intended to launch a "peace navy" to meet the fleet when it entered Elliot Bay. The FBI file indicates that a source provided further information about the anti-war protest activities planned for Seafair, including evidence that the protest organizers included individuals who had been involved in two prior Seattle protests that resulted in arrests: the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit protest that occurred in June 2003, and the 1999 World Trade Organization protest. The FBI also received "uncorroborated information" indicating that the protesters might be planning a sit-in or some other form of physical demonstration during the public tours on one of the navy ships, and that the groups might attempt to secure themselves to the inside of the vessels (by handcuffs or other means), secure themselves to the outside of the vessels while in transit, or prevent the vessels from departing their moorings at the end of Seafair.

On July 30, the day of the Fleet Arrival, a federal law enforcement agent (not from the FBI) conducted a surveillance of the launching of two small boats flying anti-war flags. According to the FBI file, a total of five protesters' boats met the fleet in Elliot Bay and conducted a peaceful protest without breaching the 500 yard security zone around the military vessels. No incidents were reported. Milner later stated in a 2006 article on the Ground Zero website that the "activists' civil liberties were not violated" during the 2003 protests.192 The FBI file does not indicate that any of the acts of civil disobedience attributed to the "uncorroborated information" actually took place.

Seafair concluded on August 3, 2003. On August 5, 2003, in a closing EC, the case agent noted that the Seafair events proceeded as planned without disruption or need for FBI assistance. All told, the FBI case file for the 2003 Seafair special event contained 6 entries and consisted of 10 total pages Milner's 2006 article also described events at the 2004 Seafair in which protesters were allegedly detained by the Coast Guard and Milner was prosecuted for breaching the 500-yard security zone. According to public source documents, Milner was detained for protest activities undertaken in August 2004 and received a warning for failing to keep a proper distance from a naval vesse1.193 However, we found no documents indicating that the FBI was involved in responding to the 2004 protests.

II. OIG Analysis

We concluded that the Seattle Field Division's action in seeking information about potential threats to 2003 Seattle Seafair summer festival was authorized under the FBI'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." Given the government's heightened security concerns in the wake of the Iraq war and the presence of a U.S. naval fleet in Elliot Bay we believe that the FBI had grounds to designate the 2003 Seattle Seafair to be such an event. The FBI classified this event as a SERL IV event, which under the MIOG is "generally supported by state and local resources," typically warranting "only minimal support by the FBI field division." MIOG Part 1, 300-1(4).

The FBI's opening EC solicited potential threat-related information from other FBI offices regarding any groups or individuals who may target the event. The opening EC specifically stated that no intelligence had been gathered and did not suggest any individuals or groups were suspected of terrorist activity or posed any threat. Over the next few weeks, the FBI received information from other law enforcement officials indicating that various protest groups might be planning to impede the progress of U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard vessels upon their arrival into Elliot Bay or that various protesters might attempt to secure themselves to the inside or outside of the Navy vessels. The case file contains no evidence that the FBI conducted surveillance of any of the advocacy groups or their members, although another agency did conduct surveillance of a boat launching. Consistent with a SERL IV special event, only minimal support by the FBI field division was provided, and this special event was generally supported by state and local resources.

Our document request to the FBI sought all documents containing Glen Milner's name during our review period, and the only case file the FBI produced containing any reference to Milner was the special events file for the 2003 Seattle Seafair.

There is also no indication in the FBI file documenting that the FBI attended or monitored the Seafair event. The closing EC noted that no criminal activity took place at Seafair, and the special events case was closed 2 days after Seafair ended.

In sum, we found no evidence that the FBI improperly investigated Milner because of his exercise of First Amendment rights or otherwise acted in violation of FBI policies.

Finally, as noted above, Milner was described in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article as a "Quaker peace activist." This reference was the subject of a question by Senator Leahy, in response to which Director Mueller stated, "[t]o my knowledge, we have not surveilled the Quakers."194 We attempted to determine whether the FBI had surveilled or otherwise investigated the Quakers (also known as the Religious Society of Friends) during the period of our review. Our review of FBI documents did not reveal any evidence that the FBI investigated the Quakers as a group or any individuals identified in FBI documents as Quakers for protest activities.195


192 "Spying in Seattle," (June 2006).

193 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, United States Coast Guard Hearing Office; Activity No. 2220407.

194 FBI Oversight: Hearing Before the S. Jud. Comm. 109th Cong. 15 (2006).

195 After the May 2006 hearing, Senator Leahy submitted a written question asking whether the FBI was involved in surveillance of protests at Seattle's Seafair Festival. We did not find any evidence to contradict the FBI response, which stated that it did not participate in the surveillance.

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