Earlier this month, Ansel posted about climate-change activists who had supposedly been visited by FBI agents.
That raised the specter of another grand jury circus: raids on the homes of activists, subpoenas, the question of how far the FBI will go to conduct social mapping of local protest networks, and the possibility of more grand-jury refusers winding up in solitary confinement after declining to answer questions about other people's politics. (If you missed the last go-round, to do with the downtown vandalism on May Day of 2012, see here and here and a big old Google roundup here.)
A few days ago, six activists released a statement to The Stranger confirming that they were approached by FBI agents—two of the three agents left business cards identifying themselves as special agent Matthew Acker and special agent Kera O'Reilly—who, the activists say, asked about opposition to tar sands development and brought photographs, hoping the activists would identify the people in them. (Local anti-tar sands activists staged a protest at the Canadian consulate in early April.)
The statement from the six is below the jump. Jenn Kaplan, one of the attorneys who represented grand-jury refusers mentioned above, has volunteered her services to help with the situation.
FBI Visits Seattle Climate Change Activists
On July 1 and 2, six climate-change activists in the Seattle area were visited by FBI agents at their homes or school.
While some activists immediately closed the door on the FBI, the agents attempted to show photos of others, asking them to identify people in the photographs. The FBI agents also attempted to question some of the activists about campaigns resisting development of tar sands in Alberta, Canada, and coal trains in the Pacific Northwest.
Alberta's tar sands yield an especially polluting form of bitumen that is then diluted and refined as a petroleum product. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry crude tar sands dilbit from Canada to refineries on the US Gulf Coast. The pipeline has sparked national protests.
The Northwest coal trains are part of a plan to mine coal in Montana and Wyoming, carry it by train to ports in the Pacific Northwest, and then ship it across the Pacific Ocean for burning in Asia. The plans have triggered widespread resistance among regional politicians, Native American tribes, and environmental groups concerned about desecrating land and waterways, pollution from coal dust, and climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.
The FBI investigation seems like no coincidence—the individuals have all at some time worked with Rising Tide Seattle. The massive scope of NSA surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden shows that many US citizens are being monitored. A recent investigation by the Guardian, also confirmed the growing suspicions of many environmentalists: “... domestic surveillance has systematically targeted peaceful environment activists including anti-fracking activists across the US, such as the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition, Rising Tide North America, the People's Oil & Gas Collaborative, and Greenpeace.”
Rising Tide Seattle is a part of the Rising Tide North America network. Their mission is to non-violently "confront the root causes of climate change" by challenging corporate power, social injustice, and consumerism while promoting local, community-based solutions to the climate crisis.
The Guardian article concludes that "the Pentagon knows that environmental, economic, and other crises could provoke widespread public anger toward government and corporations in coming years. The revelations on the NSA's global surveillance programmes are just the latest indication that as business as usual creates instability at home and abroad, and as disillusionment with the status quo escalates, Western publics are being increasingly viewed as potential enemies that must be policed by the state."
Evidence abounds. In Pennsylvania those who attend a public viewing of Gasland 2 are put on a domestic terrorist watch list. In Wisconsin, paramilitary guards protect a new mine being built. The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to government repression. In the past two years, the region has rallied in solidarity to support activists under subpoena for questioning under a federal grand jury convened in Seattle. This led to four innocent people serving many months in the federal SHU [solitary confinement—though only two of the refusers spent "many months" there]. There was no crime and there was no charge.
The Seattle activists visited by the FBI staunchly maintain their innocence of any wrongdoing and ask for community support in resisting any potential FBI repression.
And they added some notes for further reading:
Citation for the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security investigation of folks watching Gasland.
"Unfortunately," Kaplan wrote, "it looks like it is just a waiting game at this point to see whether the FBI is investigating an actual crime."