Military Surveillance of Anarchists in Washington State
north america / mexico |
community struggles |
Thursday August 06, 2009 11:40 by Brendan Maslauskas Dunn - Common Action
A request for the public records the city of Olympia, Washington keeps on anarchists, Wobblies, and members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) has forced into the open a military infiltrator who posed as an anarchist for two years, in clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.
An SDSer in Portland, Oregon is walking down the street on May Day. She walks by a police officer sitting outside a café flipping through photographs of different people the police plan on identifying at a May Day rally. A picture of her appears and the cop stares at it for a while.
Two SDSers are marching at a poor people’s march in St. Paul during the Republican National Convention. They strike up a conversation with a marcher who claims he is in New York City SDS and an Air Force veteran from New Jersey. He starts spreading false rumors about prominent activists in SDS and then attempts to incite the two Olympia SDSers to commit acts of violence at the march.
A stranger creates a Facebook account and starts friending members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, SDS, and anarchists in Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle. She has Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation Front, and SDS pictures on her profile and bomb-making instructions. Nobody seems to know her, but she’s apparently a very accomplished activist in the region. She’s taken an interest in Iraq Veterans Against the War, SDS, and the anarchist group Common Action. A friend of hers has also appeared out of nowhere.
Thurston County Sheriffs hack onto the private attorney-client listserv and gather information to disrupt an activist trial in 2007 and have the trial dismissed on the fault of the defense. They, and possibly other agencies, repeatedly attempt to sign on to activist listservs in the northwest, especially at times leading up to direct actions taken against military shipments at Washington ports.
Secret cameras appear across the street from the anarchist Pitchpipe Infoshop in Tacoma. Strangers appear at events Pitchpipe organizes and take information, a head count and leave, just as soon as they had appeared.
During the Port of Grays Harbor Actions in 2007, a group of activists is pulled over en route to Aberdeen by State troopers. “Three known anarchists” were in the car according to police, and there was some sort of tracking on the car. There were pictures of a car the driver had been driving the other day in the police cruiser.
Sound scary? That’s just the beginning of it.
A number of public records requests were just received from a request through the Olympia General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) on anything the city had about anarchy/anarchism/anarchists, the IWW and SDS. The results came in and although the city isn’t providing the more damning information, they have sent out hundreds of files and emails that are pretty chilling.
Apparently, the City of Olympia and Olympia Police Department, with help from Washington State Patrol, the Evergreen Police and several other agencies, have been involved in a national surveillance program on activists and different leftist groups. One of the groups targeted is SDS. This program, which is still active under the Obama administration, has brought the attention of intelligence units and officers from the Army and Air Force as far away as New Jersey, the FBI, Homeland Security, Washington Joint Analytical Center and many other municipal, state and federal agencies on the activists of Olympia.
Some of the groups targeted besides SDS are Port Militarization Resistance (PMR), the IWW, Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS, which is not active in the Northwest), environmental activists, the ever-secretive Port Liberation Front, and last but not least “the anarchists”.
The Death of John Jacob
To be completely honest, I had no idea the records requests I received would have any valuable information. But they did. In an insignificant email attached to an unfamiliar name, buried in hundreds of documents and messages was a fragment of information that only after the research done on the part of many people exposed the spy amongst us. His real name is John J Towery II. I knew him for the past two and a half years as John Jacob. He was my friend.
I first met John Jacob through the anarchist Pitchpipe Infoshop in Tacoma, Washington. He was new. I thought it was a little strange that someone of his age and his background would be hanging out with a bunch of teenage and twenty-something anarchists, but he definitely was not the first. I got to know him. He was kind, compassionate, a dreamer, a thinker and all around pleasant. The first demonstration I was at with him was the Spec Ops demo in Tacoma. That was the first of many. He went to Port Militarization Resistance actions and demonstrations in Aberdeen, Tacoma and Olympia. He brought his son out to Food Not Bombs and other community events and gatherings. Students for a Democratic Society and Movement for a Democratic Society were of great interest to him, for a while. He wanted to start an MDS chapter. He attended Tacoma SDS meetings and Olympia SDS events and actions.
He was there at an anti-police brutality gathering where I explained the story of how my friend’s brother was shot and killed by the police in front of his children in Utica, New York. He came to my birthday party once and gave me two books as a present. – Walden Two and Man’s Search For Meaning. They still sit on my bookshelf. He came to both of my houses a number of times. He called me on the phone when our friend was arrested at an action. We gave a workshop together at the Tacoma Anarchist Bookfair on popular neighborhood assemblies, grassroots organizing and communal struggle. We shared stories. We laughed and dreamed together. We were friends.
My friend John Jacob died the other day. But it was an uncertain death because in order to die, you must first be born. John Jacob was never really born. He was never really, completely who he said he was.
The day after it was confirmed that John Jacob was John J Towery II who worked for Fort Lewis, I called John up. I couldn’t wait for him to call me. I didn’t think he would. “John… what’s the deal? Is it true?” He admitted that yes it was true, but there was more to it than what was publicized. We agreed to meet in Tacoma along with another friend who John said he trusted.
This is John’s story during the meeting. I’m writing about not because I believe it, but because I think we should hear it.
He began by telling us that the world isn’t black and white – there are areas of gray and it is in those areas that John lives his life. He told us that he was genuinely interested in social justice activism when he started to get involved back in 2007 or so. He was always honest with us when he told us that he worked in the military in the past and currently works on Fort Lewis. He said things started to change in June 2007 when he went to the weapons symposium demonstration in Tacoma. He told us that he was approached by the Tacoma police following the demonstration. The police threatened to tell the necessary people on base that John was at the demonstration, thus putting his security clearance and his job at risk. It was then, John implored us, that he decided to work as a double agent of sorts. He decided to start spying on the Movement (port militarization resisters, SDSers, anarchists and the like) on his own will. Without the two of us even asking anything, he told us that he worked on his own and that he didn’t work for any pay from any agency.
He reported on our activities only, he asserts, to the Tacoma police and Pierce County Sheriffs. Not the military, FBI or any other agencies, although he admitted that the network of police and intelligence officers he reported to included the Washington Joint Analytical Center, Joint Terrorism Task Force, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Army and the FBI. What did he report on? He insisted it wasn’t much; only when things we planned were a threat, but he did mention that he reported to the police when one activist legally purchased a gun (with John’s help), what activities some activists were involved with and he inflated numbers of demonstrators that would be at the Smash ICE demonstrations in Tacoma.
According to John, he infiltrated us “to protect us”. His logic, if it can be called that, was that if he was the only trusted person, the only infiltrator the police had amongst us, then he had the power in deciding what information was and was not passed on to the police. He could put a cap on things. He told us of three other infiltrators he spotted out in PMR and the Olympia Anarchist Bookfair and told us that he called them in to the police so they would leave.
We asked him if he knew of other agents infiltrating. He said he could not name names because he would be criminally liable. We asked him if he knew anything about infiltrators in different organizations, tapping phones and routine police harassment of activists and following activists in their patrol cars. He said there were no bugs, there was no phone tapping, and police following and harassing activists in Tacoma and Olympia was something they did on their own.
He also discussed the threats the police thought two activist houses posed – Pitchpipe Infoshop in Tacoma, and “HQ”, an anarchist house where I lived for three years in Olympia. The police had been planning on raiding both houses for a long time and continuously approached John, asking him if we had any firearms, weapons, explosives, bombs, drugs or plastic defense shields used at demonstrations. He told them no. In reality, the police would have found nothing had they raided my house.
We asked him if he had anything to do with the arrests of certain activists – of Phil Chinn whose car had a tracking device on it while he was en route to the port demonstrations in Aberdeen in 2007, on some other activists in Tacoma that were arrested in the past. I asked if there was anything on me during a period of time when I was repeatedly arrested and detained at demonstrations for doing absolutely nothing, but was charged with a plethora of misdemeanors and felonies and for a while spent most of my time attending court hearings in four different counties at the same time. He said he had no part in any of that.
What should I believe? John’s entire story? Some of it? I thought about what he told me and there’s one major thing that John omitted from his story. That was the fact, supported by documents in the records request, that he sent emails with his Army email to others in the military about our activities. That one document puts a small crack in the foundation of his story and makes it crumble to the ground. He is attempting to keep his foot in the door with those he trusts the most, the four of us who were his closest friends. But his story that he only reported information to a bunch of Keystone cops in Tacoma is laughable. It’s a sorry attempt to cover up his tracks and protect those who were responsible for directing this operation – the US Army.
The one thing John told me that I absolutely believe is that the military is scared right now. They know they screwed up. We caught them. And they will ultimately pay for this. Other than that, I don’t know what to believe and I don’t think I should try and sift fact from fiction. If John taught me anything these past few years, he taught me not to trust him.
My friend and I left John at the end of the meeting. Our eyes were full of tears. Tears were falling down John’s right cheek. I didn’t know what to do so I gave him a hug. I knew that would be the last time I would see him. John Jacob died that day, and that was my way to say goodbye.