Citizen Action Monitor

The scary trials and tribulations of being a citizen activist in Amerika

No 193 Posted by fw, June 14, 2011

Amerika – according to, the term ‘Amerika’ is used pejoratively to imply that the U.S. is fascist. The term is frequently associated with the Franz Kafka novel, Amerika. The novel is more explicitly humorous and slightly more realistic (except in the last chapter) than most of Kafka’s works, but it shares the same motifs of an oppressive and intangible system putting the protagonist repeatedly in bizarre situations. Specifically, within Amerika, a scorned individual often must plead his innocence in front of remote and mysterious figures of authority.

This post highlights the scary experiences of two U.S. citizen activists, Scott Crow, an Austin-based activist targeted by FBI surveillance, and Dr James Hansen, an eminent climatologist who actively campaigns for environmental and climate change causes.

Scott Crow’s story

In an interview today on Democracy Now, Scott Crow talks about his experiences as a target of FBI domestic surveillance. The entire video-recorded interview, including transcript, is accessible by clicking on this linked title:  FBI to Expand Domestic Surveillance Powers as Details Emerge of Its Spy Campaign Targeting Activists,

Here is a shortened version of the video (specifically,14:45 minutes of the original 20-minute broadcast). Selected passages of the transcription follow the video). Mike German, who appears first in the video, is a National Security Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. From 1988 to 2004 he served as an FBI agent specializing in domestic counterterrorism.


Crow tells how he first found out he was listed as a domestic terrorist: Well, let me—let me backtrack for a second. I first found out that I was listed as a domestic terrorist in 2006. The FBI, in the way that they ended up dealing with a lot of law enforcement around the country is they let the local DAs and the local law enforcement officers know in different cities. So in 2006, they let the DA in Baton Rouge know, and he let the lawyers for the Angola 3 know, and the Angola 3 lawyer told me. And that was the first time I ever heard about it, that I was listed as a domestic terrorist and an animal rights extremist.

Finds himself in a Kafkaesque world: And what it did was it opened up this world of possibilities in this Kafkaesque world, where I’m not being formally charged with anything, but all of these things are happening. I mean, I could see people sitting out in front of my house for years—I mean, all different kinds of cars. And I’m not a paranoid person. I live a very transparent, open glass house. But I could see all these things happening.

Starts connecting the dots: There was a BOLO that was issued, a “be on the lookout” report that was issued in 2008, in the Austin Police Department that said I might injure police officers, burn down police cars, or incite riots. And the way I knew about it is because people from the city that I had worked with told me that they saw this poster with my picture on it. Now, again, I couldn’t do anything about this. Well, finally, in 2010, I get these documents that list me as a domestic terrorist since 2001, and it starts—the picture starts to become clearer on all of the things that the FBI has been doing across states, across multiple states, to investigate me and to sow dissent, basically, amongst local and regional law enforcement.

. . .

Infiltration happened over and over again. Going through the trash was part of it: I mean, those two incidences just scratch the surface. The infiltration happened over and over again in different groups, in different events. There would be law enforcement and informants and people gathering information at all different levels—city, county, state and federal authorities—and private security, too. It’s a revolving door between that sharing information and all of these things. Going through the trash was part of it.

How much is the government spending on spying on citizens: But really, what was—to me, what I think we should talk about is that—how much money they spent investigating me, and not charging me with anything. You know, like, if I’m the tip of the iceberg and there’s other people in other communities that they’re doing this with, how much is the government spending to do something like this? And what kind of chilling effect does it have on activist communities and on us as citizens in this country?

. . .

“Pretty much anything that you can think of they did”: They also used closed-circuit television on a house in Dallas that I lived in, and then in Austin, where they put cameras across—on poles across the streets from my house. The levels that they went to, I think, are unimaginable to most people, because it’s what you hear about in movies or what people fear the most about it. But pretty much anything that you can think of that they did, except for kicking my door in, happened to me. I was threatened with grand juries, the trash digging, which they did on two occasions on the trash digging, being visited at my work and visited at my home. You know, Mike German spoke to, earlier, how they try to put pressure on people to give information. I was first visited by the FBI in 1999. That was the first time I ever heard the words “domestic terrorism” and “animal rights” used together. And also, not only did they try to implicate me in some crimes in Dallas or say that I had—or suggest that I had some responsibility for those crimes, then they tried to use that pressure to get me to give information on other people.


Dr James Hansen’s story

The following selected passages are taken from Hansen’s June 1, 2011 article: Dear Prime Minister Key: The Heart of the MatterRegarding the background for the story, Hansen was invited to give talks in New Zealand about climate change while touring the country.

Searching for a nation where a rational conversation about climate change is possible

Dr Hansen is searching for a developed nation that, in his words: “will stand up and tell the truth” about climate change, while acknowledging, “reaching that point requires first, within that nation, a rational conversation.” In the following selections he compares his reception in New Zealand with the bullying intimidation he faces in the U.S.

In New Zealand, “discussions are civil: New Zealand has impressive potential to carry out such a conversation. Discussions are civil, politics is not dysfunctional, 3rd parties can participate (e.g., the Green party now receives more than 5 percent of the vote, so they are given a proportionate number of seats in parliament).

I met Mike Dunbar, a farmer in the lignite [coal] region, who showed me the scarred landscape where initial lignite extraction is occurring. Mike refuses to sell his property for lignite development, attempting to block expansion of that activity, analogous to Larry Gibson refusing to sell his property on Kayford Mountain, West Virginia, to stem mountaintop removal there.

One of my public talks was in Gore, in the region anticipating economic expansion from lignite mining. It drew a large crowd that might have been expected to be hostile. Anniek [Hansen’s wife] sat near the back, next to a local farmer, who, not knowing she was related to me, expressed misgivings about environmentalism and the notion that humans were altering climate. Questions from the audience included a few of the usual contrarian statements, which could be readily addressed. At the end, when Anniek queried the farmer re his opinion, he was thoughtful and seemed more open-minded about whether lignite development was a good idea.

Hansen’s talks about the hostile reception he received in West Virginia: The reception of the scientific story [in New Zealand] was in striking contrast to the time I tried to speak in West Virginia, near Coal River Mountain. There it was impossible to be heard because of shouting miners and revved up motorcycles. As we walked to the coal company offices to deliver a petition, Judy Bonds was knocked down by the heavy forearm of a miner’s wife.

The principal difference between West Virginia and Gore, it seemed to me, was that the coal company in West Virginia encouraged the (small number of) miners’ behavior and opposed any rational discussion about whether the region was better off with or without the coal mining. The coal company (Massey) CEO refused to participate in an exchange with me in a school, where I would make a public presentation of the science followed by equal time for him.

In New Zealand, the CEO participated in climate conference: In contrast, Don Elder, the CEO of [the coal company] Solid Energy in New Zealand, willingly participated in a climate conference in Wellington where his views were not likely to be favored. Although he later mischaracterized my position (asserting that I said lignite development was o.k. if the CO2 was captured), that misrepresentation was my fault for not choosing my words carefully. In reality, it is well understood that the lignite project would be highly carbon-intensive.

Coal company CEO open-minded to shifting into renewable energy: Elder, obviously a highly capable leader, left the impression that he could just as well move his company into renewable energies, if government provided that direction (Solid Energy is 100 percent government owned). But without a carbon price or government direction, lignite provides the best profit potential for business, especially with planned government subsidies.

. . .

New Zealand audiences polite and receptive: New Zealand is a microcosm of the global situation re climate change, as illustrated by a question from a gentleman farmer after a dinner talk the same day as my public talk in Gore. The audience, including landowners expecting to benefit from lignite development, was polite. The question his 17-year-old daughter wanted to know why she should have to give up the wealth from coal development, given that New Zealand produces little global CO2 emissions and other countries were continuing to increase their emissions.

. . .

In an Endnote in his article, Hansen addresses the SHOUTING messages he gets from critics back home:

Note to the people who send me messages (SOMETIMES SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS) demanding that I stop wasting THEIR MONEY and get out of the government:

When I was in New Zealand I was on vacation, using up time accumulated years ago when I seldom took vacation. By taking the New Zealand vacation I am reducing taxpayers’ costs, because I would otherwise be paid (when I retire) a lump sum for the vacation days that I did not use. Your blood pressure might come down a notch further if you saw the nature of the “vacation”: slave-driver Jeanette Fitzsimons unceremoniously routing me out of bed at 6 or 7 AM every day to get moving to the next town – not exactly a case of sipping pina colada on a beach.

BTW, do you really believe that scientists make up or exaggerate global warming to get research funds? Our salaries do not depend on how much research the government funds. Government scientists get paid for working 40 hours a week, regardless of how long they work. My wife claims it is about 90 hours a week, but I say about 80. If you succeed in getting the government to cut back on science, because you don’t like the results, the main effect will be erosion of our competiveness relative to other nations. Your hounding of scientists does not bother me, but it may discourage young people from entering the profession, contributing to a national spiral into second or third rate technical and economic status. Perhaps, instead of questioning the motives of scientists, you should turn around and check the interests (motives) of the people who have pushed you to become so agitated.

 End of Dr Hansen’s story

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This entry was posted on June 14, 2011 by in counterpower of one, political action and tagged , , , , .
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