Statement - Kirsten Atkins, Target of Illegal Spying

February 22, 2006

The knowledge that the FBI has a file on me, and that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force has monitored my activities and that of many other citizens in our "free and democratic" society makes me really angry, but it comes as no surprise. It follows a historical pattern of government harassment of individuals and organizations that speak out against the government, anti-war activists and people who stand up for the protection of animals and the environment.

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I live in the mountains in Crested Butte, Colorado, a small resort town. I have worked with people with disabilities for almost 20 years and have been involved with several different environmental and social justice groups including Ancient Forest Rescue (AFR), Earth First! and the Land Rights Council of San Luis, CO. AFR's mission is to save what remains of Colorado's forests and has focused mostly on public lands logging projects on national forests.

We were also involved in a campaign to stop a massive logging operation on a private land tract known as the "Taylor Ranch" or as La Sierra by the locals in San Luis. Our tactics have included educational programs, letter writing, timber monitoring and litigation, and non-violent civil disobedience in the form of marches, gatherings and road blockades.

Although revelation of the Denver Police Department's "Spy Files" created public outrage throughout Colorado, I wasn't really surprised to hear that the police had a file on me. I've participated in several protests in Denver, all of which were peaceful demonstrations. It's always been a given that whether in the forest or the city, the cops would be taking our photos and writing down license plate numbers. Over the years, we have been surveilled, our phones have been tapped, and our mail has been opened.

The ACLU discovered recently that one of those license plate lists was passed on to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force. Information surrounding a protest against the North American Wholesale Lumber Association (NAWLA) in Colorado Springs had caught their attention. The protesters at the NAWLA conference were outnumbered by police. Two people were arrested for hanging a banner that denounced NAWLA's policies. Apparently, the FBI and local law enforcement were concerned because of a non-violence training prior to the protest.

Many people can't believe that the government would have me under surveillance. Why would the FBI waste money and resources worrying about someone like me? For years, people told me and my fellow activists that we were being paranoid or overdramatic. But it is important to be aware that the government is using our tax money to spy on people in our communities who have been outspoken.

The government is gathering information illegally under the guise of protecting us from the threat of terrorism. By doing so, they are trying to intimidate and crush the voices of dissent. In light of increasing government oppression, it is critical to continue to speak out, support each other, and to take action.

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