FBI Spied on Denver Bookstore and Anti-War Protesters, New Documents Reveal

Affiliate: ACLU of Colorado
March 28, 2006 12:00 am

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ACLU Releases Document Showing FBI Tracked Cars Parked Near Political Bookstore

DENVER — As part of a “domestic terrorism” investigation, the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force conducted surveillance of a Denver bookstore on February 15, 2003 and monitored 40 people who gathered there to carpool to an anti-war demonstration in Colorado Springs later that day, according to an FBI report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

“This report raises more questions about the degree to which the FBI is unjustifiably regarding demonstrations and public dissent as potential terrorism,” said Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado. “Why is the FBI conducting surveillance of a bookstore, monitoring the persons who gather there, and keeping files with lists of license plate numbers?”

The document, the latest the ACLU obtained in response to a series of requests under the Freedom of Information Act, reports that FBI agents spent two hours watching Breakdown Bookstore, counting about 40 persons who gathered there for the anti-war march. The report also indicates that the FBI recorded the descriptions and license plate numbers of a dozen cars “in the vicinity” of the now-closed political bookstore, located at the time in the 1400 block of Ogden Street.

Last December, the ACLU released a related document indicating that the FBI opened its investigation of the anti-war march four days earlier, on the basis of announcements the FBI encountered on the Web sites of the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center and the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace.

According to that document, the FBI noted that a third group calling itself Revolutionary Anti War Response (RAWR), which the FBI characterized as “more radical,” also promoted the anti-war demonstration and announced it would start with the main group and then conduct a “break out” demonstration at another Colorado Springs location. The FBI report noted that participants were invited to meet on the morning of the protest to carpool. In the report, the FBI said it would “effect surveillance” at the Denver location and relay information to FBI agents who were working with city police in Colorado Springs.

Earlier this month, the national ACLU and the ACLU of Pennsylvania released evidence that the FBI investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice in Pittsburgh just because the organization opposed the war in Iraq. Although previously disclosed documents revealed that the FBI is retaining files on anti-war groups, the Merton Center documents showed for the first time that the FBI is targeting these groups based solely on their political views rather than evidence of criminal activity.

The report released today by the ACLU of Colorado is available at: www.aclu-co.org/docket/200406/Colo.Springs.antiwar.demo.Feb.2003.pdf

The related Colorado report released in December is available at www.aclu-co.org/spyfiles/Documents/fbi_co_campaign_middle_east_2-11-03_report.pdf

Additional information about the Merton Center and the FBI’s surveillance of political groups across the country is available at www.aclu.org/spyfiles

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