On November 5th, a lawsuit filed in 2009 by antiwar activists against Army spy John Towery will go before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, WA. Towery was outed as an informant after public records requests revealed he had infiltrated antiwar groups and spied on activists and anarchists. The lawsuit, Panagacos v Towery, is a landmark civil liberties case that comes at a time of increased political repression of Pacific Northwest anarchists. The lawsuit is against the Army, Navy, Air Force and countless law enforcement agencies.
John Towery was connected to a Force Protection Unit and Fusion Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) and was sent by his superiors to infiltrate the anti-war group Port Militarization Resistance (PMR), antiwar activists and anarchists in Olympia and Tacoma. PMR was an antiwar group that used direct action to disrupt and delay military shipments traveling to and from Iraq and Afghanistan through Northwest ports. John J Towery II was known by other activists as “John Jacob”. He was a PMR activist and anarchist that was later found to be from JBLM after public records requests revealed a surveillance program the US Military was conducting against antiwar activists. The Fusion Center Towery worked with is one of many in the US that have lumped Occupy activists, antiwar activists and anarchists in the same category with al Qaeda and terrorists as “enemies” of the US government.
Brendan Maslauskas Dunn, a PMR activist, anarchist, and current organizer with the Occupy Movement in New York, sent in the records requests on behalf of the IWW that ultimately revealed the identity of his personal friend and fellow anarchist “John Jacob”. Dunn noted that “The records the IWW requested and more recent records releases show that every branch of the military has been, and perhaps still is, involved in spying on antiwar activists and anarchists. This is part of a surveillance program that includes numerous law enforcement and federal agencies.”
NLG attorney representing the plaintiffs Larry Hildes said, “The Court is going to decide whether this violates the Constitution or not. This spying occurred under both the Bush and Obama administrations and there is no difference in the way it has been done.” Hildes, along with help from the NLG, ACLU and others, is determined to bring the case all the way to the Supreme Court if he must. “I think this spying is the logical extension of what has gone on throughout American history where the government has spied on the Left and created a climate poisonous to dissent,” said Hildes. Dunn said, “This spying reeks of COINTELPRO,” referencing the FBI program that targeted the antiwar movement, Black Panthers, American Indian Movement and New Left of the 1960s and 70s. The current surveillance program targeted the groups PMR, Students for a Democratic Society, Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace, the Industrial Workers of the World, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Coffee Strong and Socialist Alternative and gave specific attention to anarchists, especially at the former community space Pitchpipe Infoshop in Tacoma.
Hildes believes that the current grand jury investigation in Seattle targeting anarchists fits in the broader political repression that increasingly targets antiwar activists, anarchists, Occupy and the Left. Kteeo Olejnik, who is currently in prison for her political beliefs, was a PMR activist and was also spied on by Towery.
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