As the nation’s capital prepares itself for the presidential inauguration by going into lockdown mode and placing portable Stinger missile launchers throughout the city, Americans may be stunned to learn that the District of Columbia has been forced by a federal judge to hand over intelligence data on police tactics, training, and strategies from the last inauguration to an organization with documented ties to terrorist groups and Saddam Hussein.
The District of Columbia was forced by court order to turn over this information to the International Action Center (IAC), a group involved in Thursday’s protests of the second Bush inaugural through the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition. The anti-Bush groups expect as many as 100,000 will converge on the nation’s capital and they intend to get as close to the presidential motorcade as possible. Some media pundits have expressed surprise that the District has offered protestors “prime real estate” along the parade route along Pennsylvania Avenue. But this is largely because of legal pressure exerted by the protesters and their radical law firms.
Given that videotaping a monument can get one arrested in the post-9/11 world, it is stunning that surveillance tapes and other security data can be handed over by court order to an anti-American pro-terrorist organization. But that is how extreme the federal courts have become.
The portrayal of the U.S. as the foremost human rights violator in the world is a familiar theme of the IAC. Days after 9/11, IAC leaders (along with their current attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard) gathered with other activists to announce a demonstration in the capital to protest the “criminal conduct” of the United States. Speakers suggested the U.S. had invited the 9/11 attack.
Additional concern is generated by the fact that the IAC is linked to Colombian terrorist groups now said to be involved with Islamic terrorists. Terrorism experts cite the secretive tri-border area of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, where Colombian and Islamic terrorists are said to be coordinating their activities. Other reports suggest the presence of Islamic terrorist groups in Venezuela, where the anti-American regime headed by Hugo Chavez is also said to be aiding and providing sanctuary for Colombian terrorists.
Here Comes the Judge
The court orders were related to a lawsuit filed by the IAC in 2001 [International Action Center, et al., v. United States of America, et al., Case no. 01CV00072] against federal and local agencies that handled security for the 2001 inaugural. The IAC describes itself as a political association that fights racism, war and militarism, and the program of the Bush administration. In fact, it is linked through overlapping personnel to the communist Workers World Party (WWP), a group that came under investigation by the Congress in 1974 and the FBI.
IAC founder and director Ramsey Clark recently made worldwide headlines when he joined Saddam Hussein’s defense team. The IAC boasts of having a relationship to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army―both of which are labeled terrorist groups by the State Department. The International Action Center has sent delegations to meet with FARC soldiers and leaders in the Colombian jungle and lauds their military victories, including “spectacular raids” on U.S.-trained battalions. Last November Colombia’s defense minister claimed that FARC had targeted President Bush for assassination.
Despite its vocal support of and connections to terrorist groups, the IAC has succeeded in obtaining, by court order, large amounts of security data related to D.C. police operations and the presidential inauguration.
According to court documents, D.C. has already provided “thousands of pages of documents,” 38 videotapes and numerous photographs and audiotapes related to D.C. police tactics, training and planning and the 2001 presidential inauguration
The information provided by the D.C. Metro Police Department by court order to the IAC so far includes:
? Lesson plans and handbooks on use of aerosol sprays, force and tactical batons;
? Management of Mass Demonstrations, Civil Disturbance Units training documents;
? Metro Police Department (MPD) instruction on use of firearms and other service weapons;
? Portions of Operations Plan, Parade Manual and Civil Disturbance Unit Response Plan for the 54th Inauguration of the President of the United States;
? All rooftop and street-level surveillance videotapes of the presidential inauguration;
? Redacted logs from the Synchronized Operations Command Center and the Running Resume for the Inauguration Day intelligence teams; and
? The identification of all plainclothes MPD officers who were detailed to intelligence teams for the Inauguration.
The plainclothes intelligence officers identified by name were stationed at various locations along and near the presidential parade route in order to monitor the crowds and to report any information heard or observed concerning plans, attempts or actions that might disrupt Inaugural events and/or violate the law and to take law enforcement action, if needed.
Judge Gladys Kessler, who handled the case, issued the orders disclosing the security data. (Kessler was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in July 1994 by former president Bill Clinton and confirmed by the Senate.)
D.C. Fights Back
The security data was sought during the discovery process of the ongoing lawsuit which charges the U.S. government, the Bush-Cheney Presidential Inaugural Committee and the District of Columbia with constitutional violations. Plaintiffs’ charges include the use of government agents provocateurs who allegedly assaulted protesters lining the inauguration parade route, the discriminatory operation of security checkpoints to deny access to protesters and unconstitutional disruption tactics of the police Civil Disturbance Units. Judge Kessler attributed significant importance to the lawsuit and its attendant First Amendment issues, and she bent over backwards to accommodate the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs allege covert law-enforcement personnel beat, pepper-sprayed, intimidated and terrorized peaceful protesters. They also contend a key checkpoint that was supposed to be manned by either the Secret Service or the Metro Police Department was instead delegated to the control of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, a private corporation that subsequently detained protesters for hours while allowing Bush supporters to pass. Lawyers from the Partnership for Civil Justice filed the case on behalf of IAC.
In the case, which is still ongoing, the plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the Presidential Inaugural Committee and compensatory damages from the District of Columbia, as well as the filing of various permanent and declaratory injunctions.
Lawyers for D.C. unsuccessfully fought handing over most of the data, arguing that the IAC had made “exceedingly broad” discovery requests that were irrelevant to the claims and which were protected from disclosure by the law enforcement privilege. Several of D.C’s and the federal government’s requests to withhold information were granted by the court but the majority were granted despite warnings of repercussions to national security.
Notwithstanding D.C.‘s production of “thousands of pages of documents,” the IAC pushed for more, prompting another reaction:”[We] object to producing intelligence reports and the Intelligence Operational Plan developed for the Presidential Inauguration.” After the judge ruled in favor of D.C. on the Intelligence Operational Plan, IAC pushed once again to get the document.
Since the plaintiffs were in part seeking information related to the pepper-spraying of protesters, Assistant Police Chief Alfred Broadbent, in his Declaration, argued that “[N]othing in the Intelligence Operational Plan or the intelligence reports authorizes, sanctions or directs the use of O.C. spray by Metropolitan Police Department officers in the manner alleged in the complaint filed in this civil action. Neither the Intelligence Operational Plan nor the intelligence reports authorize, sanction or direct undercover officers to suggest or take any illegal action.
Moreover, the events at 14th and K Streets, NW, were based on reports of a large crowd of demonstrators marching in the street, south on 14th Street, without a permit, and reports of cars and/or property being damaged, and vending machines being thrown into the street.” Attached to the declaration was a “Destruction of Property Incident Report.”
The IAC also sought any correspondence from MPD officers to counterparts in other jurisdictions or countries; audits, evaluations, and reviews that relate in any way to mass protests
D.C. refused to produce a video copy of the MPD training video on “Crowd Control Formations,” arguing it was not relevant and could be misused to counter such formations.
Undercover Operation Exposed
As these court decisions played out in the courtroom, another drama was unfolding. Before the lawsuit was filed in 2001, undercover police officers had monitored or infiltrated the IAC and its affiliated organizations. As the court case progressed, they continued their assignment to gather intelligence for law enforcement agencies. Soon, however, the courtroom spotlight focused on these undercover officers. The IAC succeeded in convincing Judge Kessler to order the disclosure of the identities of these officers, arguing the plaintiffs needed to “evaluate the conduct” of the officers. Now the tables had been turned: the plaintiffs were positioned to gather intelligence about the undercover officers, adding to their pile of discovery about law enforcement tactics, training and strategies.
How did it happen? First, the plaintiffs told the court that one undercover officer had already been revealed when he tackled a demonstrator at a protest, sprayed people with pepper spray and was recognized as having attended the meetings of the organizations. A second officer was allegedly revealed when he was recognized leaving the courthouse and admitted he was a detective. Court documents dated April 4, 2003 note, “District of Columbia refused to acknowledge that these officers were, in fact, undercover officers.”
The plaintiffs told the court that they sought to compel the disclosure of all undercover officer identities because they wanted to “evaluate the conduct of the officers” and “determine whether additional acts of alleged misconduct [had] occurred.” The IAC complained that the “officers” did more than passively observe, but that they engaged in “conduct disruptive to the organization’s purposes and that reflected poorly on the organizations.” What sort of disruptive conduct? Court documents note, “For example, an undercover officer could seriously disrupt Plaintiff’s legitimate protest activities by accepting responsibility for certain tasks at an event and then failing to follow through or by suggesting the organizations engage in illegal and violent conduct.”
Did these as-yet anonymous undercover officers engage in such activity? Many allegations were made. Court documents note the plaintiffs alleged one undercover officer they were able to identify on their own “disrupted a meeting by allegedly ‘suggesting that activists place bombs on bridges and call in bomb threats.’” Plaintiffs complained that they lacked information as to who else might have been an undercover officer and so could not “necessarily link any other disruptive conduct to such unidentified persons.”
Kessler agreed. This information was relevant and the IAC ought to have it. Furthermore, Kessler argued, “Plaintiffs had little chance of obtaining this information through alternate sources.” She concluded that information was not protected by the law enforcement privilege and in an order filed August 30, 2002 Kessler wrote: “ORDERED that Defendants shall?disclose the identities of those undercover officers who infiltrated Plaintiff’s organizations?” (In the course of the lawsuit DC did not object to identifying plain clothes officers but it did object to identifying undercover officers.)
The District asked the court to reconsider and vacate that order, arguing that the law enforcement privilege was indeed applicable, that there was no compelling need for such disclosure. Public interest in non-disclosure outweighed plaintiff’s stated need for disclosure, they argued.
“[P]laintiffs have never specifically described any other ‘disruptive’ or illegal conduct that occurred at their meetings that they suspect may be attributable to an undercover officer in order to determine whether such misconduct may have occurred,” the defense argued. The law enforcement privilege is rooted in the need to “minimize disclosures that might impair the necessary functioning of an executive branch department” and based on “the understanding that many law enforcement operations cannot be effective if conducted in full view, they stated. [Cited: Black v. Sheraton Corporation of America, 564 F.2d 531, 542 (D.C. Cir. 1977)]
D.C. laid out risks involved in such disclosure:
? “Law enforcement’s ability to prepare for and provide security at countless demonstrations that occur in Washington, D.C. and to gather critical related intelligence would be impaired if the identity of undercover officers was disclosed.”
? “?related techniques and strategies?would, necessarily, be ascertained if the undercover officer’s identity was disclosed.”
? “Defendants do object to identifying any ‘undercover officers.’ ‘Undercover officers,’ if utilized, conduct on-going investigations to monitor and report on individuals and groups who may be planning actions that threaten property or persons or otherwise violates the law. Unlike officers in plain clothes, ‘undercover officers’ do not carry MPD issued service weapons, do not take law enforcement action while acting in an undercover capacity and take precautions not to identify themselves as police officers. Their operation (and safety) depends on their ability to ensure their anonymity.”
D.C. also cited a declaration by Assistant Police Chief Broadbent given at a hearing on the issue on December 12, 2002. The declaration described how disclosure of the undercover officers’ identities would impair and thwart the Department’s ability to prepare for and provide security at demonstrations and jeopardize and/or chill the department’s intelligence-gathering capability.
Among Chief Broadbent’s concerns reiterated by the defense in the motion to reconsider and vacate the order were:
? “[D]isclosing the Department’s intelligence reports, Intelligence Operational Plan or the identity of any undercover officer that may have been conducting an investigation?would undermine significantly the Department’s ability to plan for and provide security at mass demonstrations.”
? “Disclosure would create a huge void in the Department’s intelligence gathering capability, threaten undercover officer’s physical safety and expose citizens, visitors, and demonstrators themselves to increased risk of violence, physical injury, and property damage.”
? “Disclosing such information could forewarn suspects and suspect groups, providing them with sensitive law enforcement information, including possible strategies, procedures and directions for confidential investigations.”
? “?[T]he Metropolitan Police Department’s intelligence gathering methods, including the use of undercover investigations, have been integral to the Department’s success in minimizing property damage, violence and physical injuries at mass demonstrations.”
The defense continued: identification would effectively terminate and eliminate a source of intelligence that is used to make decisions related to ensuring safety of citizens and the general public. “The termination of this source of information will hamper the Department’s intelligence gathering capability both now and into the future. It will also chill the Department’s ability to recruit undercover officers, who enter such assignments with the understanding and belief that their identity will not disclosed by the Department.”
The public interest in non-disclosure is particularly high in this instance, they argued, “because many of the individuals and groups that protested at the Inauguration regularly engage in demonstration activity and could counter intelligence gathering methods and security preparations if known?Furthermore violence encountered during demonstrations in other countries and cities?Seattle, Quebec, Prague, Genoa and Australia ?coupled with the current concerns about domestic terrorism, underscores the need to maintain confidentiality.”
Given the applicability of the privilege, the burden shifts to the plaintiffs to demonstrate a compelling need for disclosure and the lack of harm that would result from disclosure. The court must then balance the public interest in non-disclosure against the stated need. (Kessler had already found no “balancing” was applicable here.)
Defense argued that plaintiffs never described any disruptive or illegal conduct that occurred at their meetings that they suspect might have been attributable to an undercover officer.
When Kessler issued her order for disclosure, she referred the issue of exactly how that disclosure should take place to Magistrate Alan Kay. Kay responded to the above defense arguments against disclosure in a memorandum order filed April 4, 2003. First reminding defendants that Kessler had already found that law enforcement privilege was not applicable, Kay addressed Chief Broadbent’s testimony: “Broadbent?was primarily concerned about the safety of officers and their families. [He] explained that although many protest groups are peaceful, there have been incidents across the country and locally in which officers have been seriously injured and even killed. However, when pressed by the Plaintiffs’ counsel during cross-examination, Chief Broadbent was unable to identify any violent incidents involving members from Plaintiffs’ organizations.”
In Kay’s view, the fact that no harm had come to the two officers already accidentally identified by the IAC was “relevant particularly because one of these officers is alleged to have tackled members of Plaintiffs’ organizations with pepper spray during a protest. The absence of any threat or harm to that officer strongly supports Plaintiffs’ claims that these organizations are peaceful and do not pose a threat to the officers’ safety.”
The Court Rulings
Kay concluded, “[T]he District of Columbia has presented no evidence to support its articulated concern about the safety of the undercover officers or their families?[J]udge Kessler has already determined ?the disclosure of the identity of the undercover officers?the narrow issue before this Court now is how to permit disclosure?”
The District of Columbia was ordered by Kay to disclose the identities of the officers by allowing up to ten IAC leaders to view their photographs for a period of no more than 30 minutes, and without recourse to copy or disseminate the images. The plaintiffs had already agreed to a protective order whereby they would not receive the officers’ home addresses.
Interestingly enough, attempts by D.C. to obtain through the discovery process names of members of the plaintiffs organizations, political activities of the members and contributor lists were ruled “extraordinary in scope,” violations of the protesters’ First Amendment rights, and therefore were not allowed by Judge Kessler. The IAC successfully argued the defendants were using the litigation process “for intelligence purposes” and to create “an enemy’s list of all persons who have ever engaged in political dissent.” Judge Kessler argued that providing such information to the District could result in harassment and reprisals against the plaintiffs. After all, Kessler argued, the plaintiffs “fear” the government.
AIM has found no mention in court documents of the self-documented ties between the IAC and terrorist organizations like FARC and the National Liberation Army. Those terrorist groups, in turn, have documented ties to the Colombian drug trade and have engaged in mortar bombings, assassinations, decapitations, castrations, torture, kidnapping, hijacking and disruption of election activities. FARC’s activities often target elected officials and government installations.
There was also no reference in the court documents to the fact that the WWP, whose personnel operate the IAC and International A.N.W.E.R., came under investigation by the House Committee on Internal Security and the FBI.
The IAC and A.N.S.W.E.R. are now recognized by writers on both the right and the left as front groups for the WWP. The leadership of both groups has been virtually interchangeable, including such figures as Brian Becker and Larry Holmes.
Even on the left this fact is recognized. Leftist lawyer Nathan Newman, for example, has written extensively on the inter-connections. Newman was very familiar with their workings because his organization did legal work for them. After Newman staunchly opposed the WWP leadership of the anti-war movement in 2002 and 2003, he was subjected to what he calls a “witch hunt” and termed a “red-baiter” and “McCarthyist.”
The intimidation didn’t silence Newman, though. He went on to castigate the WWP and its fronts as supporters of “authoritarian butchers” and “mass murderers,” including Fidel Castro, Kim Jong-Il, and Saddam Hussein. The WWP supported the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of protesting students and workers, who were conveniently labeled “counter-revolutionaries.” The group was actually started in 1957 when they split from the Socialist Workers Party. The WWP split because they supported the Red Army’s 1956 invasion of Hungary and the subsequent shooting of unarmed demonstrators, also termed “counter-revolutionaries.”
While the court documents made no mention of the IAC’s relationship to groups labeled as terrorist by the U.S. State Department, the IAC has documented their own activities extensively in print, emails, videos and in public pronouncements.
Just a week before a Dec. 7, 2000 deadline for the expiration of peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the revolutionary movement, an IAC delegation headed by Ramsey Clark traveled to the demilitarized zone in Colombia to meet with FARC leaders.
The delegation also included Teresa Gutierrez, an IAC co-director and member of the Workers World Party and ANSWER, Elisa Chavez, who videotaped key discussions, and Carl Glenn, who served as an interpreter. According to Glenn, once in the demilitarized zone, a FARC official known as Lucas picked up the visitors and drove them to a FARC encampment outside Los Pozos, Colombia.
There the IAC met with leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC). Clark met for several hours with FARC Secretariat member Commander Raul Reyes, who heads the insurgent group’s “International Commission.”
In addition to discussions with the communist commanders, the delegation also met with FARC soldiers and area residents and spent the night in the encampment. IAC leaders later boasted that in the 36 years since the FARC’s founding, only four other U.S. visitors had been invited to any of the insurgent encampments.
Video footage of Clark’s meeting with Commander Reyes, as well as other footage from the trip, was screened for the first time at a Dec. 12, 2000 IAC meeting held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center of the 1199/Service Employees Union in New York. Local 1199’s U.S. Health Care Trade Union Committee, a co-sponsor of the event, opened the evening with a greeting and a message of solidarity to opponents of U.S. intervention in Latin America.
At the meeting where the video was screened, IAC speakers tied their opposition to “Plan Colombia,” the U.S. policy of supporting Colombia’s democratic government, to upcoming protests and urged everyone to build for the demonstrations against the inauguration of George W. Bush in Washington on January 20, 2001.
As Colombian President Pastrana entered Los Pozos, Colombia, on Feb. 9, 2001 to engage in talks with FARC, a song by FARC soldier Lukas Igurar?n played over the loudspeaker. “Let us go, dear, to Bogot?,” Lukas sang, “I want to see the barricades in the barrios and the people incited. Prepare the dynamite!”
Threatening Missile Attacks
Earlier that year, IAC spokeswoman Monica Somocurcio reported on a FARC meeting in Columbia that addressed the coca issue. She quoted FARC-EP leader Manuel “Tirofijo” (Sureshot) Marulanda, who was dressed in combat fatigues, as saying, “If the U.S. approach to guerrillas prevails, the FARC, as the people’s army, will fight back.”
At the same meeting, FARC Commander Ivan Rios said that the group would arm coca farmers and might buy missiles to shoot down U.S.-supplied helicopters if the Colombian government carried out an offensive with U.S. aid. Somocurcio complained, “The capitalist countries that sent representatives are no friends of the FARC-EP, of course. The Colombian armed forces and their U.S. backers are among the most flagrant violators of human rights in the world.”
In August of 2001, another IAC delegation traveled to El Salvador to attend a meeting of revolutionary Marxist groups hosted by the terrorist Faribundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) of El Salvador. The gathering was a celebration of revolutionary Marxist movements in Central and South America.
Dr. J. Michael Waller detailed FMLN ties in his Jan 2003 article for Insight magazine: “The FMLN has received media coverage for the assassination of American military trainers, U.S. Marines who guarded the embassy in San Salvador, American businessmen and CIA assets, and a retired Jesuit priest, the Rev. Francisco Peccorini.”
In August, 2003, syndicated columnist Mona Charen reminded readers of the FMLN’s reaction to 9/11: “In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the FMLN sent a letter to the U.S. embassy suggesting that the terror attack was a consequence of U.S. malfeasance, and four days later FMLN leaders attended a celebrations hosted by leftists in San Salvador in which Osama bin Laden was praised and the U.S. and Israeli flags were burned.”
The meeting the IAC delegation went to was attended by and featured speakers from the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), National Liberation Army of Colombia (NLA or ELN), and the Revolutionary Forces in the Dominican Republic.
Other communist parties throughout the globe attended and brought messages of solidarity with the revolutionary movement in Colombia.
Rebeca Toledo, a member of the IAC delegation, reported: “Participants were excited by the IAC’s proposal to surround the White House on Sept. 29, 2001. The date was declared an international day of protests against U.S. military intervention in Colombia and Latin America.”
The Workers World Party applauds FARC and enthusiastically publishes news of their “military victories,” including attacks on military bases housing U.S.-trained battalions, the deaths of Colombian soldiers, and “spectacular” raids on prisons, police establishments and communications centers.
Articles on FARC are often co-released by WWP. On July 12, 2001, Workers World reported the following FARC “military victories:”
“On June 23, hundreds of guerrilla fighters overran the Colombian military base at Puerto Leguizamo in the south of the country. The base housed forces from the new, elite, U.S.-trained battalions created as part of Plan Colombia. Thirty Colombian soldiers were killed in what was termed “the army’s biggest blow” since October last year. And in a spectacular raid in the capital city of Bogot?, a FARC-EP unit with support from its urban militia exploded a wall of a prison, releasing 98 prisoners “including guerrilla fighters from the FARC-EP, the ELN [National Liberation Army], and other social prisoners,” according to a FARC-EP report.”
FARC engages in bombings, murder, mortar attacks, kidnapping, extortion and hijackings, directed against Colombian political, military, economic and civilian targets. It also has well-documented ties to the drug trade, something the IAC tells followers is a “lie.”
The WWP makes it clear that FARC’s goal is “the taking of power” and the building of a society without “exploiters or exploited”—a communist society. The Workers World Party has published communiqu?s from military leaders of the Latin American terror groups signed with the slogan, “Liberation or death.”
The IAC is best known for its controversial founder and director Ramsey Clark, who served as U.S. Attorney General under the Lyndon Johnson administration. Because of his career of defending accused war criminals, he has been labeled “the war criminal’s best friend.” His cases include:
? Clark represented PLO leaders in the suit brought by the family of Leon Klinghoffer, the elderly tourist who in 1986 was shot and thrown overboard from the hijacked Achille Lauro cruise-ship by Palestinian terrorists.
? Clark defended Karl Linnas, an ex-Nazi concentration camp guard in Estonia, where he was accused of supervising the murder of some 12,000 resistance fighters and Jews. Linnas was at that time being deported from the U.S. to the U.S.S.R. to face war-crimes charges. Clark lost the case, but went to bat for his client in the public arena. According to media reports, Clark said that he questioned the need to prosecute Nazis “forty years after some god-awful crime they’re alleged to have committed.”
? Clark defended dictator Slobodan Milosevic in the International Criminal Tribunal.
? Clark took on Rwanda genocide indictee Elizaphan Ntakirutimana as a client. The pastor was accused of telling Tutsis to hide in his church and then summoning Hutus to massacre them. The genocidal leader later led killing squads in the “hell on earth” that Rwanda quickly became.
? Clark has defended twice-indicted Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, in a New York civil suit brought by Bosnian rape victims. The suit, brought by the National Organization for Women and the Center for Constitutional Rights, charged Karadzic with ordering mass rape and war crimes.
Nevertheless, Clark is typically introduced to “anti-war” crowds as a “man of extraordinary principles and conscience” and “a true patriot.” And his followers in the IAC are portrayed by the media as mainstream Americans simply exercising their right to dissent.