FBI Targeted Environmental Activists As Domestic Terrorists

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) targeted members of the environmental movement for years and even considered them to be domestic terrorists, according to a revealing report from The Guardian.

“According to hundreds of pages of FBI files obtained by the Guardian through a Freedom of Information Act (Foia) lawsuit, and interviews with activists … more than a dozen other people campaigning against fossil fuel extraction in North America have been identified in domestic terrorism-related investigations.

“The investigations, which targeted individual activists and some environmental organizations, were opened in 2013-2014, at the height of opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline and the expansion of fossil fuel production in North America.”

One of those targeted is Helen Yost, who has been arrested twice for engaging in non-violent protests. Hardly the kind of person who fits the bill of a domestic terrorist. But the FBI decided she was a threat:

“The FBI characterized Yost as being driven by a ‘desire to stop fossil fuels which, in her political view, are destroying parts of the US, specifically Montana, Idaho and Washington.’ In addition, the FBI discussed the case with the US attorney’s office in Idaho, local law enforcement, and BNSF Railway, which operates the main rail line delivering coal and oil to export terminals in the Pacific north-west.”

Yost says her group, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), has never engaged in protests that would have disrupted oil traffic in the region. But despite that, the FBI placed Yost on a federal terrorist watch list, alongside suspected members of actual terror groups such as Al Qaeda.

Even though the suspects she’s probably under constant surveillance, Yost insists she won’t stop protesting or engaging in civil disobedience:

“Yost, who was contacted by an FBI agent when the case was still active, said she was not surprised by the agency’s actions. Surveillance was a form of suppression, she said, and this was another attempt to criminalize the actions of ‘normal people working to protect natural resources. But she remains undeterred.

“’Assume they know the color of your underwear every morning and get up and resist anyway,’ Yost said.”

70-year-old Herb Goodwin, who is also an environmental activist, echoed Yost, refusing to relent under the pressure of the FBI or any federal agency:

 “’We’re all under surveillance,” Goodwin said. ‘If they want to look at your stuff, they’re going to.’

In 2014, the FBI contacted Goodwin and asked him about his involvement with the group Deep Green Resistance. He refused to cooperate and told agents to contact his attorney. That led to his lawyer also becoming a subject of interest to the FBI.

“Documents from the FBI show that despite the peaceful nature and history of Deep Green Resistance, it was labeled as an extremist organization:

“One individual contacted numerous times by the FBI was said to have been a ‘suspected member of the Deep Green Resistance’s extremist wing’ and a participant in DGR’s ‘Midwest extremist planning process.'”

Mike German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice, says the agency was given new powers after the September 11, 2001, terror attack, and they’ve used it to target Americans who are involved in peaceful protests:

“According to German, the Yost files and the two-year DGR investigation show how ‘ineffective these internal oversight mechanisms are to preventing abusive and wasteful investigations of non-violent protesters.'”

Featured Image Via Flickr

 

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Andrew Bradford
 

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