|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
The Thomas Merton Center, located in a humble storefront in Pittsburgh, is an inviting social justice space where visitors can pick up some pamphlets on non-violent civil disobedience or hold a community potluck. The center, named for an activist and Trappist monk, proudly promotes pacifism, but that didn’t prevent the FBI from spying on Merton Center activists in 2002, branding them terrorists and then later lying about it to Congress.
That was one of the critical findings of a report released Monday by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine. The report said that between 2001 and 2006, the FBI also kept tabs on a Seattle antiwar activist as well as individuals affiliated with Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Catholic Workers and Quakers. The agency improperly placed these activists on terrorist watch lists, according to the report.
The report found that the FBI gave inaccurate and misleading information to Congress and the public in 2006 when it claimed that an agent who spied on an anti-war rally organized by Thomas Merton Center activists was investigating individuals with possible links to terrorism.
The surveillance of a Merton center rally in November 2002, which consisted of antiwar activists distributing information in a public space, was “an ill-conceived project on a slow work day,” according to the report. The FBI's surveillance of the rally was initially revealed via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which subsequently sparked Fine's probe.
The report said an agent asked his superior for something to do on a slow day of work, and he was directed to monitor the rally for potential terrorism suspects. Fine's investigation found that the agent’s “make work” assignment had nothing to do with any specific terrorism investigation.