Inside the Surveillance State: How Peaceful Activists Get Swept Up onto “Terrorist” Watch Lists

In his 2010 report, “A Review of the FBI’s Investigation of Certain Domestic Advocacy Groups,” Glenn Fine, the (now retired – and not replaced) inspector general of the Justice Department, concludes that the FBI had “little or no basis” for investigating many advocacy groups and individuals, and that it made false and misleading statements to the public and Congress to justify its surveillance of an antiwar rally organized by a peace and social justice organization, the Thomas Merton Center of Pennsylvania. Not only did it routinely classify actions involving nonviolent civil disobedience as “Acts of Terrorism matters,” it also, “relied upon potential crimes that may not commonly be considered ‘terrorism’ (such as trespassing or vandalism)” to get people placed on watch lists and their travels and interactions tracked.

Around the country, databases have swelled with information about antiwar and other protests that are classified as “potential terrorist activity.”