16 December 2002
At a time when the peace movement appears to be gaining traction, it is troubling to read the latest e-mail advisory from the FBI's Awareness of National Security Issues and Response (ANSIR) program. A December 4 communication, sent to thousands of "corporate security professionals," warns that "a loose network of antiwar groups" opposed "to possible U.S. military action against Iraq, are advocating 'explicit and direct attack upon the war machine.'"
According to the advisory, the week of December 15-21 has been set aside as a "week of action against warmongering." An Internet posting by a group calling itself "Every Day a Circle Day" has "called for attacks on the headquarter facilities and other assets of oil companies and defense contractors, singling out Boeing and Lockheed Martin," claims the FBI e-mail. It also points out that "Department of Defense (DoD) assets also represent potential targets for attack."
Other possible targets, says the e-mail, could include "major media companies by 'sanitizing' newspaper vending machines, jamming or hijacking radio and television signals, or attacking broadcast towers and damaging equipment."
Does the FBI know more about upcoming activities of the antiwar movement than the antiwar movement itself? Or is its recent communiqué a blatant attempt to scare the public, smear the antiwar movement and discourage antiwar protests?
Jason Mark, the Communication's Director at Global Exchange, the Bay Area-based international human rights group, said neither he nor his colleagues had heard of Every Day a Circle Day. He did, however, think that the timing of the ANSIR advisory was suspicious.
"Clearly this is a time when the antiwar movement is reaching more and more people, and we believe we are beginning to affect the debate over going to war with Iraq," said Mark. "The administration is obviously concerned that support for war is eroding with recent polls showing that four out of 10 Americans are against a war with Iraq."
Global Exchange is one of more than 100 peace, social justice and religious organizations that have joined together to form United For Peace, a new nationwide coalition.
"Given the FBI's notorious history for trying to discredit social justice and peace movements, I wouldn't be surprised if the agency is trying to leak the idea that this peace movement involves some violent factions," Mark added.
The FBI's ANSIR program, formerly known as DECA (Development of Espionage, Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism Awareness) began in 1995 as a fax service and shifted to e-mail a year later, and has the capacity to service 100,000 subscribers. The program started out warning businesses of potential economic threats from foreign sources. Currently, ANSIR's e-mail project is a component of the government's National Threat Warning System (NTWS), which aims to quickly distribute terrorist threats and warning information throughout the federal government, law enforcement, and the private sector. There is an ANSIR coordinator in each of the FBI's 56 field offices around the country.
ANSIR communications are sent by request to thousands of people involved in corporate security as well as "others who have requested to receive unclassified national security advisories." To receive communications from ANSIR, recipients must "provide business card information, i.e., organization name, address, phone, fax, etc., to email@example.com for processing, with a brief description of the product and/or service provided by your organization."
What caused the FBI to e-blast this particular warning?
In the pre-dawn hours of October 19, "Every Day a Circle Day" posted a message at "Infoshop News," a website providing anarchist, activist, and alternative news, calling for a worldwide week of actions -- beginning on December 15 and ending December 21 -- to combat warmongering.
According to the message, the week "culminate[s]" on December 21 because it is "the date of winter solstice, the day of the most darkness, [and is] a legendary time of revolution and change." The communiqué's author(s) makes it clear that they are interested in "soliciting damage" and they call for "resistance, not merely demonstration or advocacy, or scripted acts of 'civil disobedience' where all the participants politely go to jail." (For the complete text of the message, click here.)
A little over three weeks later, the message was posted at the Maritimes Independent Media Centre website, a site that features "Independent, democratically produced coverage of issues, culture and events in Canada's Maritime Provinces," and several other anarchist-leaning websites.
At that point, December 10, ASIS International, an Alexandria, Va. based professional security organization picked up the FBI warning and posted it at its Web site and a hurricane in a teacup was born. ASIS is an organization of security professionals that claims a membership of 32,000.
Activists started getting phone calls from reporters asking if they knew about violent antiwar protests scheduled for the week in question, a query that left them scratching their heads in confusion.
Curiously enough, the warning comes at a time that the peace movement has become increasingly focused, better organized and more broad based. Instead of the tendency of melding together a number of assorted "oldie but goodie" lefty issues, antiwar activists have trained their sights on stopping the Bush Administration's war with Iraq. Some have called their efforts "mainstreaming" the movement.
Indeed a broad cross-section of organizations formed United For Peace, a new national campaign that brings together such organizations as the National Organization for Women, National Council of Churches, Peace Action, the American Friends Service Committee, Black Voices for Peace, Not In Our Name, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Veterans for Peace. On December 10, International Human Rights Day, United For Peace sponsored more than 130 events -- including teach-ins, Christmas caroling for peace and civil disobedience -- in 37 states. All of the events were peaceful, none involved violence or sabotage.
The next large United For Peace mobilization is set for January 18-20, when actions are planned to coincide with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial weekend.
Meanwhile, the events scheduled by United For Peace for the week of December 15 are all relatively low key. They include an interfaith-organized vigil and candle light procession in Chicago; a forum on "The Role of the UN in Build-up to War" In San Francisco; a "Five Day Fast to Let Iraq Live" in San Jose, California; a peace fair including workshops, panels and exhibits in Los Angeles and many more locally staged activities.
Do any of these events qualify for a special ANSIR advisory? And if so, why?
(At press time, an e-mail to Every Day a Circle Day had not been answered, and the FBI ANSIR office in Palo Alto had not returned my phone calls.)
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