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A slow day at the FBI

This week the inspector general of the Justice Department issued a report about FBI surveillance of several groups, including Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The report concluded that none of the groups was investigated by the FBI simply because of their opinions, but in some cases it found fault with the duration of investigations and the tenuous connection to suspected criminal or terrorist activity.

Inspector Gen. Glenn A. Fine has recommended, among other things, that the FBI specify the potential violation of a specific criminal statute to justify opening a preliminary or full investigation of advocacy groups for activities related to the exercise of their 1st Amendment rights. That’s a worthy if obvious conclusion. The question is whether the FBI culture can internalize a sensitivity to freedom of expression.

One case from my hometown doesn’t inspire confidence on that score. Here’s how he describes its genesis:

     “. . .in late November 2002, a probationary FBI agent in the Pittsburgh Field Division attended a public anti-war leafleting event sponsored by the [Thomas] Merton Center.. The agent told us that his supervisor sent him to the rally on a slow work day (the day after Thanksgiving) when he asked the supervisor for work and that the supervisor instructed him to go the rally to look for Pittsburgh Field Division international terrorism suspects. We found no evidence that the assignment was made pursuant to a particular investigation or in response to any information suggesting that any particular terrorism suspect might be present at the rally.”

It’s not encouraging that the first thing that occurs to an FBI agent on a “slow work day” is to go snooping at a political rally.

 --Michael McGough


Comments () | Archives (4)

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Marcos El Malo

"It’s not encouraging that the first thing that occurs to an FBI agent on a “slow work day” is to go snooping at a political rally."

I partly agree with this, but remember, it was the supervisor that sent him. I applaud the agent himself for having the initiative, and wanting to get out in the field on a "slow day". He could have spent the day on the internet with his fantasy sports league, watching youtube videos, etc. That is encouraging.

Belen C. de la  Cruz

Your newspaper report do not show the true picture of the economy and the big deficits which I blame for the house majority's vote for the Obama health care and the multi-billion bailouts given to big corporations who in turn give big donations to democratic candidates. I believe that newspapers should be neutral in the assessment of candidates. We, Californians, should realize what is truly going on with our country and our state. Do you think Brown or Boxer will do anything to improve our situation in this state? How many years have these people been serving us? For so many years, we have yearned that something will come to help us with the unemployment in our state. None so far. Only during election that these people recognize that they should do something to earn our votes.


Just wondering, how many "slow" days for the FBI since the terrorist attacks of 2001? The FBI hasn't been able to apprehend any of the perpetrators except KSM,(presently still awaiting trial) and certainly none of the 19 hijackers.
They all died when they crashed those airliners on 9/11. (except the 7 that were found to be still alive)

FBI doesn't want Osama for that crime either. Their evidence about "cell phone-on board calls" completed ruined the stories and movies about the passenger heroes on UAL flight 93,as well as the The 9/11 Commission Report.
The "slow days" during months preceding the 9/11 attacks might have been used to verify some the warnings the were received, ignored, or not acted upon. Maybe some of the cuts to federal workers should begin at the FBI since they continue to have these "slow days" with nothing to do but go to political meetings of activists.


Slow day indeed. It's nice they took this report and as if to mock it, the next day they launched nationwide anti-terror raids against anti-war protesters (hippies), guns drawn, scaring little kids, breaking personal possessions, even stealing anti-war t-shirts as "propaganda".

Meanwhile, the media stays silent. Traitors.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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