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Tuesday
August 30, 2005
More information:

Identified groups

Direct Action - a group that opposes the USA Patriot Act and the war in Afghanistan

By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, - a group that works to ensure the future of affirmative action

East Lansing Animal Rights Movement - an organization that works for animal rights

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Local terrorist activity suspected

By KRIS TURNER

The State News

STATE NEWS FILE PHOTO

More than 100 people gathered along Grand River Avenue Friday to protest the war in Iraq, led by local activist group Direct Action. A group of about 30 linked arms around a car emblazoned with the slogan "Stop the War," blocking traffic in the eastbound lane for two hours. Police arrested 14 protesters who refused to leave the street.

Some political groups that have operated on campus were "involved in terrorist activities" according to an FBI document released by the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday.

Three groups, the East Lansing Animal Rights Movement, Direct Action and BAMN, or The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, were all referred to in the document called "Domestic Terrorism Symposium." The ACLU obtained it through a Freedom of Information Act request.

"Nothing that Direct Action has ever done has been violent," said Direct Action member Tommy Simon, an English and social relations junior. "It is foolish. It's a propaganda tool to scare people away. What happened to Direct Action is obviously an abuse of powers within the Patriot Act.

"The Patriot Act set a precedent that the government no longer has to abide by the freedom of speech we are guaranteed."

Direct Action has members who are or were MSU students.

The FBI document details a meeting that took place on January 23, 2002 and states the Secret Service, FBI and MSU Department of Police and Public Safety, among others, met to discuss the activities of various groups who were thought to be involved in terrorist activities statewide.

Richard Licht, a supervisor senior resident agent at the FBI post in Lansing, said the document doesn't state the groups are terrorist organizations - they simply were discussed in a meeting about terrorist activities.

"It is a mischaracterization of this document," he said. "It talks about protests that take place. What this documents reflects is information the groups have posted as public information."

A statement released by the FBI Monday afternoon echoed Licht's comments, reporting that someone outside the bureau made presentations to the FBI about BAMN and Direct Action. It went on to state the FBI does not make any judgments about the groups in the document.

Since the war in Iraq began, the U.S. Department of Justice has tried to increase its police powers, said Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. Because of this, Freedom of Information Act requests were filed across 16 states to obtain documents regarding FBI investigations.

"We wanted to explore to what degree police might be abusing the powers that they have," Moss said. "We want to see what they have in their files."

This is how information about investigations into the actions of groups operating in the greater Lansing area was uncovered, Moss said.

Simon said Direct Action hasn't discussed the document at its meetings, but the group plans to publicize its fight against them.

The national leaders of BAMN said they also plan to fight the accusations, not only for themselves, but for every civil rights group throughout the county.

"We feel strongly that the American people have a right to know their government is spying on its citizens," co-chairman Luke Massie said. "We happen to have been in the wave of attacks on civil liberties.

"This government can't get away with spying on its own people."

Although the document does not contain how information about the groups was collected, some say they are concerned that illegal surveillance methods could have been utilized.

"How they got that information is an open question," Moss said. "That is a very important question. It was not clear from their statement."

Members of the FBI don't use illegal surveillance methods because it is a violation of federal law, Licht said.

"There is a lot of misconception about what we do out there," he said. "(Surveillance) is not an accurate portrayal of what we do."

Kris Turner can be reached at turne112@msu.edu.


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