The FBI improperly investigated some left-leaning U.S. advocacy groups after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, says a Justice Department’s inspector general report quoted by the Washington Post, citing cases in which agents put activists on terrorist watch lists while planning nonviolent civil disobedience. Inspector General Glenn Fine cleared the FBI of the most serious allegation: that groups were targeted purely for their activism against the Iraq war and other political activity, which would have violated their First Amendment rights.
The report cited “troubling” FBI practices in the Bush administration’s monitoring of domestic groups. FBI officials falsely said an agent photographed antiwar demonstrators as part of a terrorism investigation, which led FBI Director Robert Mueller unintentionally to give incorrect information to Congress. Agents investigated members of the environmental advocacy group Greenpeace over protest activities “with little or no basis,” the report said. Agents kept the case open for more than three years, though no charges were filed, and put the activists on a terrorist watch list. The groups monitored, which include a Catholic organization that advocates for peace, compared the FBI’s actions to questionable domestic spying tactics the bureau used against antiwar demonstrators and others in the 1960s under J. Edgar Hoover.