community-based, non-corporate, participatory media

About Contact Us Policies Mailing Lists Radio Video Publish! Calendar Search

View article without comments

FBI Visits TMC Intern and Staff
by tmc Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005 at 12:22 PM

Yesterday [Wednesday, January 26] Bill Parks, an agent with the Pittsburgh Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) visited the home of an intern and a staff member of the Thomas Merton Center.

Yesterday [Wednesday, January 26] Bill Parks, an agent with the Pittsburgh Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) visited the home of an intern and a staff member of the Thomas Merton Center. The two arrived home to find a hand written note on their front door (inside two other normally locked doors in the building) that said “Please call Bill Parks at 412-432-4410. Thanks, Bill.” The note made no mention of who he was or why he was stopping by. Upon getting in touch with Mr. Parks, he requested a meeting with one of them to “talk about some things” and indicated he was with the FBI. Mr. Parks also stated that the individual wasn’t under investigation, this wasn’t about protesting or civil disobedience but he wanted to talk about some people the individual may have run into lately, that he wouldn’t disclose the nature of his investigation, and that “if he’d wanted to hassle him, he would have called last week” (we assume this is a reference to the individual’s attendance at the counter-inauguration protests in DC). At this point the individual stated he would not meet or talk and that his lawyer would get back to Mr. Parks.

It is clear from the FBI’s nationwide conduct over the last year that they are engaged in a pattern of harassment and intimidation against the left and that phone calls, visits to work and home places, and other type of contact are a large part of this. If there is any type of legitimate investigation in progress we would like to know its nature and what, if anything, it has to do with activists involved with the TMC.

What you can do to help:

We still don’t know if this is an isolated incident or if this is the beginning of the wider harassment progressives in other cities have been experiencing. If you or anyone you know is contacted by the FBI please let us know, call the TMC at 412-361-3022 (and see the end of this messages for what you should do if contacted).

The TMC is also asking people to contact local council members and our national representative to ask them to look into the FBI’s actions and ensure that no one is being targeted or harassed for their political views.

Congressmen Mike Doyle: Pittsburgh office 412-261-5091

City Council-

Luke Ravenstahl: 412-255-2135

Alan Hertzberg: 412-255-8963

Gene Ricciardi: 412-255-2130

Jim Motznik: 412-255-2131

Doug Shields: 412-255-8965

Sala Udin: 412-255-2134

Len Bodack: 412-255-2140

Bill Peduto: 412-255-2133

Twanda Carlisle: 412-255-2137

We would also like to remind people of the background information the TMC sent out a couple months ago in regards to FBI harassment of activists around the country. Included in that update:

Because there is a possibility that this harassment and intimidation will spread to Pittsburgh, Mike Healy (local lawyer and affiliate of the National Lawyers Guild) has asked the TMC to forward some important information - people should not talk with the FBI without calling him or another lawyer who knows what's up on this stuff. Mike expresses that his major concern is that the interviews will be used to "trap" people into making false statements - it is a federal crime to lie to an FBI Agent. For example, if someone asks, "Do you know Jane Doe, and you say "No" that is a federal crime (if you do indeed know Jane). There is no requirement that the question and the answer even be material to an investigation. No matter what the FBI or local police agents say to you, you DO NOT have to answer any questions. You can simply repeat that you will not answer any questions without first speaking to your attorney- the FBI can leave their card with you and your attorney will call them back.

Mike Healey: National Lawyers guild or 412.391.7711

Vic Walczak: with the ACLU

Here is a link to some more information to be able to prepare yourself for the situation:

add your comments

background: other interviews in pgh
by anonymous muslim Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005 at 7:26 PM

fyi: the fbi has been interviewing Muslim activists locally, their main interest seems to be in figuring out the petty personal politics of who doesn't get along with who and why. They are particularly interested in the activities of African-American activists.

My advice: if you can afford to, do not talk with the FBI. Friends of mine who went through McCarthyism say that once you talk they'll keep coming back to you, and you cannot back out once you start without creating problems. Also, even if they don't find out anything new from you, you will become an additional source of info for them to confirm/disconfirm info. At this point, if u say no they will usually leave u alone, if u talk they will keep coming back.

add your comments

by anonymous muslim Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005 at 7:34 PM


1) one trick the FBI has admitted they may resort to: they may call a grand jury on you to pressure you to talk, do not worry this doesn't mean there are real charges. This has not happened so far over here AFAIK

2) for some idea on where the agents are coming from, one senior agent has said that if you are opposed to the war on Iraq you should be investigated because you may be a violent supporter of Saddam Hussein.

3) if u are reported by someone else, be prepared for them to ask u why someone would report you as someone to be investigated

add your comments

by anonymous muslim Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005 at 7:50 PM

one more point - these FBI agents are clever, don't try to outsmart them and find out what they're upto if you don't want to talk to them. If u don't want to talk the only words u should say are "talk to my lawyer", and then let the lawyer handle it from there (even if all the lawyer will do is say "this person will not talk"). Don't try to be a hero, they may trip you up and get you to say something you didn't want to say while you're trying to figure out their game.

Also, they usually come in twos, and if applicable there may be an immigration agent that comes with them who will check your papers. Another thing happening locally is that FBI agents are calling people saying they are doing work for other federal agencies that are overworked, that they want to ask non-FBI questions. They also like to come at 6 am, if they are coming unannounced.

add your comments

by someone Thursday, Jan. 27, 2005 at 9:49 PM

anonymous muslim, i was just wondering if you could provide a bit more information on what they are asking, especially some more details concerning them asking specifically about african american activists

thank you

add your comments

re: question
by anonymous muslim Friday, Jan. 28, 2005 at 4:18 AM

as far as Muslim activists, they have a standard list of questions within which their real questions are mixed. The standard list asks about information on attacks or if they know people with strong political views. The real questions, which are thrown randomly in the middle and can surprise someone who's not prepared, are as I wrote earlier about the current state of who doesn't get along with who and why.

Their main questions about African-American activists, who they ask about most specifically from what I can tell, are along similar lines. They want to know about African-American activists with a high level of national consciousness, they want to know how they get along with other activists, why splits are happening, what the political agenda is of nationally conscious activists, basically anything they can find out. It doesn't seem too different from what they would need to know to do some kind of COINTELPRO at some point in the future.

The info they get is not anything the rank-and-file in any community would not know. In general a lot of their questions come from DC (and are and not the local office).

IMHO, usually the people they approach to talk with are not the people they are really interested in, but can give the FBI info on who is who and also about the orientation and level of isolation of African-American activists.

add your comments

Why are FBI agents bothering people NOW?
by Another concerned citizen Friday, Jan. 28, 2005 at 7:11 AM

Why bother people now? Is the second wave of the Patriot Act, as the FBI primes the way for the passage of the Victory Act by demonstrating that it has already put the Patriot Act into practice? I'm afraid that if not enough people raise hell about this, the FBI, DOJ, Dept. of Homeland Security, and other federal, state, and local policing agencies will use public complacency to justify invasive practices on the principle that "people complied with our requests, so we're not doing anything wrong."

Aren't people mad as hell about this?? Why now? Why is the FBI bothering people so selectively, especially when agents are trying to behave in a seemingly innocuous manner? It's NOT in the public's best interest to comply with this request, no matter how hard policing agencies try to persuade the public that they know what's in their "best interest."

How do we show them (apart from publishing articles like this -- Thanks, TMC) that we're watching them?

add your comments

re: why now
by anonymous muslim Friday, Jan. 28, 2005 at 8:02 AM

these waves of questioning have been going on for several years. They do come in waves of 2-3 days, in the Muslim community we get waves of 3-4 people questioned every month or every other month (and those are just the ones we know about), so from my perspective it's not that novel. We have to consider the social conditions when asking why isn't hell raised, social problems require social solutions. Specifically this means providing support to individuals and communities that are affected until they are ready to lead effective opposition, and centering work on this problem around social groups affected as a class, as they are the ones who have the most promising interest in ending this problem for good and for real.

add your comments

by jjj Friday, Jan. 28, 2005 at 11:28 AM


Most of the local FBI harassment has to do with the JTTF's (Joint Terrorism Task Forces)- basically it's local police personal and resources combined to work on stuff that usually only one would handle. City council has to approve and renew the co-operation agreement between the city and the feds for the JTTF. In Portland they have been waging a long and farely sucessful campaign to stop the JTTF. People should send a clear message to council- if the harassment of people continues then don't support the JTTF.


add your comments

re: jttf
by anonymous muslim Friday, Jan. 28, 2005 at 1:17 PM

as far as local police are concerned, they have no involvement with these interviews. We have to look at this problem objectively. The FBI has enough resources to do political interviews without any police involvement, and that's what they've been doing. Of all the cases I know of not once has a municipal employee been involved, and this is not surprising at all. The only time police are called is when they are concerned about a violent confrontation - usually that's when the police call in the FBI, not the other way around.

Again, the JTTF may involve police but the police have nothing to do with these interviews, and any cooperation between police and FBI have nothing to do with these interviews AFAIK from several years experience.

add your comments

by fgghfgh Saturday, Jan. 29, 2005 at 8:38 AM

you're missing my point-

it is most often (from the experience of political activists in portland, kansas, etc) FBI agents who are active with the local JTTF who conduct these interviews. And it is the local police who are doing much of the intelligence gathering on local groups like the TMC.

city council must approve local police's participation in these agreements and city resources go towards the JTFF's.

if you can show the JTTF's/FBI are devoting resources to these politically motivated investigations you can begin to make the argument that the city should not be allowing its resources to be used for these purposes.

entities like city- council have much more oversight of the local police than they do of the FBI.

go after them where you can!

add your comments

re: the point
by anonymous muslim Saturday, Jan. 29, 2005 at 8:48 AM

it's very nice to go after city council I'm sure, nothing against that. But this is different from dealing with the problem as it objectively exists (e.g. there is a material difference between police-fbi infiltration/harassment and with the FBI interviewing activists about other activists - I did go thru the portland imc site when you made the reference the first time). Just trying to give some advice on the ends, good luck with whatever you do, I am sure it will be a good thing.

add your comments

by ghfgh Saturday, Jan. 29, 2005 at 9:39 AM

I hope my comment didn't come across as implying city council could solve the problem of FBI harassment of folks (whether it be TMC folks, local muslims, anarchists, etc). Turning the tide is going to take a broad based effort on a lot of fronts. To me city council/JTTF's are one, lawsuits another, etc. I just think when stuff like the incident with the TMC happens it opens a bit of a political opportunity that we don't usually have. It's sad to say, but FBI attempts to interview local muslims doesn't resonate the same with certain individuals and groups as it does when the TMC is the group in question (I certainly don't agree with that just pointing it out). Ideally we should work against all these attempts and use attacks against the TMC to try to constrict the FBI's overall agenda of harassment and intimidation.

these are dark days...
good luck to you as well!

add your comments

FBI sure wastes time
by Ken Sunday, Jan. 30, 2005 at 9:52 AM

i can't understand why the hell the FBI wastes their time bothering local activists. We aren't exactly doing anything huge right now. Believe me i love TMC, POG, etc but this ain't the 60s!! So i don't get why the idiots of the FBI are bugging people. We're no threat to this country (not now at least :)) Only in the FBI and maybe in the minds of a few egotistical, arrogant activists who think they are much bigger than they are does such a threat exist. Who knows. Thanks anyways for the indypgh updates on such things though. You guys/girls are awesome

add your comments

revew your COINTELPRO history
by USAn Sunday, Jan. 30, 2005 at 12:24 PM

Anonymous muslim mentioned this semi-passing, but I will elaborate a bit. These interviews are probably a long-term effort, likely for the porpose of collecting seeds in internal discord and backbiting for later use in sabotaging the effectiveness of activist organizations through undercover agent facilitated finger-pointing, rumor mongering, blackmailing, etc. Sadly, internal discord, conflicting agendas and priorities, and the occasional over-inflated ego* have historically been a problem in left-activist circles and the FBI takes advantage of this - the standard COINTELPRO tactic.

*Please understand this is not a remark about anyone here.

add your comments

by ..... Sunday, Jan. 30, 2005 at 1:44 PM

Just to address Ken's comment.

They take an interest in us now because they've learned from previous movements that it's best to attack, disrupt, and destroy progressive social movement BEFORE they get to a point where they have sufficent weight in society to challenge the state.

The stronger the movement the more ability it has to respond and the earlier you "take it out" the smaller price you'll have to pay.

add your comments

by Ken Sunday, Jan. 30, 2005 at 5:07 PM

I'm painfully aware of the COINTELPRO history and all that but thank you anyways. I'm not talkin about anyone i know personally in POG, TMC, etc in terms of huge egos or anything either i promise. Hopefully i was clear on that but maybe not. Just some i have observed over time i think need a reality check but oh well. The actions and effectiveness we have is what counts and i'm not about to be divisive cuz for any success we need unity, especially if the Feds are gonna start making early attempts to break any success progressives have here and elsewhere.

add your comments

© 2001-2009 Pittsburgh Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not endorsed by the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center.
Disclaimer | Privacy