The New York Times reported on Wednesday a story detailing the FBI’s surveillance operations, which were deployed at racial justice protests in the city and at demonstrations during President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January.
Some FBI agents reportedly stood “shoulder to shoulder with activists, tailing vandalism suspects to guide the local police toward arrests and furtively videotaping” protesters during the wave of demonstrations, despite concern from some within the bureau that such operations could spark controversy.
Two unnamed officials reportedly told the newspaper that some agents were “worried that the teams could be compared to F.B.I. surveillance transgressions of decades past, such as the COINTELPRO projects that sought to spy on and disrupt various activist groups in the 1950s and 1960s.”
Some FBI agents reportedly wore black clothing in a seeming attempt to blend in with far-left protesters, who have been known to dress in black and wear masks to conceal their identities from law enforcement, and the operations led to the arrests of protesters who damaged property and carried weapons.
Oregon Justice Research Center executive director Bobbin Singh condemned the “insidious tactics,” arguing that they “chill First Amendment expression and erode trust with local officials.”
Former FBI special agent Mike German also criticized the operations, telling The Times that the bureau “should focus its resources on groups engaged in deadly violence, not vandals.”
The alleged surveillance operations are just the latest to have reportedly been used in Oregon against civilian protesters. The Department of Justice was sued this month after its anti-terrorism Oregon TITAN Fusion Center was accused of illegally surveilling environmental protesters – including Native American activists – who protested a gas pipeline in the state.
© 2021, paradox. All rights reserved.