DHS Officials Target American Activists as a “Foreign Power”
Katelyn Belyus / The Nation
(August 3, 2020) — According to a Department of Homeland Security intelligence report obtained exclusively by The Nation, DHS intelligence officials are targeting American activists they consider Antifa and attempting to tie the activists to a foreign power.
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The intelligence report includes several Americans’ personal information, including Social Security numbers, home addresses, and social media accounts.
While the law generally prohibits intelligence agencies from spying on US citizens, many of those protections do not apply if the individual is believed to be acting as an agent of a foreign power. By linking the activists and a foreign power, the DHS is attempting to circumvent these legal guarantees.
“They targeted Americans like they’re Al Qaeda,” a former senior DHS intelligence officer with knowledge of the operations told The Nation. “They essentially were violating people’s rights like this was the ’60s…the type of shit the Church and Pike committee[s] had to address.”
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Homeland Security Is Quietly Tying Antifa to Foreign Powers
An intelligence report obtained exclusively by The Nation mentions several Americans, including a left-wing podcast host.
(August 3, 2020) — Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intelligence officials are targeting activists it considers “Antifa” and attempting to tie them to a foreign power, according to a DHS intelligence report obtained exclusively by The Nation.
The intelligence report, titled “The Syrian Conflict and its Nexus to the US-based Antifascist Movement,” mentions several Americans, including a left-wing podcast host who traveled to Syria to fight ISIS. The report includes a readout of these individuals’ personal information, including their Social Security numbers, home addresses, and social media accounts, much of the data generated by DHS’s Tactical Terrorism Response Teams. As the intelligence report states, “ANTIFA is being analyzed under the 2019 DHS Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism (CT) and Targeted Violence.”
Dated July 14, the document, marked FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY and LAW ENFORCEMENT SENSITIVE, draws on a blend of publicly available information and state and federal law enforcement intelligence. It was provided to The Nation by a source who previously worked on DHS intelligence.
“They targeted Americans like they’re Al Qaeda” a former senior DHS intelligence officer with knowledge of the operations told The Nation. The officer, who served for years in the DHS’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A), compared the operations to the illegal surveillance of activists during the civil rights era. “They essentially were violating people’s rights like this was the ’60s…the type of shit the Church and Pike committee[s] had to address.”
While the law generally prohibits intelligence agencies from spying on US residents, many of those protections do not apply if the individual is believed to be acting as an agent of a foreign power.
“Designating someone as foreign-sponsored can make a huge legal and practical difference in the government’s ability to pursue them,” explained Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists. “It’s a crucial distinction. Once someone (or some group) is identified as an agent of a foreign power, they are subject to warrantless search and surveillance in a way that would be illegal and unconstitutional for any other US person. The whole apparatus of US intelligence can be brought to bear on someone who is considered an agent of a foreign power.”
Last week, the DHS reassigned its intelligence chief after The Washington Post revealed that the agency had been compiling intelligence reports on American journalists and activists in Portland. In response to President Trump’s executive order to protect monuments and other federal property, the DHS created the “Protecting American Communities Task Force,” which sent DHS assets to Portland and other cities. The agency has found itself in transition under the Trump administration.“They are always pressuring I&A for political reasons; it’s been like that since the election,” the former intelligence officer said.
This weekend, Politico reported that DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli loosened oversight of I&A. Cuccinelli, at I&A’s request, curtailed the requirement that the DHS’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties approve I&A’s intelligence products prior to distribution to law enforcement partners.
The intelligence report’s executive summary states:
In June 2020, US Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) National Targeting Center (NTC) Counter Network Division (CND) compiled CBP encounter data on individuals who returned from Syria and fought with the Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG, translation: PEOPLE’S PROTECTION UNITS), and had some with reported ties to a US-based ANTIFA (Anti-fascist) movement. CBP concerns about and interest in these individuals stem from the types of skills and motivations that may have developed during their time overseas in foreign conflicts.
These skills were also appreciated by the US military, which cooperated with the YPG in fighting ISIS for years. Last year, President Trump enraged many in the US military when he green-lighted a Turkish offensive against the Kurdish militia. Jim Mattis reportedly resigned as defense secretary in part because of what he considered a betrayal of our Kurdish allies.
The FBI Finds ‘No Intel Indicating Antifa Involvement’
Trump wants to designate Antifa a terrorist organization, despite lack of authority and evidence of wrongdoing
(June 2, 2020) — The FBI’s Washington Field Office “has no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement/presence” in the violence that occurred on May 31 during the D.C.-area protests over the murder of George Floyd, according to an internal FBI situation report obtained exclusively by The Nation.
That same day, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he would designate “Antifa” a terrorist organization, even though the government has no existing authority to declare a domestic group a terrorist organization, and Antifa is not an organized group. Following the president’s tweet, Attorney General William Barr said in a statement, “The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.”
The FBI report, however, states that “based on CHS [Confidential Human Source] canvassing, open source/social media partner engagement, and liaison, FBI WFO has no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement/presence.” The statement followed a list of violent acts like throwing bricks at police and the discovery of a backpack containing explosive materials, which were flagged by the FBI under a “Key Updates” section of the report.
The FBI has been issuing such reports daily since the weekend, according to a Bureau source, who added that none of these documents contained any evidence of Antifa violence.
Antifa, short for “anti-fascist,” is a type of militant anti-racist, anti-nationalist organizing that does not rely on the justice system to confront the far right. Groups associated with Antifa have destroyed property and committed violence in the past, but the fact that the FBI’s situation reports cannot find any evidence of such involvement now suggests that fears about such groups may be exaggerated.
The report did warn that individuals from a far-right social media group had “called for far-right provocateurs to attack federal agents, use automatic weapons against protesters.” (The Nation is withholding the name of the group in order to not disrupt any potential law enforcement investigations.)
Last year, FBI documents obtained by this reporter showed that the Bureau has listed “Racially Motivated Violent Extremists” among its top counterterrorism priorities. While those priorities did include white supremacist groups, they also included what the FBI called “Black Identity Extremists.” The documents reveal that the Bureau linked “retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement” to the “shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri,” from which the Black Lives Matter movement originated.
The report, marked “For official use only” (FOUO), was provided to The Nation by an FBI official on condition of anonymity. The report is titled, “Civil Unrest in Washington AOR [Area of Responsibility] Following Death of George Floyd.” The report’s reference to “CHS” suggests that the Bureau possesses secret informants participating in the protests.
Asked about the report and why they’ve been unable to substantiate Antifa involvement in the violence, the FBI’s Washington Field Office declined to comment.
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