A federal appeals court involving antiwar activists who were secretly infiltrated by US military spies has ruled in favor of the activists, marking the first time a court has endorsed the people’s ability to sue the military for violating their First and Fourth Amendment rights.
“Declassified documents obtained by Students for a Democratic Society and Port Militarization Resistance,” reports Democracy Now, “revealed a man everyone knew as ‘John Jacob’ was in fact John Towery,” who was assigned by the government to spy on the Washington state-based antiwar groups.
Towery was dispatched from a “fusion center,” or intelligence center, as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s post-9/11 anti-terrorism surveillance powers.
In October, the Senate Homeland Security subcommittee reviewed more than 600 reports that had come out of these so-called fusion centers and found the giant bureaucracy surrounding the program produced almost nothing that had to do with countering terrorist threats.
Instead, the government spy networks snooped on political activists and infiltrated groups that were peacefully exercising their constitutional rights to free speech.
“The centers have made headlines for circulating information about Ron Paul supporters, the ACLU, activists on both sides of the abortion debate, war protesters and advocates of gun rights,” according to the Associated Press.
The court ruling is potentially precedent-setting, although Towery’s lawyers may appeal the decision.
“This has never been done before,” said Larry Hildes, an attorney with National Lawyers Guild, who is handling the case. “The US government has spied on political dissidents throughout history and this particular plot lasted through two presidencies, but never before has a court said that we can challenge it the way we have.”