FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

My Adventures with the FBI

I was sitting at home on July 31st when the phone rang and the caller ID said Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI wanted to know if they could come to my place and talk to me. So I asked what he wanted to talk to me about.

It all started a few days earlier when I went to a public hearing on the Army Corps of Engineers proposal to build a fish bypass for a dam by me on the Mississippi River.

The Army gave a powerpoint presentation. They showed the initial alternatives they considered including dam removal. When they discussed this alternative they had a picture of a dam being blown up (as that is how you remove a dam). Then they indicated the alternatives under consideration which did not include dam removal.

When it came time for public comments, I indicated they should develop the dam removal alternative. I pointed out how the dams cost the tax payers billions of dollars and do all kinds of massive environmental damage. The local paper misquoted me as saying, ” JIM BENSMAN of Alton said he would like to see the dam blown up and resents paying taxes to fix dam problems when it is barge companies that profit from the dam.”

So when the FBI told me they were investigating me as a terrorist because of that story, I was shocked. How stupid could the FBI be to think a terrorist would go to a public hearing and announce their plan to the Army. Certainly any intelligent person could figure out even if the quote was correct it was obviously meant for the Army to blow up the dam to remove it.

I asked the FBI why they were wasting their time on something this stupid. He told me they have to investigate everything. So I brought up when I got a threatening letter in the mail (I suspected it was from someone with the Forest Service). I took the letter to the FBI. They refused to investigate. The agent said my file indicates that was because the US Attorney said there was not a case. But there is a case here?

Their complete stupidity (it is no wonder they blotched the 911 attacks) would be funny if it was not for the Patriot Act, signing statements, secret spying programs, etc. When it is this easy to get labeled as a suspected terrorist, Bush’s claims that they are only spying on suspected terrorist does not give me any comfort.

After talking to me for a while the FBI asked if it was OK for him to come to my place and talk to me if his boss wanted this. I told him I did not know. So he told me he was going to put down that I was not cooperating.

So I consulted an attorney on what to do. I was advised to send the FBI a copy of the Army’s powerpoint presentation so they could see the Army was talking about blowing up the dams.

I then talked to the FBI agent again and he told me the investigation was closed and I am not on any terrorist list. He indicated there is something in my file that indicates I was talked to. The FBI agent was indigent that I would think the FBI would do something like this for political purposes. I asked why they were investigating Quakers for their antiwar activists and brought up past abuses such as Dr. King.

Finally, he told me it was the Army Corps of Engineers who called him. If true, that explains a lot and I can understand why they would investigate if the Army asks them to. He would not tell me who called the FBI.

There is no way anyone in the Corps could possibly think I was a terrorist. I’ve been fighting the dams and in their face for decades. The Army, more than anyone, would know even if it was a correct quote the context was I wanted them to consider the alternative the Army developed to blow up the dam. The person who ran the meeting emailed me, “NO one from the Corps that knows you or that was at the meeting was concerned in the least. When I heard of the FBI goings on I was more than surprised.” The reporter whose story the FBI cited told me, “That is just crazy. I don’t see how anyone in that room would have taken your comments in a negative, threatening way considering your seemingly humorous demeanor, joking, etc. while still making your point about barges footing the bills, etc. and preferring the dam go away. What a ridiculous waste of government time on all their parts.”

This clearly is an outrageous abuse of power and a violation of the First Amendment. Furthermore, if the FBI is harassing citizens to further the Army’s political agenda, they are not working to catch the real terrorists.

JIM BENSMAN works for Heartwood in Alton, Illinois.

 

 

More articles by:
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail