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:
Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail