FBI probes SOA Watch

On May 4 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Georgia released documents on investigations by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into the US human rights group School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch). The group organizes massive demonstrations each year outside Fort Benning, Georgia, to call for the closing of the US military’s Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC, formerly the US Army School of the Americas), a training school for Latin American soldiers whose graduates include many of the worst human rights violators in Latin America.

The documents showed that after 2001 the FBI made surveillance of the annual demonstrations a “priority” for “counterterrorism” monitoring–even though an October 2003 memo noted that “[t]he leaders of the SOA Watch have taken strides to impart upon the protest participants that the protest should be a peaceful event.” The agency was apparently concerned that “[t]he event has grown dramatically over the past several years.” The ACLU received the documents as a result of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests it filed on behalf of more than 150 organizations and individuals as part of a campaign to expose domestic spying by the FBI and other government agencies. (SOA Watch press release, May 4)

During the week of June 5 Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) is expected to introduce an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations bill in the US House of Representatives that would cut funding for WHINSEC. SOA Watch is urging people to call their representatives through the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202-224-3121 or toll-free at 888-355-3588 on June 6 and June 7 to ask them to support the amendment. (SOA Watch Special Legislative Update, June 1)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 4

See our last post on the SOA and the surveillance state.