RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Hanley writes: "As the result of a Freedom of Information suit brought by The Guardian, the FBI has revealed it maintained an open investigation of - the climate activism group founded by Bill McKibben - and its members as part of an ongoing anti-terrorism campaign."

Bill McKibben during a sit-in at the Paris climate summit. (photo: Emma Cassidy/Survival Media Agency)
Bill McKibben during a sit-in at the Paris climate summit. (photo: Emma Cassidy/Survival Media Agency)

Bill McKibben Calls FBI Tracking of Environmental Activists "Contemptible"

By Steve Hanley, CleanTechnica

14 December 18


s the result of a Freedom of Information suit brought by The Guardian, the FBI has revealed it maintained an open investigation of — the climate activism group founded by Bill McKibben — and its members as part of an ongoing anti-terrorism campaign. “Trying to deal with the greatest crisis humans have stumbled into shouldn’t require being subjected to government surveillance,” McKibben says. “But when much of our government acts as a subsidiary of the fossil fuel industry, it may be par for the course.” He added the FBI’s apparent failure to distinguish between nonviolent civil disobedience and domestic terrorism was contemptible.

The case centered on three people who drove more than 5 hours from Iowa to participate in a protest at a BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana on the shores of Lake Michigan. That refinery is one of the largest in North America. The three friends — Jonas Magram, Thom Krystofiak and Inga Frick — are all in their 60s. They were participating in the Break Free event organized by, which drew more than 30,000 protesters around the world.

All three assumed they would be arrested in Indiana. None of them expected to be included in an FBI probe of domestic terrorism, however. “It is very, very troubling that those of us who are committed to protecting life on our planet through peaceful protest would be regarded as suspected enemies of the state.”

Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow at the Brennan Center, tells The Guardian that tracking the three protesters’ activities in Indiana by the FBI is concerning. “The fact that the FBI is tracking civil disobedience arrests and logging that information into FBI files is quite troubling,” he said. In the absence of intelligence indicating a planned act of violence, he says there was little justification for creating such a file on individual activists.

A review by the Inspector General for the US Department of Justice in 2010 found the FBI had improperly tracked activist groups such as Greenpeace and the Catholic Worker solely because they engaged in nonviolent protests. In 2015, another exposé by The Guardian revealed the FBI had once again violated its own rules by conducting an investigation into protesters opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline. As a result of that illegal action, one of the protesters later discovered he had been placed on a government “no fly” list.

Free Speech Is For Corporations, Not For Citizens

The Supreme Court in its infinite wisdom has declared corporations are entitled to the same right of free speech as American citizens under the US Constitution. That is curious, since the courts and law enforcement have all but abrogated the right of free speech for citizens in the aftermath of 9/11. America, which used to pride itself on its fiercely independent “spit in your eye” attitude, is now a place in which people are quaking in their boots, afraid of their own shadows, and suspicious of anyone who speaks out.

Security and incarceration have become big business with billions of dollars in profits to be made. The extent to which corporate America will go to suppress dissent was on full display at Standing Rock in North Dakota in 2016. Now that the alleged president has revived the Dakota Access pipeline, the companies that stand to profit from it are once again plotting a campaign of terror against protesters.

Weaponizing Anti-Protest Sentiment

Former FBI agent Mike German tells The Guardian the demonization of protest groups such as which engage in nonviolent direct action has helped fuel a militant police reaction to protesters. “It creates a cycle where the drum beat of warning about potential danger from these things leads to a certain kind of response that increases the police violence that occurs at these protests,” German says.

Email This Page your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+7 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-12-14 20:21
This is a good article for all the readers of RSN who have been celebrating the FBI and Mueller and Comey. This is what the FBI has always done. It has surveilled, infiltrated, disrupted, and framed every social activist group ever to exist in the US since the FBI was created in the 1910s. The FBI is a GESTAPO -- a secret political police. It's job is to suppress political dissent and organizing among citizens for issues they care about.

The US has a very big problem with the FBI. It believes it is an "independent" agency and answers to no one. It is a law unto itself. We can't have a democracy as long as the FBI exists -- as this article makes painfully clear. We are in real trouble. And there is no way out. The FBI has all the power.
+6 # DurangoKid 2018-12-14 23:11
The US is a corporate capitalist state. Environmentalis ts are a threat to capital accumulation. The FBI exists to counter threats to the state. It's perfectly rational. Did really think they would escape the notice of the FBI? Are their motives so pure that the government and the corporations that control it would just go along with their agenda out of the goodness of their hearts? Governments are not moral agents. They deal in power relationships. The power to dissuade the unwashed hordes is power too much. On the upside, to be perceived as a threat means has potential. So there's that.
+5 # Helene 2018-12-15 00:29
I am saddened and frankly horrorfied to learn that our FBI is disrupting
People and Agencies that are doing the work to care for our nation, now under siege. I have been looking at the FBI to help us navigate this corrupt administration. This only increases the Power of the extreme right and Nationalism working to take over what has been a
Free Country, America. Bill Mc Kibben is an American Hero!
+1 # johnescher 2018-12-15 07:58
The FBI is both bad and good. That must be hard to understand.
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-12-15 12:55
I would agree that local and state police are both good and bad. But this is hard to see about the FBI. I can't think of any good, only bad. They do a lot of public relations to shine up their image but it is all image.
+4 # pushingforpeace 2018-12-15 08:34
Progressives are in the uncomfortable position of rooting for the FBI because of the Mueller/Comey investigation, but Trump'a nepotism, lying, tax evasion, cover-ups of bribery should've disqualified him for public service from the very beginning of this farce. Why aren'
t they going after all the election fraud?
+5 # Kootenay Coyote 2018-12-15 09:19
Meanwhile, the FBI ignores such national treasures as the KKK & Hells Angels. Go figure….
0 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2018-12-15 12:58
Long ago retired FBI agent Delmar Dennis who had been an FBI infiltrator in the KKK said that the FBI is happy with the KKK because they have totally penetrated it and is in control of everything the KKK does. This is probably the same with most crime gangs.

I was an anti-war protestor in the 60s and 70s. We often met to discuss plans. Several times we met with Black Panther groups about colluding with their efforts. At every meeting, we announced that there were FBI informants presents or they had the room bugged. Everything we said was known to the FBI. Very many people were framed up by the FBI for crimes they did not commit.
-5 # BKnowswhitt 2018-12-15 12:56
“Trying to deal with the greatest crisis humans have stumbled into shouldn’t require being subjected to government surveillance,” The Rabid Left McKibben .. so wrong on this stuff .. if they investigate him .. then to be fair they should all the major networks that proliferate the very same lies .. all politically driven .. how 'bout marching for healthcare for poor .. or affordable housing in cities .. working class .. real issues .. that would be worthy of fighting for .. like we did in the 60's when the issues were Real .. not phoney like this one ..
-2 # chapdrum 2018-12-15 14:22
This mentality is one of the reasons I don't trust Mueller (former FBI head) to do the requisite, thorough swamp-draining.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.