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How Many Black Lives Matter Protests Have the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force Helped Police Track?

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Black Lives Matter protest on December 20 th at Mall of America
(Image by Nicholas Upton)
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Reprinted from dissenter.firedoglake.com

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A supervisor with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force office in Minneapolis, Minnesota, helped police monitor a Black Lives Matter protest last December.

The Intercept obtained an email from a St. Paul police officer and FBI JTTF member, David S. Langfellow, which informed a Bloomington police officer that a "confidential human source" has "confirmed" the Mall of America "protest I was talking to you about today" for the 20th of December at 2 pm. JTTF supervisor and FBI special agent in the Minneapolis office, Jeffrey VanNest, was copied on the email. (The email was not published.)

Journalist Lee Fang obtained a statement from an unnamed FBI spokesperson, who claimed the source was not an infiltrator but rather a "tipster with whom Mr. Langfellow" was "familiar." The "tipster had discovered some information while on Facebook" that "some individuals" might engage in vandalism at the Mall of America protest.

From The Intercept report:

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Upon receiving the email, Bloomington police officer and task force member Benjamin Mansur forwarded it to Bloomington's then-deputy police chief Rick Hart, adding "Looks like it's going to be the 20th"" It was then forwarded to all Bloomington police command staff. There is no mention of potential vandalism anywhere in the email chain, and no vandalism occurred at the Mall of America protest.

The spokesperson admitted the FBI had no "interest" in the Black Lives Matter campaign and acknowledged that the FBI is not supposed to interfere with First Amendment-protected activities. He apparently recognized that "vandalism" is not something local police on JTTF are supposed to be preventing, preempting or investigating as terrorism acts. And, as for why Langfellow would have copied VanNest, the spokesperson chose to speculate that it was just a "matter of courtesy."

The official statement put out by the unnamed FBI spokesperson is at least better than how the FBI responded to allegations that it was coordinating with police responding to Occupy protests. The FBI maintained reported allegations were false. Yet, in this case, the FBI is claiming that police are merely being "courteous" when they provide information from "tipsters" to the JTTF about protests.

What the spokesperson omits is how numerous FBI agents believe that peaceful protests are events terrorists or "violent anarchists" may "infiltrate" and exploit to "commit criminal acts." The perceived threat is the pretext for taking note of any and all acts of dissent.

Additionally, even though the JTTF is not supposed to be used to investigate or respond to mere acts of property damage, Will Potter of GreenIstheNewRed.com, reported on raids of homes in Portland on July 25, 2012, which JTTF were involved. The FBI claimed they were there for an "ongoing violent crime" investigation yet the agents in paramilitary gear really were targeting "anarchists" suspected of being involved in vandalism that took place at a May Day protest in Seattle.

FBI seized computers, black clothing and any "anarchist" literature they could find. They took a "zip-up hoodie," a glove, and fliers and pamphlets from an Occupy action that anyone could have been given if they had walked by the action. It was all to see if any individuals could be connected to what authorities referred to as "May Day riots" and the investigation had nothing to do with combating terrorism.

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In fact, Fang notes that Langfellow, as a JTTF member, was part of a 2008 raid against St. Paul activists ahead of the Republican National Convention RNC.

The FBI targeted and infiltrated multiple groups ahead of the RNC. The agency deployed an informant named Andrew Darst to spy on "anarchists" in the RNC Welcoming Committee. He helped the FBI make arrests of the "RNC 8" days before the RNC. They were initially charged with criminal conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism. (Later, Darst faced charges of assault and burglary in a separate case after he allegedly broke into a house and attacked two men.) The agency also had an infiltrator named "Karen Sullivan" infiltrate the Anti-War Committee in Minneapolis, which was spearheading a major march.

All this COINTELPRO-style targeting of activists can be justified by the belief that this helps the FBI collect intelligence on whether any persons plan to exploit protests and commit acts of violence. This effectively becomes a pretext for disrupting and interfering with planned First Amendment-activities.

While police may out of "courtesy" share information--or intelligence--with FBI supervisors when they are planning responses to protests, it is more likely that this coordination isas routine as it was shown to be in documents released to independent journalist Yana Kunichoff, which showed the FBI spied on Occupy Chicago and helped police keep tabs on Occupy protesters.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for OpEdNews.com

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