Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) training materials warn of domestic activists engaging in non-violent civil disobedience, making Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, and gathering in internet cafes and coffee shops, according to a document obtained through a FOIA request made by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Asian Law Caucus and the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and made public on May 29, 2012. The heavily redacted document suggests the FBI is training agents to identify and investigate “domestic terrorist” groups such as animal rights activists and environmentalists engaging in protected First Amendment activities.
In presentations on “Anarchist Extremism,” the FBI warns:
  • Anarchists are “Criminals seeking an ideology to justify their activities”

  • Anarchists are “Not dedicated to a particular cause”

  • Green anarchists believe “individuals should ‘get back to nature’”

The document also warns that anarchists may have “crossover ideologies” including animal rights and environmental concerns, and informs law enforcement officials that their meeting locations include “college campuses, underground clubs, coffee houses/ internet cafes.”
According to Will Potter, a freelance journalist who has written on these issues, the document offers “insight into a disturbing pattern of FBI activity misrepresenting political activists as “terrorists” and manufacturing “domestic terrorism threats” where none exist, akin to the notorious COINTELPRO program of J. Edgar Hoover.”
The ACLU’s Mike German, a former FBI agent, identified three concerns with the training materials:
  • “First, for the FBI to produce training programs that portray groups as violent threats based on old and misleading evidence and false associations is improper, and can only misdirect investigative resources….Second, the presentations’ focus on the unconventional ideologies of these modern groups tends to suggest a direct connection between belief and violence, which will again lead to inappropriate investigations based on First Amendment-protected activities rather than evidence of criminal conduct. Finally, even where these inappropriate investigations based on race and ideology fail to find evidence of violence, under its new rules the FBI may continue to pursue these groups under what it calls a “disruption strategy.””