Federal Court Gives Go-Ahead to Challenge Military’s Right to Spy on Peace Activists

Saturday, December 29, 2012
John Towery

Peace activists in Washington state have been allowed by a federal appeals court to proceed with their lawsuit against the U.S. military and other federal agencies for spying on them.


In Panagacos v. Towery, the group known as Port Militarization Resistance claims John Towery, an employee at a fusion center inside a local Army base, infiltrated their organization for the purpose of collecting information.


Fusion centers are secret intelligence facilities involving the military, homeland security and federal and local law enforcement that are supposed to focus on identifying potential terrorist threats within the U.S.


Port Militarization Resistance organized protests against the use of ports in Washington to ship military supplies to Afghanistan and Iraq.


After learning of Towery’s mission, the activists sued him, as well as the Army, Navy, Air Force, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Homeland Security, and other law enforcement agencies.


District Judge Ronald Leighton dismissed nearly all of the group’s claims, except for the allegations that Towery violated the plaintiffs’ First and Fourth Amendment rights.


Towery appealed the ruling, but the Ninth Circuit sided with the activists and cleared the way for them to proceed with their lawsuit.


The National Lawyers Guild (NLG), which is helping the group, said the appellate decision marked the first time a court has affirmed Americans’ ability to sue the military for violating their First Amendment (freedom of speech and assembly) and Fourth Amendment (freedom from unreasonable search and seizure) rights.


“This has never been done before,” NLG member attorney Larry Hildes, who is handling the case, said in a press release. “The U.S. government has spied on political dissidents throughout history and this particular plot lasted through two presidencies, but never before has a court said that we can challenge it the way we have.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Court Rules Peace Activists Can Sue The U.S. Military For Infiltration (National Lawyers Guild)

Military 'Spies' Face Trial for Disturbing Protests (by Tim Hull, Courthouse News Service)

Julianne Panacagos v. John Towery (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals)

Paranoid Base Commander Gets Restraining Order against Protesters Who’ve Never Heard of Him(by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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