FBI Keeps and Eye on BAM-N

As a number of people have emailed to tell me, the ACLU announced that two peaceful Michigan political groups – BAM-N and Direct Action – were mentioned in an FBI report about domestic terrorism:

The document released today is an FBI report labeled, “Domestic Terrorism Symposium,” and describes a meeting that was intended to “keep the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies apprised of the activities of the various groups and individuals within the state of Michigan who are thought to be involved in terrorist activities.”

Among the groups mentioned are Direct Action, an anti-war group, and BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), a national organization dedicated to defending affirmative action, integration, and other gains of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The FBI acknowledges in the report that the Michigan State Police has information that BAMN has been peaceful in the past.

“Labeling political advocacy as ‘terrorist activity’ is a threat to legitimate dissent which has never been considered a crime in this country,” said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. “Spying on people who simply disagree with our government’s policies is a tremendous waste of police resources.” …

The ACLU launched its nationwide effort last year in response to widespread complaints from students and political activists who said they were questioned by FBI agents in the months leading up to the 2004 political conventions. The FOIAs seek two kinds of information: 1) the actual FBI files of groups and individuals targeted for speaking out or practicing their faith; and, 2) information about how the practices and funding structure of the task forces, known as JTTFs, may be encouraging rampant and unwarranted spying.

I detest BAM-N because they are militant, sectarian Trotskyites (which strongly resembles a cult) whose politics are detrimental to the goals of pragmatic progressive change I advocate, and I personally dislike many of the individuals in BAM-N who are dogmatic bullies. That said, in the course of my extensive research of BAM-N, which includes detailed interviews with former members and a survey of virtually every news story printed about them, I have never found a shred of evidence they have done anything illegal except perhaps encouraging their younger members to get into fights and throw things at political demonstrations. Unless the FBI knows something I don’t, I fear they are barking up the wrong tree.

> See the complete ACLY press release: “FBI Document Labels Michigan Affirmative Action and Peace Groups as Terrorists”
> What’s the deal with BAM-N? Read my archives here.

Author: Rob Goodspeed


  1. Rob, I can’t believe you are being an apologist – the evidence of BAMN’s violent tendencies is pervasive. You think “throwing rocks” (alt is just a small thing? Its part of a pattern of intentional intimidation. They get away with it most of the time PRECISELY BECAUSE THE SYSTEM IS GEARED TO PROTECT FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS. This is as it should be – they should be given a presumption of innocence and a high standard should be held to any punishment for those engaged in speech. But that doesn’t mean the police shouldn’t monitor their public activities.

    Have you read this document by the FBI that the ACLU fraudulent portrays as 1) a characterization of BAMN as “terrorist” 2) that the FBI has used illegal activities (Kary Moss sort of admits there’s “no evidence” for this, she just flatly ignores [intentionally – she’s not that dumb otherwise] the document’s counter-evidence against it — the FBI surfed the web and asked local police agencies about observations at protests). The document is clear that the FBI was merely recording reports from a state police agency, which in turn was making observations from public records, about known groups that have espoused violence and illegal behavior (and if BAMN has engaged in it, it provably has espoused it). There is nothing nefarious in the FBI documents – the ACLU has contorted them beyond belief for dubious political value when it has alot more valuable fights on “real” problems with the Patriot Act and when the ACLU should be defending individuals who have really been affected. If the ACLU was a reflection of Nat Hentoff’s razor-sharp mind, rather than the mouthpiece it has become, it’d regain some of the glory it had in the 60s and 70s when it actually did some good work defending the First Amendment.

    Rob, I challenge you to read that memo and do the intellectually honest thing. Call the ACLU out for wasting the public’s attention on an issue that the FBI has done nothing wrong on. It destroys their credibility – just as BAMN’s incessant crying wolf about MCRI destroys their own – when they have a valid claim.

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