Retired Quakers Considered Credible Threat by Bush Spies

[Editor’s note: Two stories from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel were used in compiling this post]

A South Florida peace group is calling for a congressional investigation of domestic surveillance after finding itself a target.

The Truth Project, a group of largely Quaker retired folks, uses puppets, placards, and home-printed flyers to warn high school students about heavy-handed military recruiting efforts. Its targeting was uncovered this week in a Department of Defense document.

“I’m disabled, I’m 59 and if I’m a credible threat to the government of the United States, then either the government is terribly paranoid or terribly weak”

The 400-page document obtained by NBC described the group as both a “threat” and “credible…”

“I’m disabled, I’m 59 and if I’m a credible threat to the government of the United States, then either the government is terribly paranoid or terribly weak,” said Rich Hersh of Boca Raton…

[Michael] Foley, [associate professor of politics at Catholic University] said spying on groups like the Truth Project can be an inefficient use of government time and money. “There’s a lot of retirees, a lot of older people who are involved in protesting,” he said. “There’s not much alarming here. What do you expect Quakers to do?”

The government’s spy skills are almost as subtle as the activists are threatening.

[One member] said his group…has attracted government agents to meetings in private homes. Though the agents were disguised as anarchists, Del Papa said their footwear gave them away: Nike or Reebok running shoes, which to anarchists represent corporate greed.

“No anarchist is going to wear Nikes or Reeboks to a protest,” Del Papa said…

…several people reported hearing mysterious clicks and echoes during recent telephone conversations and noticing cars they considered suspicious pass by during meetings.

During one outdoor gathering by a Lake Worth canal, Marie Zwicker said she had seen men in a Boston Whaler cruise by, posing, unconvincingly, she added, as fishermen. “It was the wrong time of day,” she said.

Bush continues to lie, saying just yesterday that the only people being spied on were those on the giving or receiving end of international phone calls, with links to al Qaeda, or who represent a credible threat to America. He obviously can’t distinguish between someone disagreeing with him and the entire country being under attack. The man is mental and needs some serious – possibly residential – therapy.

Instead, his poll numbers shoot up with every lie, as Americans, eager for it all to go away, accept at face value both Bush lies and guys in suits fishing on a falling tide.


  • stormcrow
    December 21, 2005 - 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Fascism comes on like a dream, and you don’t realize you’re dreaming until you wake up.

  • Dazzled
    December 21, 2005 - 3:46 pm | Permalink

    First the unauthorized wiretaps, then what? Is he going to invoke Presidential Order 14, the Emergency Powers Act of 1941, and start interning anyone who disagrees with him in internment (AKA concentration) camps? What then, he’s going to use the military for civilian purposes by declaring martial law? Then what?

  • December 21, 2005 - 5:39 pm | Permalink

    The article reports that “…several people reported hearing mysterious clicks and echoes during recent telephone conversations…”, but this is not a symptom of law-enforcement or government wiretapping.

    The clicks and echoes (actually, more of a hollow, booming sound) occur when somebody in the same household picks up an extension while somebody else is on the phone. Another click will occur if the extension is replaced during the call. In the US, where phones and extension wiring do not contain “anti-tinkle” circuitry, if the eavesdropping extension is replaced after the call is over then all other extensions in the house are likely to tinkle.

    These facts have been used in good detective and mystery stories over the years to indicate that somebody within the household has been listening in on an extension. They have also been used in bad stories to indicate official wiretapping.

    It is certainly true that if a phone company lineperson clipped a handset to your line for test purposes while you were on a call that the same effects would happen. A lineperson’s handset is, after all, just a ruggedized phone (and has to be nothing more than a phone in order to fully test the line), so would have the same effect as somebody in the same household lifting an extension.

    For many decades, wiretapping equipment that gets clipped to a phone line has not caused clicks or echoes because it is not powered from the phone line, and does not contain noise cancelling circuitry inherent in ordinary phones (to prevent you being deafened by your own voice) that causes booming when two extensions are in use. So no clicks and no echoes.

    With the advent of digital exchanges and FBI-mandated wiretapping provisions, official wiretappers don’t even have to leave the office to tap your phone. And there are definitely no clicks and echoes.

    The only way official wiretapping would create clicks and echoes on your line is if they hoped you believed the myth that those effects meant your line were being tapped and wanted to intimidate you. Which may well be the case here.

  • Lilia Adecer Cajilog
    December 22, 2005 - 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Impeach Bush!! Better yet, banish him to Cuba!


  • jummy
    January 26, 2006 - 12:54 am | Permalink

    the “fishermen” claim sounds like pure paranoia.

    the notion that anarchists never wear nikes because it conflicts with their principals is silly. i’ve had plenty of occasions to get a cheap laugh out of that very sort of thing.

    still, police departments in major metropolitan areas do put undercover cops into protest marches. they are always spotted immediately by friend and foe alike. what is fallacious is the extrapolation of this to the idea that every third person in the social justice movement is a mole. this hysterical claim is an asset to the social justice movement in a couple of ways.

    first, it feeds a persecution myth which justifies “security culture”(in the anarchist parlance) and, to some extent, the fellonious activities it conceals. the crimes committed in the name of social justice don’t nessesarily rise to the level of bombings and murders, although they have. instead, it often fascilitates the use of assumed identities and coordinated direct action and disruption. but most often the paranoid secrecy the social justice movement shrouds itsself in is intended to hide its associations and agendas from the fourth estate and other pivate citizens.

    second, the persecution narrative is used to cast a cloud of plausible deniability upon their activities and is effective in explaining away the dark side of the social justice movement for wide-eyed initiates. “was it anti-war progressives who started the fires at kent state, or was it spooks? or was it a rightiously enraged progressive egged on by a spook?” in this manner, all of the crimes of the black panther party radicals are attributed to the influence of informers.

    often the same person will attribute things they”ve said one day to spooks the next when called to task on it. “reactionaries make us say and do radical things!” silly.

    that is the big lie which pertains to organizing on the progressive left. it’s said that if long-haired cops can be clumsily placed in protest marches, they can’t be held responsible for anything they say or do, for who’s to say that the guy talking about revolution or federal crime at the meeting wasn’t a spook? no one has come foreward with an instance of a cop “infiltrating” a meeting and changing the tone or course of the dialogue. its doubtfull that its ever happened. the organizers of the social justice movement in any given town or sect are so uniformly close-knit and paranoid that not even honest progressives can participate without many months of suspicioun, of their level of radical commitment if not of their good faith.

    what i take most exception to, however, is the portrayal of the afsc (quakers) as mild and innocent church groups adgitating for nothing less principled than pascifism. this is 180 degrees from the truth.

    the quakers are not conventional church-types. they are nearly hostile to doctrinal worship. essentially christ, when invoked, is employed as a sort of tabula rasa upon which they project the current extreme-left cause. they’re “spiritual”, like peyote-eaters, only sober.

    and the quakers are not pascifists, they make the distinction that they oppose “imperialist” war. they support, promote, and at times abet “anti-imperialist” war. for instance, they were vocal apologists of the brutal sandinistan regime of nicaragua. they work often as an umbrella for other “peace churches,” like the mayknoll order of the catholic church, who famously ran guns for the soviet-backed sandinistas as they marched moskito indians off to death camps.

    in the city of chicago, this may be the case elsewhere, the afsc organizes and provides a “pascifist” cover for iww stalinists and rcp maoists who actually hold the plackards and harras recruiters. when it comes time for someone to speak on the record about “counter-recruiting” though, the press is sent to a quaker, who never seems to have to answer any difficult questions.

    one difficult question which could be asked of the quakers, however, is in regards to the friction between their counter-recruitment campaign, which derides and discourages military service, often with demonstrably false information and accompanied by vandalism and phisical harrassment, and their eye’s wide open campaign, which feigns compassion for the very servicemen and women whos volunteerism they condemn.

    here, by the way is the actual link to the quakers’ actual anti-military campaign. as you can see, it looks pretty astro-turf. rather well-funded and well-organized:

    where does the money come from?

    in summary, it’s very likely that, though waging a campaign to sap our military of volunteers in a time of war in itself toes pretty close to the line, these quakers were colluding with islamic radical groups abroad on one level or another. i can easily see the afsc becoming an unambiguously legitimate target for investigation.

    but of course we know that the extent of this “investigation” consists of a folder full of news clippings, so, so what? really.

  • natophonic
    February 5, 2006 - 9:41 pm | Permalink

    jummy’s comment intrigued me, as it’s the only defense I’ve yet seen of wiretapping the Quakers in Florida. It would be even more interesting to know if this is perspective shared in the DoD; the idea that the incident is something to which we should apply occam’s razor, suspect-incompetence-before-conspiracy, “they’re too stupid to tell the difference between a terrorist and a peace protester”, just doesn’t stack up. jummy’s whole “those quakers are just paranoid… but if they not paranoid and people really are out to get them, it’s because quakers materially support terrorists” is the classic defense of someone who knows their position is untenable.

    Having grown up with Quaker schoolmates in Oregon, and having a few Quaker friends in the SF Bay Area, I found jummy’s (completely unsupported) allegations of vandalism, and suspension-of-pacifism when an ‘anti-imperialist war’ is on, pretty laughable. Of course not all Quakers are of a single mind on all topics (see Nixon and Vietnam), but the ones I’ve met stick to principle and are a bit more careful with whom they associate than say, Nixon. For instance, the SF Bay quakers group my friends belong to refused to march in the ANSWER-sponsored pre-Iraq-war protests here because of ANSWER’s pro-violence stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    In his summary, though, the fog lifts: “it’s very likely that, though waging a campaign to sap our military of volunteers in a time of war in itself toes pretty close to the line, these quakers were colluding with islamic radical groups abroad on one level or another.” I.e., opposing the policies of your [republican] government implicates you as a traitor, if you disagree with Dubya you’re a friend of Osama.

    Meanwhile, if you want to see sort of naked power grab that the wiretap mess represents encoded in law, just read the so-called PATRIOT act… from SEC. 411. DEFINITIONS RELATING TO TERRORISM:

    As used in this chapter, the term ‘engage in terrorist activity’ means, in an individual capacity or as a
    member of an organization — ”(I) to commit or to incite to commit, under circumstances indicating an intention to cause
    death or serious bodily injury, a terrorist activity;[…]
    This clause shall not apply to any material support the alien afforded to an organization or individual that has committed terrorist activity, if the Secretary of State, after consultation with the Attorney General, or the Attorney General, after consultation with the Secretary of State, concludes in his sole unreviewable discretion, that this clause should not apply.”;

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