Public Records Request finds Olympia Activists Caught in a National Surveillance Program
From Olympia Works in Progress (print)
By Brendan Maslauskas Dunn
An SDSer (Students for a Democratic Society) in Portland is walking
down the street on May Day. She walks by a police officer sitting
outside a café flipping through photographs of different people the
police plan on identifying at a May Day rally. A picture of her appears
and the cop stares at it for a while.
Two SDSers are marching at a poor people’s march in St. Paul during
the Republican National Convention. They strike up a conversation with
a marcher who claims he is in New York City SDS and an Air Force
veteran from New Jersey. He starts spreading false rumors about
prominent activists in SDS and then attempts to incite the two Olympia
SDSers to commit acts of violence at the march.
A stranger creates a Facebook account and starts friending members
of Iraq Veterans Against the War, SDS, and anarchists in Olympia,
Tacoma and Seattle. She has Animal Liberation Front, Earth Liberation
Front, and SDS pictures on her profile and bomb-making instructions.
Nobody seems to know her, but she’s apparently a very accomplished
activist in the region. She’s taken an interest in IVAW, SDS, and the
anarchist group Common Action. A friend of hers has also appeared out
Thurston County Sheriffs hack onto the private attorney-client
listserv and gather information to disrupt an activist trial in 2007
and have the trial dismissed on the fault of the defense. They, and
possibly other agencies, repeatedly attempt to sign on to activist
listservs in the northwest, especially at times leading up to port
Secret cameras appear across the street from the anarchist Pitchpipe
Infoshop in Tacoma. Strangers appear at events Pitchpipe organizes and
take information, a head count and leave, just as soon as they had
During the Port of Grays Harbor Actions in 2007, a group of
activists is pulled over en route to Aberdeen by State troopers. “Three
known anarchists” were in the car according to police, and there was
some sort of tracking on the car. There were pictures of a car the
driver had been driving the other day in the police cruiser.
Sound scary? That’s just the beginning of it.
A number of public records requests were just received from a
request through the Olympia General Membership Branch of the Industrial
Workers of the World (IWW) on anything the city had about
anarchy/anarchism/anarchists, the IWW and SDS. The results came in and
although the city isn’t providing the more damning information, they
have sent out hundreds of files and emails that are pretty chilling.
Apparently, the City of Olympia and Olympia Police Department (OPD),
with help from Washington State Patrol (WASP), the Evergreen Police and
several other agencies, have been involved in a national surveillance
program on activists and different leftist groups. One of the groups
targeted is SDS. This program, which is still active under the Obama
administration, has brought the attention of intelligence units and
officers from the Army and Air Force as far away as New Jersey, the
FBI, Homeland Security, Washington Joint Analytical Center (WAJAC) and
many other municipal, state and federal agencies on the activists of
Some of the groups targeted besides SDS are Port Militarization
Resistance (PMR), the IWW, Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS,
which is not active in the northwest), environmental activists, the
ever-secretive Port Liberation Front, and last but not least “the
Since the records just came out and are still being sifted through,
only a few things will be published at this time for people to taste.
Others who have done records requests will compile what information
they have to date and, hopefully soon, make documents accessible to the
Over the summer, a report will be released documenting government
and police surveillance on anarchists and activists in Olympia, Tacoma,
Spokane, Portland, Seattle and other locations in the Northwest where
police have been more active than usual in the last few years.
Here’s a taste for now:
1. It turns out that the Evergreen police, OPD and WASP were
planning on interrupting the graduation ceremony last year at Evergreen
and went so far as to set up staging areas and dress in riot gear if
SDS planned on making a significant demonstration in the midst of the
2. The police break down “groups” of demonstrators into categories
for port actions. The groups are broken down into the Olympia Movement
for Justice and Peace/PMR/SDS crowd, anti-militarist/war crowd,
pacifists and anarchists (which are, in other documents broken down yet
again by Tacoma anarchists, Olympia anarchists, SDS and the Port
3. One document had this to say: “…Olympia SDS, composed primarily
of Evergreen State students, is the most vulnerable to being swayed by
anarchist tactics or assuming a mob mentality.”
4. For whatever reason, city officials and the OPD have taken a
recent interest in the IWW and, in particular, the IWW’s project to end
Special Ed Forced Labor. The OPD and City Planning and Development also
worked together in the past to steal property owned by the IWW such as
the union’s newspaper box located downtown.
5. The military and police were concerned when “the anarchists”
started operating through the Port Liberation Front. (Funny. I don’t
even know if this group exists.)
6. US Capitol Police worked closely with the OPD and Evergreen
Police gathering information on Olympia SDS about anything related to
the lead up to the Democratic National Convention demonstrations. The
Evergreen Police approached school officials at this time and attempted
to get information on SDS.
7. One Thomas Rudd who works for US Army IMCOM had this to say about
one Olympia activist: “Jeff Berryhill, a longtime activist and key
organizer associated with Olympia SDS, Olympia PMR, and anarchists was
just arrested at Port of Tacoma…” and had much more on the ground
information he sent from his cell phone to the military about the port
actions in Tacoma last summer.
8. Chief of Evergreen Police Ed Sorger seems ever too happy in
forwarding any emails he gets on SDS to the Olympia Police Department.
9. At least one, but most likely more, OPD agents are avid readers of local activist Wally Cuddeford’s blog.
10. There are one or more people who regularly forward emails from the OMJP listserv to the OPD and City officials.
This is just the beginning. It would be interesting to see what kind
of national surveillance program on activists is in effect, how it
operates and who they are spying on. Aside from other police
surveillance on communities hit even harder (poor communities,
communities of color, immigrant communities) and on other activists
snagged in the Green Scare, it will be interesting to see what kind of
information the police have been gathering locally on SDSers, PMR,
OMJP, other activists and the “self-proclaimed anarchists” of the
If you have any further information on police and government surveillance,
please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brendan Maslauskas Dunn is a local activist and member of SDS, the IWW and Common Action.