In the summer of 1988 Greenpeace Magazine asked me to look into reports of suspected surveillance and harassment experienced by Greenpeace activists. I immediately made reservations to attend the annual conference of the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS). The ASIS convention attracts thousands of private security specialists from business, industry and the military who attend workshops and wander through the world's largest display of security equipment and services. If something is happening that involves security, you'll hear about it here.
My credentials said I was an analyst specializing in security, which I figured would get a more honest response than a press pass, and I set off to ask what the security world thought of Greenpeace. The vast majority of the persons I talked to had an accurate, even gruffly respectful image of Greenpeace-"tough," "creative," "they can really give your public relations office a headache." One security firm representative said his biggest worry would be making sure no one gets hurt during a Greenpeace demonstration. A vice president of Baker and Associates, specialists in protective services and corporate investigations, summed up the general view of the mainstream security providers when he said "Those Greenpeace people are not violent, but they [do] stage some colorful incidents."
But several conversations indicated a troubling trend among a few hard-line outfits. Over breakfast a Navy security staffer said he had attended a Naval intelligence briefing where Greenpeace was described as a "terrorist" group with ties to "international communist groups." At three security firm display booths I was told archly that their intelligence staff knew what really was behind Greenpeace and that clients who hired them would not have any problems with Greenpeace. Several people including the head of one New York firm that uses aerial photography to help companies improve plant site security said they had picked up accounts from corporations that feared politically motivated attacks from the environmentalist or animal rights movements.
The boldest statement came from an account executive from Vance Security who leaned forward and said "We expect Greenpeace to move in the direction of violence soon." Vance has been accused of using obtrusive surveillance and physical intimidation in a number of strikebreaking and union-busting episodes over the past few years, and is among a handful of security firms frequently referred to derogatorily as "The Cowboys" by others at the ASIS conference. The view of Greenpeace held by Vance and other hard-liners in the security field is an important indicator of future problems, because the "labelling" of a group as violent, terrorist or pro-communist is often a first step toward the delegitimizating the group. Labelling undermines public support and thus sanctions the use of aggressive surveillance and harassment by government agencies or private security firms. There is also a self-fulfilling prophecy with labelling, as police are likely to respond with unjustified force when you think you are peaceful protestors and they have been trained that you are violent potential terrorists.
One of the first groups to label Greenpeace as a violent security risk was that run by ultra-right crank and crook Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. whose April 21, 1989 "Executive Intelligence Review" contained a lengthy feature titled "Greenpeace: shock troops of the new Dark Age." LaRouche's security staff is known to have had contacts with numerous local police intelligence units and several foreign intelligence services. They once convinced two gullible New Hampshire State Police detectives that a peaceful protest against the Seabrook nuclear power plant was a cover for a terrorist attack, leading the Governor to call out the National Guard.
The problems extends to campus activism. Accuracy in Academia's "Campus Report" attacked Greenpeace in an April 1990 article headlined "Environmentalism Becomes Radical," and the "1989 Young Americans for Freedom List of Un-American Organizations on Our College Campuses" includes one group opposed to nuclear war, and the respected hunger group Oxfam America. The YAF authors, who warn of "the terrible threat these Hard-Left groups pose to our way of life," boast in their introduction that they have been "able to secretly monitor Leftist groups for the last several years."
There are resources for persons who want to oppose this national security mania. "At War With Peace: U.S. Covert Operations" Kit Gage/NCARL, First Amendment Foundation, 1990. is an indispensable pamphlet chronicling the history of CIA covert actions, its human costs, laws regulating it, and restrictions to information about it. $2.50 NCARL, 1313 West 8th Street, Suite 313, Los Angeles, CA 90017. "War at Home: Covert Action Against U.S. Activists and What We Can Do About It." Brian Glick, 1989, South End Press, provides a comprehensive and common sense advice on how to engage in political activity while fending off governmental and right- wing attacks.
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