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US Army Investigation Found Employee Accused of Spying on Activists Violated Pentagon Directive

John Jacob Towery

An individual who worked for the United States Army Force Protection Division at Fort Lewis in Washington violated a Defense Department directive by attending public demonstrations. It also appears he violated Posse Comitatus, according to his own deposition in a lawsuit challenging alleged domestic military spying.

The lawsuit [PDF] is known as Panagacos v. Towery. It accuses the US military of directing John Jacob Towery to infiltrate a group called the Port Militarization Resistance (PMR) in Olympia and Tacoma, Washington. It also accuses the cities of Olympia and Tacoma of coordinating with the military to violate the First and Fourth Amendment rights of activists.

According to Larry Hildes, who is one of the National Lawyers Guild attorneys representing activists targeted by the military, PMR organized demonstrations from 2006 to 2009 against the “use of civilian ports in Puget Sound for Stryker vehicles and other military cargo being shipped over to Iraq and then shipped to Pakistan or Afghanistan.”

The Defense Department must follow the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the military from being involved in civilian affairs. The Congressional Research Service further explains that it “outlaws the willful use of any part of the Army or Air Force to execute the law unless expressly authorized by the Constitution or an act of Congress.”

In addition, the Defense Department has its own directive—”5200″—which states, “No DOD personnel will be assigned to attend public or private meetings, demonstrations or other similar activities for the purpose of acquiring information, without specific approval by the Secretary of Defense or his designee.”

Towery, during a deposition on March 28, was asked by Hildes if he had permission from the Secretary of Defense to attend public demonstrations. He answered, “I did not.”

Thomas Rudd, head of Force Protection, arranged for Towery to be paid overtime or “comp time” by the Army to attend demonstrations. He attended protests at the Port of Tacoma. He also attended protests at the Port of Aberdeen and the Port of Grays Harbor, but he could not recall whether these were demonstrations the Army paid him money to attend.

Towery was paid overtime or “comp time” to attend meetings leading up to a protest at the Port of Olympia in 2007.

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US Army Investigation Found Employee Accused of Spying on Activists Violated Pentagon Directive

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."