Albion Monitor

+ Terrorism in America has law enforcement worried, and for good reason. After all, there was the bombing of the World Trade Center by religious fanatics, the bombing in Oklahoma City by right-wing fanatics, and the continued bombing of family planning clinics by abortion fanatics. Thus it's natural that the FBI would prepare for terrorism by ...environmentalists.

A January 14 training exercise conducted at the San Francisco Presidio involved FBI agents from Northern California and Hawaii along with Coast Guard, Park Police, and the San Francisco Police Department. Robert Walsh, FBI special agent in charge, described the scenario to the S.F. Bay Guardian:

A fictitious oil spill occurs in San Francisco Bay. A misguided, very violent group using this incident to wrap themselves as environmentalists decide that the pace at which the coast guard and the EPA are attempting to clean up this oil spill is unsatisfactory. They ... raid the EPA office and to take hostages -- EPA workers and coast guard employees. The FBI gets involved early on because a Presidio park police officer gets shot and killed by the group.
Many Bay Area enviros are understandably nervous about the Bureau's melodramatic script. Remember that the FBI had a similar 1989 "training exercise" in Eureka that taught agents and local police how to use car bombs -- just one month before Judi Bari's car exploded, nearly killing her. As Bari explained in her interview, her lawyers aquired an FBI video of the crime scene where someone can be heard saying: "This was it: this was the final exam." (February 10, 1998)

+ The FBI obsession with "eco-terrorism" is scandalous, considering the very real domestic terrorism that occurred just days after their war games: A bomb ripped through an Alabama health clinic, killing a veteran cop that was moonlighting as a security guard. Taking credit for the murder was the Christian-right "Army of God." Although this group has 15 years' history of bombing family planning clinics, gay businesses -- and even the Atlanta Olympics -- the FBI seems incapable of nabbing the shadowy villians. (See our abortion rights feature for more on the Army of God and other terrorist groups.)

Perhaps more worrisome, the last few months have seen a rise in right-wing violence and threats unreported in the press. As an example, last month a crusading black newspaper in Mississippi was firebombed, causing about $100,000 worth of damage. Few papers picked up the tiny Associated Press item.

And it appears that not a single newspaper used a February 3 wire report from the American Bar Association convention, where president Jerome Shestack declared he was worried about "militia groups" seeking to remove judges from the bench. That the press ignored this story is inexplicable -- it's big news when a professional group like the ABA express such concerns. There were even tie-ins to other stories; the same day, most papers reported that the Army of God took responsibility for the fatal Mississippi bombing. The Army of God has also attacked judges, most notably an attempt to murder Supreme Court Justice Blackmun in 1985.

In that same (ignored) AP story was news that the ABA asked members of Congress to "refrain from threatening to initiate judicial impeachment proceedings because of disagreement with isolated decisions of a federal judge."

Why? Because last September, House Republican Whip Tom DeLay of Texas declared that judges "need to be intimidated," and if they don't behave to his liking, "we're going to go after them in a big way." Although those remarks caused a small fuss in Congress, no paper reported it except the Washington Post. (February 10, 1998)

+ Admit it: At least once in college or high school, you wrote a book report after just reading the introduction. Mix together the author's main points, long quotes snatched from the preface, and maybe a little B.S. about the book's general topic -- you'd safely get a "C" grade for your feeble effort, better if your "criticism" contained enough ten-dollar words.

That appears to be the method of Santa Rosa Press Democrat political writer James W. Sweeney, who recently reviewed Carl Jensen's book, Twenty Years of Censored News. Not once did he mention the primary purpose of the author: To update all 200 stories covered in two decades of Project Censored top ten lists. That's about half the book -- it's like reviewing Gone With the Wind and forgetting to mention a minor character, Rhett what's- his- name.

Instead, Sweeney uses the review to flog his dislike of the Project's philosophy -- and Jensen himself. "The annual lists say less about the shortcoming of the media," sniffs Sweeney, "...than they do about the agenda of liberals." Sweeney concedes that it's not good to have "a steady diet of cops, weather, and celebrities," but turns it into a personal swipe at Jensen.

Dismissing the author's call for a new era of muckraking, Sweeney twists it into a petty complaint: "...What really seems to be lacking is his point of view." But as the Monitor reveals in its recent profile of Jensen, the author wants only more investigative reporting. It's incredible that a newpaper would disagree with that.

Sweeney also writes, "a look at the Associated Press' annual Top 10 lists, which preceed Project Censored's throughout the book, find few stores that didn't warrant public attention." In chapter two, covering 1977, Project Censored listed in its Top Ten the slaughter of more than a million Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge -- one of the worst atrocities of the century. This was completely ignored by the Associated Press, which listed the weather as its most important news story. If Sweeney actually read the book and thinks that this holocaust "didn't warrant public attention," god help him.

But then again, maybe Sweeney was ordered by the editor to savage Jensen's lifework. The P-D has a Nixon-like reputation for keeping grudges simmering on low boil for years, patiently waiting for the chance to burn and scald its "enemies." (February 10, 1998)

+ A recent Monitor editorial compared Internet filtering software to censorship, noting that companies producing these programs block web sites for fuzzy reasons, such as material containing "sex education" or exhibiting "tastelessness." Others complain that authors aren't told when their sites are blocked, and that it's impossible to obtain a list of censored pages even if you're a paying customer.

Now one leading filter company, CYBERsitter, has been charged with sending a critic hundreds of e-mail messages -- a "mail- bomb" that would be considered harassment by most responsible Internet providers (including and invite legal prosecution. Bennett Haselton of Peacefire explains in a press release:

CYBERsitter has been caught in the act of mail-bombing someone who wrote a letter to Brian Milburn, the CEO of CYBERsitter, complaining about their product. Specifically, a lady names Sarah Salls sent [four] letters to Brian Milburn regarding their harassment of Peacefire and their blocking of anti-censorship sites. CYBERsitter replied by flooding her account with over 446 junk messages.

While the attack was in progress, Ms. Salls had her ISP [Internet provider] monitor the incoming attack and shut it off. Naturally, her ISP,, kept copies of the mail logs for that day and has passed them on as evidence to their lawyers. A complaint was also forwarded to MCI's security department, which handles network abuse and illegal denial-of-service attacks that are perpetrated by their customers, which include lower-end network users like CYBERsitter.

C-Net ( picked up on the story and interviewed Sarah Salls, her ISP, me, and Brian Milburn. (Note that the C-Net article compares the act of mail flooding with conventional spam, and says that a bill is being considered in Congress that would outlaw what CYBERsitter did. This is not quite true; flooding a person's account with 500 junk messages is a denial-of-service attack, which is already illegal, and it usually gets you in a lot more trouble than spamming would.)

Far from denying the accusations, Brian Milburn gave C-Net the following quote: "Certain people aren't going to get the hint. Maybe if they get the email 500 times, they'll get it through their heads."

Milburn wouldn't concede that the messages originated from Cybersitter or its parent company. But he told C-Net that he dislikes receiving complaints through his corporate email address. "Maybe now she won't send us email anymore... if they send it to my private email account, they're going to get what they get." (February 10, 1998)

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