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Idaho's enemies: the National Guard counts environmentalists among them.

On Valentine's Day this year, Pam Allister went out to lunch and returned an hour later to her office in Boise to find conspicuously placed on her desk an envelope, and inside it a one-page document. The single-page memo, stamped For Official use Only, described "hostile threats" to the state of Idaho, posed by a multitude of nefarious elements, including "terrorists," "foreign agents," and "militias."

Allister is executive director of the Snake River Alliance, an Idaho anti-nuke group. The memo cited her group as an "opposing force," and she found herself in strange company. "Opposing forces are made up of many diverse groups with strong ethnic, religious, political, and economic points of contention," the document read. "Chief among the state groups are Aryan Nations, Snake River Alliance, gun-control advocates, militia groups, and gangs. However, the threat is not limited to Idaho. The state can be a recipient as well as the source of terrorists and dissident activity."

Allister immediately faxed the page to the Alliance's program director, Beatrice Brailsford, in Pocatello. It didn't take Brailsford long to trace the document back to its source: the Idaho National Guard. Within days, the Idaho National Guard confirmed that the memo was authentic and represented just a single page from a fourteen-page report called "Intelligence Assessment No. 1," prepared by the military outfit in 1996. The assessment was apparently culled from "hundreds of pages" of raw documents and field notes.

Confronted with this "intelligence assessment," the Idaho National Guard's public-information officer, Lieutenant Jim Ball, takes the position that: a) the document is being blown way out of proportion, and b) it was wrongfully obtained and had been intended for "internal use only."

"Unless they were doing something wrong or illegal, what would they have to worry about?" Ball asks.

Ball says it might have been "unfortunate" that the intelligence staffer who drafted the report singled out the Snake River Alliance by name. "Perhaps we should have used the generic term 'environmental activists'" -- a phrase that carries with it the same timbre in Idaho's conservative political culture as "practicing cannibal."

Making a decisive excursion into political science, Ball defines an "opposing force" as any group whose views "conflict with the government's." The Snake River Alliance fits into this category, says Ball, because of its opposition to nuclear-bomb making and nuclear-waste storage at the Department of Energy's facility outside Twin Falls. "They are an organization Which, based on previous experience, has an opposing viewpoint and, based on past actions, has the potential to disrupt the Guard's operations or training exercises. This isn't a matter of questioning anyone's patriotism."

This brusque rationale has won the support of Idaho's Republican Congressman Mike Crapo. In a letter about the scandal, Crapo says that "one of the scenarios developed based on past events at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory was the possibility of certain environmental groups invoking civil disobedience as a means of preventing shipments of nuclear waste to Idaho. In the event that such a situation occurred, the Idaho National Guard reasoned that it might be prevented from reaching certain training areas or facilities."

There are some problems with this argument. The Alliance emphasizes the legal practices of research, public education, and advocacy. It has never broken Idaho laws and it does not advocate civil disobedience.

The main focus of the Snake River Alliance's work for the past twenty years has been the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratories (INEL), a half-million-acre nuclear reservation west of Twin Falls. The Department of Energy controls the labs, which are famous for having concocted, among other technologies of mass destruction, a nuclear-powered airplane engine, now on public display at one of the museums on the grounds. The plane is a monument to the famous "nuclear-bomber gap" which had an exciting life in the 1950s. The bombers were to be crewed by those older patriots ready to go to premature, irradiated deaths. Under the terms of a $1-billion-per-year contract, Lockheed Martin now manages most operations at the site.

The lab complex houses fifty-two nuclear reactors, the largest concentration on Earth. For decades, the plant has produced radioactive materials for nuclear weapons, and it has left behind a toxic legacy. Hundreds of poison dumps and illegal injection wells are scattered across the high desert terrain near the reactors. Tritium and other lethal substances produced by the laboratory are seeping into the Snake River Aquifer, headed for the Snake River itself. The labs are also the primary dumping ground for the Navy's nuclear excrescence. The Navy is scheduled to transport more than 1,100 shipments of extremely radioactive waste, composed of spent fuel rods from the Navy's nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

The nearest the Alliance has come to disrupting shipments of nuclear waste is its Trainwatch program, which tells people when a radioactive shipment is scheduled to pass through their community. "There's a simple reason we don't attempt to sit on the railroad tracks to try to block these shipments," the Alliance's Bob McEnaney tells us. "In Idaho, the trains won't stop."

The Department of Energy doesn't harbor the same fears as the Idaho National Guard. The Department's "local threat analysis" for the Idaho laboratory doesn't mention the Snake River Alliance. Instead, the Department of Energy apparently sees the biggest security risk coming from its own disgruntled employees. "Due to downsizing at the INEL and other DOE locations," the threat analysis warns, "it is possible that ex-employees may plan or assist in an act of revenge. These former employees may possess detailed knowledge of protection plans, procedures, responses, and assets."

The Department of Energy is convinced that environmental demonstrators might attempt to embarrass the agency and create a bad photo op. "Militant individuals or organizations of different types may attempt to embarrass or discredit the U.S. Government, the Department of Energy, or the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory," the Department's "local threat analysis" warns. "Resulting embarrassment ... and effects on the nuclear industry would be devastating."

The Snake River Alliance and The Progressive have filed separate Freedom of Information Act requests with the Idaho National Guard seeking copies of the complete intelligence assessment and any background documents. They have also filed similar requests with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Energy. The Idaho National Guard promptly transmitted the information requests to the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C., which suggests federal involvement. Ball says that the Defense Department will review the documents and black out any "sensitive information" or national-security secrets. "We'll turn over whatever's left," he promises.

There's another reason the Idaho National Guard (and the Department of Defense, for that matter) might be reluctant to disclose the remaining pages of the intelligence assessment: Its snooping operations may be in severe conflict with federal law.

"It looks as if the Idaho National Guard has violated federal statutes," says William Verick, an attorney at the Pacific Justice Center in Redway, California. Verick points out that the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prohibits the military from involvement in domestic spying and police operations. Verick's firm challenged the use of National Guard equipment and soldiers in Operation Greensweep, the ludicrously botched use of military units to search for marijuana patches in Northern California in the early 1990s. "These were difficult legal battles because Congress had largely exempted the drug operations from the Posse Comitatus Act and other federal statutes. But using the Guard to go after environmentalists and other citizens' groups is another matter entirely."

The authors of the Guard's intelligence assessment interpreted it as a basis for spying on dissidents and other "opposing forces." In a paragraph titled "Effect on Own Courses of Action," the intelligence assessment warns that "the ability of such opposing forces to move about freely and undetected significantly hampers the ability of law-enforcement agencies to identify, track, and monitor their activities. The attention given to Operation Security (OPSEC) and Physical Security should continue as normal. Training of security personnel, military police, Red and Blue Platoons for hostile threats, and military support of civil authorities should continue."

The Idaho National Guard maintains the nation's largest contingent of combat-ready National Guard troops. Technically, Idaho Governor Phil Batt, a fundamentalist Republican who has been a fervent leader of the new state-sovereignty movement, serves as the Guard's commander in chief. Batt can call on the services of the Guard during civil emergencies such as floods or earthquakes. But the Guard also has a federal role. The President can call it up for military assistance.

Two weeks after the "opposing-forces" document surfaced, Governor Batt paid a triumphant visit to the Guard's headquarters in Pocatello. Batt dismissed the intelligence assessment as inconsequential, praised the outfit for its fine work and combat-readiness, and culminated his tour by seizing an M-16 and unleashing a triumphant fusillade. "People don't realize the large impact the Guard has on the state," Batt said.

The Idaho National Guard also targeted gun-control advocates as a security threat. But in Idaho they are so scrawny an opposing force that we were unable to locate a single organized gun-control group in the entire state.

Maybe the Idaho National Guard should spy on itself as an "opposing force." The Guard's own armories are missing hundreds of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition, according to an investigation by Major Tuck Miller, a former Guard member. In an internal memo, Miller wrote that the equipment was most likely stolen by Guard members and then sold to "pawn shops, surplus stores, and possibly white-supremacist groups." When the leaders of the Guard refused to act on his report, Miller resigned his commission.

Slap up-to-date, the intelligence assessment labels computer viruses as a potential opposing force, observing in clinical language that "the opposing force may be a virus inserted via the Internet or accidentally placed in a government computer by an unsuspecting employee."

And foreign students, tourists, and business execs are also seen by the Guard as potentially subversive. There are contradictions here. Presumably, the state of Idaho would like to see both tourism and overseas trade increase. Officials in landlocked Idaho did push the Army Corps of Engineers to have Lewiston, located on the Snake River 500 river miles from the Pacific Ocean, declared a "deep-water port" as a way to boost agricultural exports to Asia. Both the Idaho Chamber of Commerce and the State Division of Tourism declined to explore these contradictions with us.

Esther Louie, a Chinese American who lives several blocks from the Idaho National Guard station in Moscow, Idaho, reckons that the targeting of foreign tourists, business executives, and students is but one more manifestation of long-held prejudices against people of Asian descent.

Louie, who runs the Asian-Pacific American Student Center at Washington State University, points out, "There have always been intense below-the-surface tensions in the Northwest, a tendency even at the political level to revert to the old imprint of those sneaky Asians." Louie points out that even today one of the tourist stops in Pierce, Idaho, is the hanging tree near the entrance to town, where dozens of Chinese laborers were lynched less than a century ago.

The Guard's intelligence team zeroed in on Washington State University as the potential epicenter of subversive activity. "Foreign students attend all the major universities in Idaho," the document states. "A large contingent of foreign students is attending school at Washington State University, located only eight miles away from Moscow, Idaho," says Louie. About 2,000 Asian American students are enrolled at Washington State University. Another 300 students who are citizens of Asian countries attend the university.

The Guard defends its inclusion of "foreign students" as potential opposing forces by suggesting that Middle Eastern terrorists might pose as students at universities such as Washington State and launch terrorist attacks against federal facilities in Idaho. One Arab teacher at Washington State University says he is "extremely frightened" by the Idaho National Guard memo. "There aren't very many Middle Eastern or Arab American students on campus, and the mere transition to this culture is itself often very difficult. But to know now that you may be a suspected terrorist and be the target of a military spying operation. Well, that's a truly unnerving, almost intolerable situation." He asks us not to identify him by name for fear of retribution. "I am not an American citizen, and I don't have tenure."

The Aryan Nations, headquartered at Hayden Lake, in northern Idaho, is as mortified about being linked to the Snake River Alliance as the peace activists are queasy about being tied to the white-supremacist movement. C.W. Nelson, an editor of Aryan Nations publications and a member of the organization's Counterintelligence Directorate, told us that the Idaho National Guard may be legally obliged to monitor the activities of the Alliance because some of its members are "Marxists."

"Aryan Nations would credit the Idaho National Guard for their concerns and perhaps legitimate investigations into some of their reported targets," Nelson says. "Others we may not. They can investigate Aryan Nations all they want, as they have for decades. They will find what they have always found -- true American patriots that actually care. Not a popular or politically correct animal these days, are we?"

Aryan Nations has been the establishment-media-created bogeyman for decades. Every time someone wants or needs to appear important, they throw around the name Aryan Nations," Nelson says. "We are who and what we have always been. The Church of Jesus Christ Christian-Aryan Nations. With that, any Idaho National Guard officer well knows that Aryan Nations is the best thing this great State of Idaho has going for it. Indeed, when the shit hits the fan, and it appears it will be soon, it will be our door they first knock on for help."

Compared to the Idaho National Guard and the Aryan Nations, the Snake River Alliance is downright bizarre, it's so tempered and quiet. "As far as the Snake River Alliance being an opposing force, if our government makes bad decisions, we will oppose them," says Anita McCann, a longtime board member of the Alliance who lives in Ketchum. "When the federal government attempts to produce tritium for hydrogen bombs at the Idaho National Energy Labs, yes, we will oppose them. If they plan to move nuclear waste in and out of the state in the irresponsible manner of the past, we will oppose them. But our opposition will be peaceful and democratically effective, as it always has been."
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Author:Cockburn, Alexander
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Jun 1, 1997
Words:2409
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