IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — New FBI documents show agents did extensive surveillance of Iowa City protest groups before the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn. — including documenting the comings and goings of activists.
The FBI counter-terrorism records show political activists were secretly photographed and FBI agents staked out their homes. Agents went through activists' garbage and their cell phone and motor vehicle records. The records also show other law enforcement officials documented activists as they visited libraries, food stores, restaurants, taverns and a church.
The Des Moines Register reported the contents of the more than 300 pages of records Monday. The FBI documents were provided to the newspaper by former University of Iowa Antiwar Committee member David Goodner, who obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The records are heavily redacted, but the newspaper reports that they show federal authorities thought the Iowa City activists were part of a national network of radicals who wanted to disrupt the GOP convention in Minnesota and the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. The records show the investigation lasted from March to December in 2008.
About two dozen Iowa City activist group members demonstrated at the GOP convention in Minnesota. Iowa organizers said they know of one arrest and the charges were dropped. More than 800 people were arrested during the Republican convention. Officers in riot gear used tear gas, pepper spray and percussion grenades to control protesters.
A spokeswoman in the FBI's Omaha office, which conducted the Iowa City investigation, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. The FBI records show the agency ended its investigation after finding no involvement in “specific criminal activities.”
Goodner, 29, of Des Moines, said the FBI investigation was a waste of time and taxpayer money. He said there is no evidence in the records that the activists, “had any plans for anything other than a nonviolent, if confrontational, direct action street protest.”