PA News, March 22, 2004
(NEW YORK) John Kerry, the man challenging George Bush for the United States presidency, was trailed by the FBI as he led anti-Vietnam protests, it emerged today. During the early 1970s Mr Kerry was photographed, had his movements tracked and words recorded as he spoke out against the war.
Government officials were apparently fearful that Mr Kerry--who was a decorated Vietnam veteran--would have a powerful anti-war influence on public opinion. Mr Kerry's large FBI file was obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The Massachusetts Senator told the newspaper: "I'm surprised by (the) extent of it. I'm offended by the intrusiveness of it. And I'm disturbed that it was all conducted absent of some showing of any legitimate probable cause. It's an offence to the constitution. It's out of order."
After returning from Vietnam, where he was a Navy captain, Mr Kerry became a high-profile anti-war protester. He was called before a congressional committee and, in a memorable address, said: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
Mr Kerry, who had won a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts in Vietnam, crossed the country attacking President Richard Nixon's policy on Vietnam. It was at this time, for more than a year, that Mr Kerry was watched by the FBI. At the time he helped direct the campaign group, Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Wherever he went he was followed. There are records of his appearances in Washington; Kansas, Oklahoma; and Urbana, Illinois. Details of his movements were sent to the then-FBI director J Edgar Hoover and President Nixon.
Mr Kerry said: "The experience of having been spied on for the act of engaging in peaceful patriotic protest makes you respect the civil liberties and the constitution even more."
He recalled how FBI agents apparently tried to intimidate anti-war protesters. "I remember coming out of a meeting and seeing one of their unmarked cruisers sitting there. Somebody had left a firearm on the seat, as a form of intimidation. I knew there were surveillance cars. But never to the depth I know about now."
He said if he were to be made president in the November election he would appoint an attorney general "who knows how to enforce laws in a way that balances law enforcement with our tradition of civil liberties".
One of the FBI surveillance documents about Mr Kerry read: "From 4pm to 5pm John Kerry, featured convention speaker and national spokesman for VVAW, spoke to one hundred to two hundred people, followed by brief question and answer period.
"Kerry spoke against the war and encouraged young people to vote for candidates who will end the war. He said VVAW members will continue to be active in activities to end the war, but indicated that VVAW members are against any type of violence."
After a year of spying on Mr Kerry, the FBI closed the file, saying the agency had found "nothing whatsoever to link the subject with any violent activity".