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Coast Guard agent's attorney files to dismiss spying case in Olympia
BY JEREMY PAWLOSKI | Staff writer • Published October 04, 2010
(Story partial repost with activist context and commentary at end)
The attorney for a retired special agent with the U.S. Coast Guard has filed a motion to dismiss a federal lawsuit alleging that the agent spied on members of an Olympia anti-war group.
The motion, filed on Sept. 30, argues that the Posse Comitatus Act, a federal law barring the military from engaging in domestic law enforcement duties, does not apply to the Coast Guard.
Mark Bartlett, a Seattle attorney representing former U.S. Coast Guard special agent Clint Colvin, argues in his motion that the U.S. Coast Guard is specifically tasked with carrying out law enforcement functions.
According to the motion:
The first OlyPMR meeting that Colvin attended was at Traditions Café in Olympia on Nov. 4, 2007. Colvin, when given a sign-up sheet seeking names of participants, "provided a false name and also provided non-Coast Guard contact information." Colvin was a "passive" participant during the meeting, and "did not provide any suggestions as to future actions and in no way attempted to disrupt or influence the meeting." He "intentionally did not volunteer or become involved in the management of the group."
As part of Colvin's threat assessment, "Colvin provided information to Coast Guard superiors regarding a comment he heard wherein an activist specifically mentioned the Army might use the railroad to move equipment from the port to Fort Lewis," according to Bartlett's motion. "Within days, law enforcement officials discovered that unknown individuals had poured a concrete mixture on a section of railroad tracks that intersected 7th Avenue SE blocks from the Port of Olympia."
Bartlett's motion alleges that Colvin did not take part in any of the arrests at the port in 2007. Colvin's "intelligence information was acquired by monitoring open source Web sites, and by conducting surveillance in public areas," according to the motion.
In a written declaration, Colvin states that he did observe the protests at the Port of Olympia in November 2007. Colvin also states in his declaration, "The only purpose I had in attending meetings and monitoring public source Web sites was to gain accurate information and intelligence to better ensure the safety and security of the Coast Guard and its responsibilities. I had no intention of interfering with any individuals' constitutionally-protected rights. I was properly and lawfully fulfilling my duties in gathering intelligence for the Threat assessments and Field Intelligence reports that I was directed to work on."
Bartlett said that Colvin retired from the USCG in June 2010, when he reached 57, the mandatory retirement age for federal law enforcement employees.
Read more: http://www.theolympian.com/2010/10/04/1392460/coast-guard-agents-attorney-files.html
Clinton Donald Colvin was served with legal process in this case on the evening of January 27, 2010 at his home, while he was still an employee of the US Coast Guard. In May 2007, he was present at Aberdeen Washington during a briefing of Grays Harbor Sheriff's Office agents and US Army personnel, including John Towery (according to documents released by the Aberdeen Police Department). The subject of that briefing was, in part, infiltration of activist meetings. This would suggest that the United States Coast Guard did indeed have some experience taking part in activist meetings prior to First Amendment events, since it was they who briefed the GHSO and the US Army DES.
In August 2004, the US Coast Guard boarded a vessel and arrested Glen Milner for planning to violate the 500 yard security zone around a US Military vessel in Seattle's Seafair event. Clint Colvin was a named party to that action as well.
John Towery is seen in photos taken by the Grays Harbor Sheriffs Office or Aberdeen Police Department taking part in the protests there dressed as a protester, and carrying a protest sign. He also clearly crossed the line Colvin claims not to have crossed, in that he took part in private meetings and also helped administer the group's web based communications listservs. But until we know what fake name Colvin used, we can't say for sure that he was not added to those same email based lists at the time he 'joined' Olympia PMR, and thus what exposure he continued to subject our organizing to.