Our View: When the FBI Wants to Be Your Friend


Lee Rozen, for the Editorial Board

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News 1/30/15

Don’t say a word until your attorney gets there, said one member of the editorial board.

Oh, I’d invite them in, because I’d be so curious about what they were interested in asking me, said another.

Just because I’d tell them they could ask, doesn’t mean I’d answer, said another.

Don’t say a word without your lawyer, the first repeated.

To be clear, the FBI has no interest in asking your editorial board any questions.

But they sure would like to talk to members of Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and other Northwest environmental activists.

Moscow’s Helen Yost, a WIRT organizer, got a text message several weeks ago that unsettled her.

“I need to speak with you.  Please give me a call.  I am an FBI agent,” she says the text read.

WIRT is against megaload shipments of equipment to the tar sands oil fields of Alberta and the shipment of oil and coal by rail from inland to ports in Oregon and Washington.  They get together and loudly protest, usually from the side of the street, highway, or railroad.  But Yost, 57, has [never!] been arrested a couple of times for blocking traffic.

Basically WIRT argues that – for the health of the planet – there are better energy sources.

Here’s another quotation, reported by the Spokesman-Review in Spokane:

“We honestly don’t know what they’re up to, or why, and that concerns us.”

It might have come from the FBI.

But it didn’t.  It came from Larry Hildes, a Bellingham, Washington, civil rights lawyer, who was talking about the FBI.  The agency has apparently contacted about a dozen such activists around the Pacific Northwest.

The FBI’s Ayn Dietrich-Williams in Seattle told the Spokesman, “We don’t investigate anyone for First Amendment activities.”

Some folks might be willing to debate that with her.

“I think they were there to put me on notice that I was being watched,” says Herb Goodwin, 65, of Bellingham, after a city officer and FBI agent came to his house.  “I’m not a saboteur.”

But that’s the issue, isn’t it?

Derailing or decoupling an oil train with 100 crude oil tank cars could be a disaster for cities and rivers along its route.  Accidents elsewhere have been devastating.

So, the FBI has to ask.

But, know your lawyer’s number.

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