Snowden leaks: NSA worked on a strategy against the Anti-Imperialist Camp

2004 Internal Seminar: Anti-Imperialist Camp on the fine line between political activism and terrorism
by Wilhelm Langthaler
In early 2014, Glenn Greenwald and other politically concerned journalists with www.theintercept.com published documents leaked by the whistle-blower Edward Snowden and helped Snowden to escape persecution by the US authorities. Last month, they published secret NSA documents dating back to 2004 that show high-level NSA deliberations how to fight the Anti-Imperialist Camp. At the time, we led a global campaign to support the Iraqi resistance against the US occupation of Iraq, which we compared to the guerrilla struggle against Nazi occupation forces in Europe.

Let’s briefly recall the political context of 2004: the US government believed they could “export democracy” to Iraq, but in fact US occupation troops in Iraq faced a growing wave of resistance that had deep popular roots.

The Anti-Imperialist Camp initiated a symbolic campaign under the slogan “10 Euros for the Iraqi Resistance”, which was supported by thousands with their names. The campaign intended to demonstrate that resistance to the occupation, including armed resistance, is not only politically and morally legitimate, but also protected by international law. The political activities of the Anti-Imperialist Camp as well as the alliances and cooperations we formed were obviously successful enough to register with the NSA.

The Signal Intelligence Directorate with some 25,000 employees is one of the most important departments of the NSA. Their highly classified internal newsletter SIDtoday had an invitation for a secret summer seminar titled “Playing the Line Between Terrorism and Political Action: The Anti-Imperialist Camp”. The NSA framed the political question as follows: “The Vienna-based Anti-Imperialist Camp is ostensibly a political organization. However, its many ties to terrorist organizations – and attempts to collaborate with Muslim extremists – raise questions about where political action fades into terrorism and the extent to which otherwise legitimate organizations provide support and extend the range of action for terrorist organizations.”

The United States was actually trying to persecute the Anti-Imperialist Camp by political and legal means, as well as by means of their secret services. antiimperialista.com was shut down by the Homeland Security. Subsequently 44 members of the US Congress signed an official letter to the Italian ambassador in Washington to denounce our activities in Italy. Italian police subsequently detained three activists and prepared to put them on trial. All three of them were released, but the state took six years to finally acquit them of all charges, and the persecution helped to isolate us politically. It also emerged that the secret services violated the laws, as shown in the trial of Gianluca Preite, a former employee of SISMI, the Italian military intelligence service, who had fallen from grace due to unrelated fraudulent activity. Preite had infiltrated our communications to frame us for alleged support for abductions in Iraq. Details were never known because the trial was terminated by a tailor-made knee-jerk law.

In fact, the opposite was true: the Anti-Imperialist Camp had tried to use its contacts with the Iraqi resistance to free Italian hostages, as a political gesture for the peace movement and against the Berlusconi government. The Italian government in turn tried to prevent this by any means. In the end, it apparently paid a ransom, which enraged the US government. The United States was not willing to tolerate one of their allies’ in Iraq stepping out of line. Finally, Nicola Calipari, the deputy head of SISMI, was “accidentally” killed by US troops in Iraq.

Lessons for today

The Iraqi resistance eventually foundered on its internal contradictions. Those events nevertheless show that a solidarity movement can be effective.

However, we must reckon with government repression beyond the limits set by law. The only effective countermeasure is political resistance: on one hand, organising solidarity with the anti-imperialist resistance as broadly as possible, and on the other hand, vigorous defence of civil rights.

This is why the Snowden case, the campaign against government surveillance and against using the terrorist hysteria to pass ever more restrictive laws are so important.

Further reading:
German original with more links to German articles and news that had not been translated
Snowden archives with the first batch of SIDtoday newsletters
Article by Margot Williams from theintercept.com touching also the case of the Anti-imperialist Camp