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(en) USA: Secret NSA surveillance and the case of Sherman Austin from Raisethefist.com

Date Fri, 3 Mar 2006 10:52:33 +0100 (CET)


There seems to be alot of buzz in the media on how Bush authorized the use
of illegal NSA wire-taps and surveillance for domestic spying to stop
terrorism. I thought I'd write an article summarizing how this was used in
my case while running a political web site and direct action network
www.Raisethefist.com [ Raise The Fist ]
BEFORE 9/11
Before 9/11 Raisethefist.com was receiving approximately 2,000 hits daily
from people around the world. Government agencies also frequented the site
daily , monitoring articles, commentary posted by other users and
continuously checking the front page for updates. In many cases
Raisethefist.com received over 100 hits in a single day from U.S
government agencies, the majority of these hits all connecting through
Department of Defense gateways. These agencies were mostly federal , FBI,
Secret Service, etc. but monitoring also came from local police,
California highway patrol. etc.

There was also daily monitoring coming from government and military
departments in the UK, Canada, Egypt, Japan, Australia, Austria, Belgium,
Brazil, etc. on a daily basis. All of this information was filtered,
logged and archived through tracking programs I wrote on the server. It's
all logged. As raisethefist.com grew more popular so did the hits from
government agencies on the site. This type of monitoring didn't just stick
to the web site. I would organize events and post information on the site
and the FBI would show up. At one event the FBI circled the area in a car
stopping people they recognized who were attending the event calling them
by name, they also had an undercover agent taking pictures across the
street. This is a little taste of what was going on before 9/11/2001.

AFTER 9/11

Right after 9/11 government traffic poured into the web site like never
before. I was running raisethefist.com off a number of servers that were
connected to a residential DSL line. This DSL line was connected through a
residential phone number that was installed in the same room as all the
equipment.

Before my home was raided 3 ½ months after 9/11 by the FBI and Secret
Service L.A joint-terror task force, they had been packeting the internet
line that raisethefist.com was hosted from , in other words they were
watching all data coming in and out of the line and saving it on a remote
device. [the feds did not have to obtain a warrant. The NSA was secretly
authorized to perform this type of surveillance] This started happening
immediately after 9/11. In addition they were breaking into several
instant messenger accounts and sending messages to other people pretending
to be me. For others it wasn't easy to distinguish the difference because
they talked just like me. Obviously the team of people the NSA / FBI hired
for the job spent a great deal of time doing social profiling while
monitoring my conversations. I would be on one screen name then get kicked
off , sign onto a different screen name and receive a threat from the
other screen name I was just on saying "your ass is going to
jail". I was told "this is a matter of national security". They would
also threaten friends of mine sending them messages such as "your ass is
next". They would send me messages with information they knew about
myself, the servers I was running, and the conversations I had online
with other people.

I have logs of all this activity. I also confirmed these were indeed the
feds when during the raid when I mentioned to the FBI I knew they were
packeting my DSL line and hacking into instant messenger accounts. They
didn?t dispute my argument. Special Agent John I. Pi with the FBI who
conducted the raid said, "How did you find out?". I also got to see the
individuals who were hired for the job as they accompanied the FBI at my
first court arraignment.

At the same time these instant messenger accounts were being hacked into
and commandeered by the feds, my phone line was being heavily tapped. In
addition I would also receive calls over the line at the oddest hours of
the night. Knowing the line was tapped I never answered the phone until
the calls became more consistent. I would pick up the phone asking who was
there. Nobody would answer but I could tell someone was on the other end
because I could hear them breathing. At first I figured it might just be a
prank phone call or something.. but the calls wouldn't stop and became
more consistent. Every time I picked up the phone I got no answer. But
they wouldn?t hang up either. These calls would come in at spontaneous
hours , 1pm, 3am, 6am, 8pm .etc. Then it got to a point where the calls
came 24 hours straight with about 2-5 minute intervals. At this point it
was obvious the calls weren't coming from a human being but instead it was
some kind of automated system running each call
through.

If this alone wasn't peculiar, at the very same time there was allot of
unusual activity outside my house. I would come home during the day or
late at night and see cars with black tinted windows parked in front of
the house. All of the windows were tinted pitch black. They never left
until after I parked and went inside the house. In one case two
individuals were parked across the street one late night when I arrived
home. I noticed there was no other car on the side of the street they were
parked on so the they stood out and immediately caught my eye. I watched
them in my rear view mirror as I parked and they were both focused
directly on me. I turned off my headlights and was about to get out of the
car before I hesitated. I started up the car again and drove around the
block and they tried to follow me.

These incidents became more and more common and continued to intensify
before the raid.

THE FBI RAID 1/24/02

On January 24, 2002 at approximately 4PM while I was taking a nap, some 25
federal agents from the FBI and Secret Service joint-terror task force
were surrounding my house with loaded sub-machine guns, shot guns, and
bullet proof vests. I didn't know they were there until my sister woke me
up saying there were fbi-looking cars parked all up and down the street
and people outside all focused in on the house. I went to the front door
and was pulled outside. I saw agents emerge from their hiding spots around
all angles of the house with their guns drawn. They had even jumped the
fence into the backyard to cover the rear end of the house. The FBI came
with a 25 page warrant for search and seizure. They knew exactly where my
room was when they entered the house. One agent holding a sub-machine gun
said "follow me it's this way" leading the others down the hallway to back
of the house to the room where I had the servers. The FBI had pictures of
the house including a written description and
a complete structural floor plan with every room before they came in. I
was probably very lucky I wasn't home alone because I was completely
unaware that agents were positioned right outside my bedroom window with
loaded weapons while I was asleep. Although I would have probably woke up
once they started breaking down the front door with the long piece of
special steal they brought with them.

I was told the raid was because of Raisethefist.com. I asked how such an
operation could be conducted because of a web site. I was told it was now
legal under the new USA Patriot Act (which had passed only 90 days ago).

The secret service asked me if I wanted to see the president killed. The
FBI kept trying to ask me about Raisethefist.com and where the logs were.
Too bad for them I just happened to purge them before they came. The FBI
also said I had content on the web site that dealt with information on how
to manufacture explosives. This was a lie. In fact this information
existed on a page of a completely different web site I simply had a link
to. Nonetheless I was accused of authoring it. The FBI was looking for
anything to justify a raid and get their hands on the servers. So they
took another persons web site , lied , and said I admitted to authoring it
when I never did. The FBI admitted to monitoring raisthefist.com and said
I was being watched for along time. When the FBI left they said I had
crossed over a line and as long as I got back on the other side of that
line everything would be okay. In other words they were telling me to keep
my mouth shut and to discontinue "Raise the Fist".
After the raid I continued my plans to attend the world economic forum
protests in New York. The Secret Service notified the New York police
chief of my presence. When I arrived I noticed I was being followed and
surveilled by agents in an SUV. The police started targeting
demonstrators in a number sweeps on the crowd. In the first one I was
arrested with 26 other people. We were taken to Brooklyn Navy Yard Jail
and I was taken into a back room in hand-cuffs and interrogated for
several hours by a detective from the FBI and a Secret Service agent. I
was asked if I was terrorist or involved in any terrorist organizations.
They asked about Raisethefist. They asked how I got to New York and where
my car was parked. They said I wouldn't leave New York until they
searched my car. I was then released. I was in the lobby of the court
house for about 30 minutes until I was arrested by the FBI and hurried
into a black SUV where I was taken to a federal building then to
Manhattan MCC where I was placed into a 24-hour lockdown maximum security
federal prison cell. I was in the same cell block as those being accused
of the U.S.S Cole bombing and the bombing of the U.S Embassy in Kenya. I
could hear one of the guards arguing with the inmate in the cell next to
mine about the Taliban.

After this 13 day ordeal of being called a "man on a mission" by the FBI,
and newspapers such as the New York Post reading "baby-bomb bust" and
"teen terrorist" (I was 18 at the time) , I was released as federal
prosecutors decided not to file an indictment just yet. They first wanted
to go through all of the servers that were seized during the raid.

I flew back to California.

AFTER THE RAID AND FIRST FBI ARREST

You would think at this point that the surveillance and harassment
would've toned down a bit since the FBI got what they wanted. But this
wasn't the case, it intensified even more. A month later I got
raisethefist.com back online by obtaining some remote backups I made
before the raid. I also continued my organizing within the community.
Raisethefist.com became a network with people setting up chapters in their
schools and neighborhoods. This was called the RAISE THE FIST DIRECT
ACTION NETWORK. [http://DAN.Raisethefist.com] I encouraged people to start
more chapters in their local communities, schools, etc. Chapters started
sprouting up around the U.S , Germany, Brazil, Canada, etc. Views were no
longer only being discussed online through words but were now being put to
action in our own neighborhoods. Because of all the media coverage after
the raid and arrest, Raisethefist.com was now receiving allot more hits.
Over 140,000 a week. The site worked up so much bandwidth that it was
constantly going down because hosting companies complained they couldn't
handle the load. Eventually I was able to collocate the server to a
high-speed backbone in Irvine.

I moved to Long Beach and worked with a collective at a revolutionary and
community empowerment book store which was built right next door to a
living quarters where we lived. Immediately after getting raisethefist.com
back online instant messenger accounts were being hacked into again. This
time the threats were allot more aggressive and consistent. Email accounts
that were associated with the raisethefist.com domain name registration
were hacked into and used to re-route raisethefist.com to a different
server knocking the site off-line. When this happened I posted logs of the
conversations and threats I received over the screen name that was being
hacked into and commandeered by the feds on http://la.indymedia.org. The
next day I received a message with the new password and I was told that I
better not try to change it because they were watching and they had full
control over whether the site would stay up or not. On one occasion I
managed to obtain the IP address of one of the
person(s) commandeering these accounts. I traced the IP down to an area
of Los Angeles near a federal building.

In addition I was also being followed undercover agents. One time I posted
a banner on the top of raisethefist.com announcing a press-conference and
march that was being held in Inglewood after the police beating of Donovan
Jackson. I left with a group of friends. We took 2 cars. It wasn't until
we were on the freeway when our friends in the other car told us we were
being followed by a man in the white car behind us. He followed us all the
way into Inglewood. When we arrived we parked a few blocks away from the
city hall. We could see police and other people in suits on top of the
City Hall roof with binoculars, cameras and walkie talkies. Immediately
after we parked 4 motorcycle cops drove over to us and followed us to the
event. The man in the white car followed us on foot. When we later left we
were escorted out of Inglewood by 4 motorcycle cops until we got on the
freeway. Being followed like this became a common occurrence. And it also
came from local police not just the feds.
One time I was riding my bike down the street late at night. A police car
drives up in front of me on the sidewalk and stops me. The cop gets out
and say's , "What's up Austin!" , then 2 more units show up right after
him and both police get out and say "What's up Sherman!" , "What's up
Austin!". I'm then asked about raisethefist.com and where I?m going. I
asked them why they were so quick to stop me and how they all knew my
name and I learn my picture is hanging up in the police station.

During this harassment and surveillance I was also waiting to hear back
from my public defender on whether or not I was facing any charges. After
a period of 6 months federal prosecutors call my lawyer and tell him they
didn't find anything on the computers to get me for but they didn't want
to let me off the hook. So they present us with a pre- indictment binding
plea agreement. Something that my lawyer said he's never seen before
because he's used to seeing a formal indictment first. But in this case
the prosecutors were so quick to present me with a plea deal. The bargain
was to admit to authoring and distributing the pages about explosives that
existed on the other web site that I didn?t author or distribute. This web
site was called the RECLAIM GUIDE. It was authored and implemented by a
different individual. And it's not like the FBI didn't know this. 2 weeks
before federal prosecutors contacted my lawyer , the FBI paid this person
a visit. They confirmed that he was indeed the
author of information on how to manufacture explosives and put it on
online. Then they left.

False documents were drafted up saying I admitted to authored the "RECLAIM
GUIDE" and all the information on how to build and manufacture explosives.
These 2 pieces of evidence are actually in the FBI discovery. Apparently
the FBI forgot to black-out the part where they visited the person who
actually wrote the explosives information. These 2 contradicting articles
were ignored by prosecutors. They wanted to pretend they didn't even exist
because they know the FBI screwed up. They pressed forward urging that I
sign this pre-indictment plea agreement.

THE PRE-INDICTMENT CONVICTION / NSA WIRE-TAPS AND SURVEILLANCE COVER-UP

Everyone keeps asking why I was never formerly indicted. This was to cover
up the NSA wire-taps and surveillance.

At a formal indictment evidence is presented to the court or grand jury.
This is a formal document written for a prosecuting attorney charging a
person with some offense. This document is supposed to contain evidence
backing up the prosecutors accusation.

The only so-called evidence the prosecutors had was obtained through
ILLEGAL NSA WIRE TAPS and surveillance. I know the prosecutors had this
information because they referred to it in a meeting me and my lawyer had
with them when I requested to see the all this so-called evidence they
said they were going to use against me if I didn't take the plea.

If there was a formal indictment then the FBI would have been forced to
unveil the NSA wire-taps and continuous surveillance. Then this whole
media buzz about Bush authorizing the NSA to do illegal surveillance
against so-called terrorists would have been in the media along time ago.
They couldn't afford this type of publicity. This is why they desperately
tried to keep this "hush-hush." This is also why they wrote up
false-documents stating that I admitted to authoring information on how to
build explosives. They could take the fact that I simply posted a link on
raisethefist.com to another persons web site which I did not author but
happened to contain a page on "bomb-making information", and twist it
around. It was all they needed to stir up the 9/11 reactionary
emotionalism in the court and get their conviction. The feds wanted this
conviction so bad and so quick because they knew what would have happened
if this had gone public.

Every time I rejected the plea I was told I wouldn't have a second chance
and that the feds would come down on me hard in court and I?d be looking
at 3-4 years in prison. They told my lawyer I only had one chance to
accept a plea or go to trial. It was a one chance offer and I'd better
make my decision right away or face years in prison. I immediately
rejected the plea telling my lawyer I wanted a trial. The prosecuters held
out and bought time and tried to convince me and my lawyer. I kept
rejecting it. Then I told them I would take it. At the arraignment I
changed my mind again and said I wasn't taking any plea deal. Now
expecting to prepare for a trial, the prosecutors limboed around to buy
more time and told my lawyer the deal was still on the table. They said I
would be looking at 3-4 years in prison if convicted at trial. I said okay
fine and rejected again. Then I changed my mind again at the last minute
and asked if I could take it. The prosecutors turned around so quickly
with the plea agreement wanting me to sign. They initially said I only
had one chance to take the plea and that was it. So I decided to change
my mind again and reject it. Then they went into legal limbo again trying
to buy more time. Why didn?t they just take it to court like they
initially said they were going to do? It was obvious something very fishy
was going on. They were so desperate to have me sign the plea. My lawyer
said he had never seen a case like this in all the years of his
practice.They said they had all this evidence against me yet they never
wanted a formal indictment.

DEATH THREATS

During this period of going back and forth to court playing this game of
legal limbo I was also receiving countless death-threats from neo-Nazi?s
and white supremacists. I got them by email and they were constantly
posted to the raisethefist.com news wire. There had always been death
threats from white supremacists, except now they were much more
consistent, direct and some cases very peculiar. One made reference to a
huge black-out , "when all the lights go off" following with "your nigger
ass gets killed". The next day the entire east coast experienced the
biggest black-out in 30 years. This is when several power grids went down
in August of 2003 leaving 60 million people from Ottawa to Detroit, from
Toledo to Hartford, from Cleveland to New York City without electricity. A
day later the same person who posted this threat posted again saying "See
I told you so , you better watch out" and followed with more death threat
rhetoric. This was all logged and archived on the server.

On August 4, 2003 I was sentenced to a year in federal prison and 3 years
probation after being threatened with an additional 20 years under a
terrorism enhancement. My lawyer didn't want to take the case to trial
under these conditions and I had no legal funds to afford the legal team I
needed. I was convicted under statute, 18 U.S.C. 842 (p)(2)(A)
"DISTRIBUTION OF INFORMAITON RELATED TO EXPLOSIVES OR WEAPONS OF MASS
DESTRUCTION", pushed through Congress by Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein in
the late 1990s under Clinton?s anti-terrorism bill. The offending
material, which again I emphasize I did not author, contained amateurish
instructions on how to assemble simple explosives.

The individual who actually wrote this information was not convicted of
anything. He was white. As I said before, the FBI questioned him,
confirmed he authored this information, and left. They fabricated a case
in cahoots with federal prosecutors, Dianne Feinstein, John Ashcroft and
judge Steven V. Wilson.

After I was sentenced government agencies continued to monitor the site
heavily. My main concern was getting the site secured and ready for when I
went in so it would stay online for the next 4 years without my
assistance. 3 weeks before I had to self-surrender the server went down
because the hosting company went out of business. The only way to get
raisethefist.com back online was to physically pick up the server from
where I had it collocated in Irvine. When I picked up the server I was
informed that the FBI called them 2 weeks prior asking to get access to
the raisethefist.com box. Luckily the guy running the company declined to
give them any access. Yet the FBI was actively trying to get their hands
on the server once again.

I brought the server back to Long Beach and hooked it up to my residential
DSL struggling to keep the site online amidst the threat of feds coming
with another search warrant to seize it. Luckily I received assistance to
have it moved to a remote location again.

Once I was sentenced, I was ordered to self-surrender to the U.S marshals
in 30 days. At this point the death threats came in just about every day.
I was told I'd be leaving prison in a body bag. At first I thought the
threats were coming from just a couple of people. When I tracked them I
noticed they were coming from many different areas and different people.

A few months prior to being sentenced I also received information from
anonymous persons telling me there was a price on my head set by the NSA
and other higher-ups in the government. I was informed about 3 different
supposed assassination attempts to be carried out. I was given some detail
on who was serving the contracts, names , license plate numbers, etc.
Other then that I was told it was a surprise I was still alive but
everything was being taken care of and I was being "looked out for."

After I self-surrendered to the U.S marshals I was taken to San Bernardino
detention facility to await transfer to my designated institution. It just
so happens that the San Bernardino Detention Facility has the largest
number of Aryan Brotherhood and neo-Nazi?s.

The U.S Marshals, FBI, USPO, and all other government agencies and persons
working on my case all knew about the daily death threats coming from
neo-Nazi?s saying they were determined to have me killed once I entered
prison. And yet I?m placed in an institution with the largest population
of Aryan Brotherhood and neo-Nazi?s.

I was in the general population dormitory for about a day and a half. I
noticed the whites were all in the back of the dormitory. My name is
called over the intercom to be escorted to one of the deputy offices.
Before I leave one of the white inmates walks up to the front of the
dormitory and approaches me. I've never even talked to this guy before. He
seems extremely interested in my whereabouts and asks where I?m going. I
tell him I don't have a clue. He asks me to find out and tell him when I
get back. I get escorted to the office by a deputy sheriff where two
detectives from San Bernardino County are waiting to talk to me. They
start asking me questions about raisethefist.com such as who was now
running the web site. I declined to answer. Then they ask about the death
threats I had been receiving prior to coming in. They tell me that a price
is on my head and all of the neo-Nazi?s and Aryan Brotherhood's know where
I was and word was out. They tell me the reason why they decided
to intervene wasn't to stop anybody from getting hurt but instead it was
allot of paperwork if something did happen. San Bernardino would have
blood on their hands they didn't want to deal with. So I was placed into
PC (protective custody) until I was airlifted to Oklahoma Federal
Transfer center where I spent 2 weeks in the hole, then finally to Tucson
FCI where I spent another week in the hole before being let out onto the
yard in general population.

CONTINUED SURVEILLANCE AFTER RELEASE .... FEDS MOVE IN ACROSS THE STREET

My official release date was Sept 1, 2004. After I was released I stayed
at my moms apartment for a few months before I got back on my feet. I had
pretty much lost everything so I had to start over. Only 2 weeks being out
and the FBI had already moved in across the street. A man and a woman who
both worked at the same Westwood Federal Building that Special Agent John
I. Pi worked at along with the rest of his team.

They had the blinds closed 24/7 on all the windows. And if a window didn't
come with blinds they covered it with black cloth. I noticed something
wasn't right early on when I was outside at night walking my dog. I notice
the guy who just moved into the unit driving up in his blue car. He parks
and sees me across the street and doesn't get out. I walk next to his car
and stop and he freezes up. Then I walk the opposite direction down the
street and he watches me the whole time through his rear-view mirror. When
I?m out of sight he drives off. Then he comes back thinking I?m not around
, parks his car , and enters the unit. I noticed there was something
definitely strange about the look he gave me but I didn't want to jump to
conclusions so quickly. It was later confirmed through a neighbor that
they indeed worked at the Westwood federal building. Undercover agents
shouldn't talk to neighbors about where they work. But it was pretty
obvious anyway. Sometimes when they came home at odd
hours of the night and they forgot to take off the security badges around
their necks. We have photographs. After about 5 months they finally left.

Today the case is still far from over. I?m still serving the 3 years of
strict probation which prohibits me from having any access to a computer
as well as associating with anyone who espouses violence for political
change (whoever that might be). And due to the nature of the case any time
I get stopped or pulled over by the police and my name is run i'm detained
because it say's I have "terrorist ties". Harassment and surveillance
still also continues to this day.

Nonetheless, i'm writing this to show people just how deep this NSA
wiretapping and surveillance issue goes. This article is only a summary on
my case. This whole issue is far deeper than the Department of Defense
simply profiling demonstrators at an anti-war march in Hollywood. And if
you happened to be profiled because you attended an anti-war march in
Hollywood I?m sure it went far beyond just taking your picture and name
and putting you in a database. The fact that every single one of these big
anti-war marches are routed down streets with the most security cameras on
them speaks for it'self.

Bush, Cheney, the NSA, FBI , etc. They're all trying to justify their
domestic spying program saying it was necessary to stop terrorists attacks
in the U.S. Let's not forgot about the countless people who "look Muslim"
or "look middle-eastern" or "look Arab" who were detained and held for
months with absolutely no charges. Taken from their homes and their
families and eventually deported. Let's stop looking at how the "war on
terrorism" targeted political decent for one minute and look how it was
targeted against your average citizen simply because of the way he or she
looks. Let's stop looking at the police repression used against anti-war
marches for a minute and look at how people who never attended a single
protest or demonstration in their life suddenly ended up in a 24-hour
lockdown maximum security federal prison cell. This is national security.
It has nothing to do with stopping "terrorism." Some say we're moving
closer and closer to a police state. The fact of the matter is
we've already been in a police state. And it's just advanced to the next
level. What are we going to do about it? Continue to vote? Continue to
pay the price? Will we continue to participate in this political circus
of democrats and republicans which is nothing more than a tool to keep
the people demobilized and distracted from building a revolutionary
movement? Are we going to wait until the next presidential selection only
to be bamboozled again, and again, and again? Or are we going to finally
realize that we will only get what we are organized to take.

by Sherman Austin
edited, typed and posted by Akwala

----------------------------------

For more information on Sherman's case and contact info please visit
http://www.freesherman.org or http://www.raisethefist.com

Sherman was released from federal prison in 2004 with 3 years of strict
probation. He has since been focusing on writing a book about his case and
working on music projects playing with the group Colectivo Error.



Sender: Joaquin Cienfuegos <morph3030 -A- yahoo.com>


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