CATIC: Political Dissent = Terrorism

Revolutionary Worker #1208, July 27, 2003, posted at

On April 7, Oakland police armed with shotguns fired on antiwar protesters at the Port of Oakland with wooden dowels and "stingball grenades." Dozens of people were injured during the protest.

Since that incident, information has come to light revealing that a little-known agency, the California Terrorism Intelligence Center (CATIC), was involved in this attack. An article in the Oakland Tribune documented the role that the Center played in the police assault and how some of the state's top officials are equating political dissent with "terrorism."

What is CATIC?

CATIC was established by the State of California on September 25, 2001 as "the state's clearinghouse for all terrorist-related activities and investigations." CATIC's job is to "collect, analyze, develop and disseminate terrorism-related intelligence to California law enforcement agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation." Members of CATIC are assigned to six of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces in California.

CATIC has an annual budget of $6.7 million. There are more than 100 agents, investigators, and analysts from the California Department of Justice and 28 local, state and federal agencies assigned to CATIC's Sacramento headquarters and eight regional task forces, located in San Diego, Riverside, Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento, San Francisco, Santa Ana, and Redding.

As of September 2002, according to the California Attorney General, CATIC was working on 443 open cases. More than 3,400 inquiries have been made into CATIC's databases by police.

Last year, CATIC was picked by the Defense Intelligence Agency to participate in a pilot program with the New York Police Department's Counter-Terrorism Division and the Defense Intelligence Agency to share information and intelligence. According to a press release by CATIC, this partnership "may prove to be the model for a national homeland intelligence-sharing program."

Equating Dissent with Terrorism

What was a counter-terrorism center doing monitoring a political protest like the one in Oakland on April 7?

CATIC spokesman Mike Van Winkle told the Oakland Tribune, "You can make an easy kind of a link that, if you have a protest group protesting a war where the cause that's being fought against is international terrorism, you might have terrorism at that (protest). You can almost argue that a protest against that is a terrorist act."

In other words, according to an official CATIC spokesperson, ANY protest that challenges the government's "war on terrorism" is to be considered a terrorist act!

When the Tribune asked Van Winkle to define terrorism, he replied: "I'm not sure where to go with that. But as a state organization, we have this information and we're going to share it."

"I've heard terrorism described as anything that is violent or has an economic impact," Van Winkle continued, "and shutting down a port certainly would have some economic impact. Terrorism isn't just bombs going off and killing people."

By this definition, even a strike or an act of non-violent civil disobedience would be considered by CATIC to be an "act of terrorism."

Monitoring E-Mail and Guilt by Association

Surveillance by the Oakland Police has included monitoring the e-mail of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). Oakland Police Department Intelligence Unit Supervisor Derwin Longmire compiled a collection of e-mails and web postings by leaders of the ILWU about their stance on the war and upcoming protests.

Six members of the ILWU were shot with wooden bullets by the Oakland Police as they waited to go to work on April 7. A business manager of the Union was arrested when he protested the attack.

On April 2, Mike Mendenhall, of CATIC's Group Analysis Unit in Sacramento, transmitted a warning over the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, bearing the subject line, "National Day of Action Includes Northern California Targets." Mendenhall's memo painted a deliberately provocative portrait of the upcoming protest.

Oakland Police Capt. Rod Yee, who got Mendenhall's memo, gave the go-ahead April 7 for officers to open fire on protesters.

Mendenhall drew on the website of Direct Action to Stop the War, the organizing umbrella for several anti-war groups. He quoted the site as calling for protesters to "shut down the war merchants." However, Mendenhall neglected to mention Direct Action's specific instruction to port protesters: "This is not a civil disobedience action ... our goal is to maintain the picket line not to get arrested."

CATIC's analyst made special note of "blockade training" by the Ruckus Society, identified as a "protest organization group" that conducts "protest tactics training for events such as the 1999 World Trade Organization Conference in Seattle, Wash., and the 2001 Biotechnology Industry Organization Conference in San Diego."

The website for the Ruckus Society clearly states that it is dedicated to non-violent direct action. However, according to CATIC director Manavian, the involvement of the Ruckus Society in the protest indicated the potential for violence. "Was there any violence up there [in Seattle]? Was there any malicious damage to private property?" Manavian asked the Tribune reporter. "I think all those situations I just described are criminal predicate. Those are crimes."

So according to the director of the California Terrorism Information Center, the involvement of a group in a protest that has any property destruction--even if the group has no connection to any violent acts--is enough to make the group, and any demonstration that the group is involved with in the future, and anyone who relates to any demonstration the group is involved with in the future, the target of government surveillance.

Ruckus Society director John Sellers said he's not surprised to see his group on an advisory from an anti-terrorism intelligence center. "This is what all of us have been talking about since right after 9/11," he said. It "shines light on the kind of (U.S. Attorney General John) Ashcroft mentality that's seizing this country. Anyone internal with a dissenting view is lumped in with the people who drove the planes into the towers, which couldn't be further from the truth."


"It's very clear that they're creating, openly declaring, an open, unlimited war and they're creating a situation of a country that is more or less permanently at war--that's a permanent feature of the U.S. now. And then what has to go along with that is a lot of police-state repression and a whole repressive and intimidating atmosphere, because you can't carry out the one without carrying out the other."

Bob Avakian, from the interview with Carl Dix on "War and Revolution, On Being a Revolutionary and Changing the World"

Since September 11, there has been a massive expansion of police power in the U.S. in the name of fighting the "war on terrorism." All this is officially touted as a necessity to make people safe. However we now see the government equating political dissent with terrorism, spying on labor unions, shooting at protesters. This is not about keeping people safe but about squashing dissent and ratcheting up repression as the U.S. rulers unleash murderous ferocity against people around the world.

As Clark Kissinger of Refuse and Resist! has said, "The crying need today is for resistance to be raised to a whole new level that is commensurate with the civil liberties emergency we are actually facing."

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497