Have Wire, Will Travel
Listen, my children, to the story of Anna the Medic, who travels the land, bringing the harsh scrutiny of federal law enforcement to Americans engaged in political protest.
In the past two years, Anna, whose real name may be Anna Davies or Anna Davidson, has turned up at rallies and marches from South Florida to Northern California, with a lot of stops in between. She has demonstrated for animal rights and protested the Iraq War, all the while meticulously gathering information on political dissidents for the FBI. According to FBI affidavits, Anna has been a paid informant in 12 investigations of "anarchist" groups. She's a veritable Scarlet Pimpernel, on the federal government tab.
As a confidential informant, Anna is topnotch. She has a way of inveigling herself into meetings and revving up the emotions of young dissidents, protest group leaders say.
For example, days before planned protests in June 2005 at the Broward Convention Center, where the Organization of American States held its annual meeting, Anna showed up out of the blue in crisp black scrubs and a kit bag with a red cross on it, says Ray Del Papa, a member of the protest planning committee.
Del Papa says his suspicions were immediately aroused. "I had just had a phone conversation with the defense headquarters set up in Fort Lauderdale to handle arrest situations," he says. "I told them we needed medics. The next day, Anna shows up, dressed as a medic. I knew our phones were tapped, so I thought she might be an infiltrator."
Anna, in her mid-20s, seemed more interested in the planning for the protest than in medical contingencies. She asked a lot of questions and seemed to have prior knowledge of all the preliminary planning sessions, Del Papa says. "She'd come up and ask me, 'What happened at the legal observer training session?'" Del Papa says. "I'd say, 'How did you know about that?' And she'd say, 'Well, I heard you were there. '"
During the protest on June 6, Anna was called upon to use her supposed medical skills. She was summoned to help an elderly woman who was apparently suffering from heat exhaustion. She gave the woman, Barbara Collins, a drink of Gatorade. After her symptoms persisted, though, Anna declined to return to assist the woman again, says Collins' friend Linda Belgrave, a University of Miami sociology professor.
"She told us to walk over to where some air-conditioned buses were," Belgrave says. "Anna was too busy hanging out to help. Eventually, [Barbara] collapsed by the side of the road, and the cops called an ambulance."
Things went smoothly at the protest until a small group of teenagers decided to stage a sitdown in front of a squad of police officers in riot gear. Here's where Anna showed her true calling. Del Papa and others say the teenagers had been orchestrated by the charismatic Anna. The setting was at a bottleneck in the march to the convention center, and cops seemed to be preparing to step in. "I said, 'This is a trap,'" Del Papa recounts. Other protest leaders eventually interceded, persuading the teenagers to move along before the cops moved in.
Anna showed up later that month at the so-called Bio-Democracy protests in Philadelphia, at which demonstrators protested experiments on animals. Some 15 demonstrators were arrested during street protests at and around the Philadelphia Convention Center, where biotech companies were meeting. Anna posted an "article" about the protest on an independent media website. "How empowering!" she crowed, recounting how she had chanted "Puppy killers, GO HOME!" She made subsequent appearances at protests and meetings in Boston, Pittsburgh, and Asheville, North Carolina.
But Anna's big coup was in Northern California, where she became the prime prosecution witness in federal conspiracy charges against three alleged "eco-terrorists." The three plotted to blow up a dam, a genetics lab, a U.S. Forestry Service facility, and cellular telephone towers, federal authorities say. Anna was there, recording the whole plot with a body wire.
However, according to attorney Mark Reichel, who represents one of the defendants, Eric McDavid, it was actually Anna who recruited the three during the Philadelphia protest. McDavid, Zachary Jenson, and Lauren Weiner traveled with Anna to Auburn, California, where Anna rented a cabin and assisted in preparations for manufacturing bombs and scoping out targets. Reichel says Anna promoted the plot and bought the supplies (including "canning jars, coffee filters, a mixing bowl, a hot plate, petroleum jelly, a gasoline can, bleach, an extension cord, and battery testers," as a court document recorded it) that were purchased to make bombs.
The three alleged conspirators, supposedly members of an Eco-Liberation Front (ELF) cell, were arrested in January; Weiner has agreed to testify against the other two.
South Florida lawyer/activist Jennifer Van Bergen began to connect the dots in Anna's headlong career as an informant in a June 8 article for Raw Story, a progressive online newsgathering organization. The truth about Anna's involvement with the ELF plot was by then beginning to surface in court hearings. An FBI agent revealed that Anna referred to in court as "the source" was paid $75,000 and expenses over the past two years to serve as an FBI confidential informant. He also conceded that Anna had rented the cabin and purchased at least some of the bomb-making supplies. Attempts to reach Anna at her e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) got no response. Judy Orhuela, spokeswoman for the FBI Miami office, said the agency wouldn't comment on confidential informants.
Tailpipe remembers stories from the dark, Nixonian 1960s and '70s about undercover operatives who used insidious tactics to ratchet up the violence, then showed up in court as paid informants. ("When somebody in a crowd shouts 'Let's get some guns,' you know he's a paid informant," activists used to say.) But hasn't that kind of questionable law enforcement activity been attacked in federal court?
In the Bush era, all civil-rights bets are off. The 'Pipe asked the world-bitten Reichel about the possible fallout should Anna be shown to have been a provocateur rather than an impartial observer. "Please," he said. "They'll give her the Medal of Honor."
(From the transcript of a recent Men of the Square Table summit, chaired by Burt Reynolds. )
Reynolds: Awright, the town of Jupiter is selling the building that houses your Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum to make way for the Scripps Research Institute. What do you do?
Former NFL running back: Put on a wetsuit, track down the Jupiter mayor, and make him squeal like a pig?
Reynolds: Nah, too metrosexual.
Former astronaut: You could pile all the memorabilia into an 18-wheeler and make a mad dash through the South.
Reynolds: No, too many hot-headed, overweight sheriffs on the road.
Lumberjack: Drop Dom DeLuise on City Hall?
Professional poker player: I got it you combine the museum with biomedical research. In one wing, the mustache bushification lab. In another wing, teeth whitening research.
(Everyone mutters in agreement. )
Rodeo cowboy: And a Loni Anderson cloning division!
Reynolds (looks stricken, pauses a beat): So mustache lab it is. Man Law!
(They raise beer bottles in a toast. )
See Nicole Be Elmo
"Nicole," reputedly the country's youngest transgender child, will go to kindergarten as the girl she insists she is. Administrators of the Broward County public school system met this month with the pseudonymous Anderson family to discuss whether their biologically male 5-year-old child could enroll in kindergarten as a female. According to lesbian rights lawyer Karen Doering, who attended the meeting with the family, the group of school officials, doctors, and psychologists agreed that she could.
"They've agreed to work with the family, and they're going to try to work together and do what's best for Nicole," Doering says.
The school system plans to educate Nicole's teachers about her need to be treated as a female, to allow her to dress in female clothing, and to avoid referring to her with male names and pronouns.
"They decided at first to do the 'Elmo' thing," Doering says. "Using the name in place of the pronoun: 'Elmo wants to have breakfast now.' It'll be a gender-neutral name or a nickname, like 'Nikki.' And then they're just going to watch and see what evolves."
The meeting between the family and the school system occurred almost six months after the Andersons initially asked school administrators to allow Nicole to enroll as a girl. The delay prompted the Andersons to go public with Nicole's story with New Times ("See Dick Be Jane," May 18).
From a List of Awards That You Hope They Send You in a Plain Brown Wrapper:
Craig Vanderlaan of Pembroke Pines has been named as a semifinalist for an Energizer Bunny Award. After watching the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Vanderlaan started an organization called adoptahurricanefamily.org to help those without a place to stay. Even after Hurricane Wilma destroyed his home two months later, he still worked tirelessly to help find shelter for those displaced by the hurricanes.
For his efforts, he's a contender for the Energizer "Keep Going Hall of Fame," where his visage could be installed next to that of baseball iron man Cal Ripken. And, of course, Bugs.
As told to Edmund Newton
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