Spy suspect leaves job

Lawsuit: Former Lewis-McChord worker accused of infiltrating anti-war group

August 4, 2010 

The man accused of spying on members of an Olympia anti-war group while employed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord no longer works at the base, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

John Towery left in mid-July; he was not fired, spokeswoman Catherine Caruso said.

Towery is accused in a federal civil rights lawsuit of spying on members of Olympia Port Militarization Resistance, or OlyPMR. Other defendants include current Lewis-McChord Force Protection employee Thomas Rudd, the City of Olympia, the Olympia city manager, the Olympia Police Department, Olympia Police Chief Gary Michel, six individual Olympia police officers, Olympia’s communications director and a U.S. Coast Guard employee.

OlyPMR members announced in July 2009 that the group’s own investigation had revealed that Towery attended the group’s meetings under an assumed name, posed as an anarchist, befriended group members and conducted surveillance of members beginning in 2007.

OlyPMR member Brendan Maslauskas Dunn has said he learned of a person named John J. Towery in March 2009, when he received a copy of an Olympia city e-mail in response to a public records request asking for any information the city kept about “anarchists, anarchy, anarchism, SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) or Industrial Workers of the World.”

In the city’s e-mail, John J. Towery was identified as a member of Fort Lewis Force Protection, Dunn has said. Dunn showed a copy of the e-mail to an Olympian reporter, and it included a Fort Lewis phone number and a military e-mail address for Towery.

OlyPMR member Drew Hendricks has said that after looking at the e-mail, he checked a voter-registration database to learn where Towery lived. After that, group members conducted surveillance of Towery’s Spanaway residence and of the vehicles he drove. They confirmed that John J. Towery had taken part in OlyPMR’s activities using the name John Jacob, Hendricks has said.

Dunn has said that after the information came to light, Towery admitted to him that he was spying on the group. Towery told him that no one paid him and that he didn’t report to the military.

OlyPMR opposes the Iraq War. Members have conducted protests at Washington ports, aiming to block Joint Base Lewis-McChord from transporting Stryker vehicles and other military equipment used in the war to and from public ports.

Towery was formerly employed with Joint Base Lewis-McChord Force Protection and worked for Rudd, who still works there. JBLM Force Protection “consists of both civilian and military employees whose focus is on supporting law enforcement and security operations to ensure the safety of Fort Lewis, soldiers, family members, the work force and those personnel accessing the installation,” according to a Lewis-McChord spokesman.

OlyPMR’s federal civil rights lawsuit alleges that Towery’s spying was illegal. The lawsuit repeatedly references OlyPMR’s right to lawful, peaceful protest without fear of illegal surveillance. The lawsuit also references law enforcement actions taken against OlyPMR and other activists by police in Olympia and Tacoma. The lawsuit alleges that these actions were based on information passed to them in “threat assessments” via e-mails from Fort Lewis Force Protection.

Military law experts have said that if the Army employed someone to conduct surveillance of U.S. citizens, that would violate the Posse Comitatus Act, a federal law that prohibits the use of the Army for conventional law enforcement activities against civilians.

In July, Lewis-McChord announced that it had completed an investigation into Towery’s alleged activities. Base spokesman Joe Piek said at the time that the base was unable to release the results of the investigation because of the civil lawsuit involving Towery and Rudd.

Caruso said Tuesday that the base can’t release the results of its investigation because of the pending litigation involving Towery, a former Army employee, and Rudd, Towery’s former boss, who still works at Lewis-McChord.

Bellingham attorney Larry Hildes, who early this year filed the lawsuit that names Towery, said Tuesday that he is preparing to file an amended complaint of his lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tacoma.

Towery’s attorney, Michael McKay of Seattle, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. McKay, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, entered an appearance on Towery’s behalf in July. McKay has extensive experience as a trial attorney and in Washington politics. According to the website of McKay’s law firm, McKay Chadwell, “McKay has run numerous political campaigns. He was Washington state vice-chair of the 1988, 2000 and 2004 Bush campaigns and was co-chair of the Washington state steering committee of the McCain 2008 campaign.”

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465 jpawloski@theolympian.com

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