Tuesday, May 31, 2011

359. Cell Phones Are Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans

By Associated Press, Washington Post, May 31, 2011
London- A respected international panel of experts says cellphones are possible cancer-causing agents, putting them in the same category as the pesticide DDT, gasoline engine exhaust and coffee.
The classification was issued Tuesday in Lyon, France, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer after a review of dozens of published studies. The agency is an arm of the World Health Organization and its assessment now goes to WHO and national health agencies for possible guidance on cellphone use.

Classifying agents as “possibly carcinogenic” doesn’t mean they automatically cause cancer and some experts said the ruling shouldn’t change people’s cellphone habits.
“Anything is a possible carcinogen,” said Donald Berry, a professor of biostatistics at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. He was not linked to the WHO cancer group. “This is not something I worry about and it will not in any way change how I use my cellphone,” he said — from his cellphone.
After a week-long meeting, the expert panel said there was limited evidence cellphone use was linked to two types of brain tumors and inadequate evidence to draw conclusions for other cancers.
“We found some threads of evidence telling us how cancers might occur, but there were acknowledged gaps and uncertainties,” said Jonathan Samet, the panel’s chairman.
“The WHO’s verdict means there is some evidence linking mobile phones to cancer but it is too weak to draw strong conclusions from,” said Ed Yong, head of health information at Cancer Research U.K. “If such a link exists, it is unlikely to be a large one.”
Last year, results of a large study found no clear link between cellphones and cancer. But some advocacy groups contend the study raised serious concerns because it showed a hint of a possible connection between very heavy phone use and glioma, a rare but often deadly form of brain tumor. However, the numbers in that subgroup weren’t sufficient to make the case.
The study was controversial because it began with people who already had cancer and asked them to recall how often they used their cellphones more than a decade ago.
In about 30 other studies done in Europe, New Zealand and the U.S., patients with brain tumors have not reported using their cellphones more often than unaffected people.
Because cellphones are so popular, it may be impossible for experts to compare cellphone users who develop brain tumors with people who don’t use the devices. According to a survey last year, the number of cellphone subscribers worldwide has hit 5 billion, or nearly three-quarters of the global population.
People’s cellphone habits have also changed dramatically since the first studies began years ago and it’s unclear if the results of previous research would still apply today.

Monday, May 30, 2011

358. European Union Caution on Cellphones, Towers, Wi'Fi, Baby Monitors

Cell phone towers

Text adopted by the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the Assembly, on 27 May 2011 (see Doc. 12608, report of the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs, rapporteur: Mr Huss).

1.            The Parliamentary Assembly has repeatedly stressed the importance of states’ commitment to preserving the environment and environmental health, as set out in many charters, conventions, declarations and protocols since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and the Stockholm Declaration (Stockholm, 1972). The Assembly refers to its past work in this field, namely Recommendation 1863 (2009) on environment and health, Recommendation 1947 (2010) on noise and light pollution, and more generally, Recommendation 1885 (2009) on drafting an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights concerning the right to a healthy environment and Recommendation 1430 (1999) on access to information, public participation in environmental decision-making and access to justice – implementation of the Aarhus Convention.

2.            The potential health effects of the very low frequency of electromagnetic fields surrounding power lines and electrical devices are the subject of ongoing research and a significant amount of public debate. According to the World Health Organisation, electromagnetic fields of all frequencies represent one of the most common and fastest growing environmental influences, about which anxiety and speculation are spreading. All populations are now exposed to varying degrees of to electromagnetic fields, the levels of which will continue to increase as technology advances.

3.            Mobile telephony has become commonplace around the world. This wireless technology relies upon an extensive network of fixed antennas, or base stations, relaying information with radio frequency signals. Over 1.4 million base stations exist worldwide and the number is increasing significantly with the introduction of third generation technology. Other wireless networks that allow high-speed internet access and services, such as wireless local area networks, are also increasingly common in homes, offices and many public areas (airports, schools, residential and urban areas). As the number of base stations and local wireless networks increases, so does the radio frequency exposure of the population.

4.            While electrical and electromagnetic fields in certain frequency bands have wholly beneficial effects which are applied in medicine, other non-ionising frequencies, be they sourced from extremely low frequencies, power lines or certain high frequency waves used in the fields of radar, telecommunications and mobile telephony, appear to have more or less potentially harmful, non- thermal, biological effects on plants, insects and animals as well as the human body even when exposed to levels that are below the official threshold values.
5.            As regards standards or threshold values for emissions of electromagnetic fields of all types and frequencies, the Assembly recommends that the ALARA or “as low as reasonably achievable” principle is applied, covering both the so-called thermal effects and the athermic or biological effects of electromagnetic emissions or radiation. Moreover, the precautionary principle should be applicable when scientific evaluation does not allow the risk to be determined with sufficient certainty, especially given the context of growing exposure of the population, including particularly vulnerable groups such as young people and children, which could lead to extremely high human and economic costs of inaction if early warnings are neglected.

6.            The Assembly regrets that, despite calls for the respect of the precautionary principle and despite all the recommendations, declarations and a number of statutory and legislative advances, there is still a lack of reaction to known or emerging environmental and health risks and virtually systematic delays in adopting and implementing effective preventive measures. Waiting for high levels of scientific and clinical proof before taking action to prevent well-known risks can lead to very high health and economic costs, as was the case with asbestos, leaded petrol and tobacco.

7.            Moreover, the Assembly notes that the problem of electromagnetic fields or waves and the potential consequences for the environment and health has clear parallels with other current issues, such as the licensing of medication, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals or genetically modified organisms. It therefore highlights that the issue of independence and credibility of scientific expertise is crucial to accomplish a transparent and balanced assessment of potential negative impacts on the environment and human health.

8.            In light of the above considerations, the Assembly recommends that the member states of the Council of Europe:

8.1.in general terms:

8.1.1. take all reasonable measures to reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields, especially to radio frequencies from mobile phones, and particularly the exposure to children and young people who seem to be most at risk from head tumours;

8.1.2. reconsider the scientific basis for the present electromagnetic fields exposure standards set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, which have serious limitations and apply “as low as reasonably achievable” (ALARA) principles, covering both thermal effects and the athermic or biological effects of electromagnetic emissions or radiation;

8.1.3. put in place information and awareness-raising campaigns on the risks of potentially harmful long-term biological effects on the environment and on human health, especially targeting children, teenagers and young people of reproductive age;

8.1.4. pay particular attention to “electrosensitive” persons suffering from a syndrome of intolerance to electromagnetic fields and introduce special measures to protect them, including the creation of wave-free areas not covered by the wireless network;

8.1.5. in order to reduce costs, save energy, and protect the environment and human health, step up research on new types of antennas and mobile phone and DECT-type devices, and encourage research to develop telecommunication based on other technologies which are just as efficient but have less negative effects on the environment and health;

8.2. concerning the private use of mobile phones, DECT phones, WiFi, WLAN and WIMAX for computers and other wireless devices such as baby phones:

8.2.1. set preventive thresholds for levels of long-term exposure to microwaves in all indoor areas, in accordance with the precautionary principle, not exceeding 0.6 volts per metre, and in the medium term to reduce it to 0.2 volts per metre;

8.2.2. undertake appropriate risk-assessment procedures for all new types of device prior to licensing;

8.2.3. introduce clear labelling indicating the presence of microwaves or electromagnetic fields, the transmitting power or the specific absorption rate (SAR) of the device and any health risks connected with its use;

8.2.4. raise awareness on potential health risks of DECT-type wireless telephones, baby monitors and other domestic appliances which emit continuous pulse waves, if all electrical equipment is left permanently on standby, and recommend the use of wired, fixed telephones at home or, failing that, models which do not permanently emit pulse waves;
8.3. concerning the protection of children:

8.3.1. develop within different ministries (education, environment and health) targeted information campaigns aimed at teachers, parents and children to alert them to the specific risks of early, ill-considered and prolonged use of mobiles and other devices emitting microwaves;

8.3.2. for children in general, and particularly in schools and classrooms, give preference to wired Internet connections, and strictly regulate the use of mobile phones by schoolchildren on school premises;

8.4. concerning the planning of electric power lines and relay antenna base stations:

8.4.1. introduce town planning measures to keep high-voltage power lines and other electric installations at a safe distance from dwellings;

8.4.2. apply strict safety standards for sound electric systems in new dwellings;

8.4.3. reduce threshold values for relay antennas in accordance with the ALARA principle and install systems for comprehensive and continuous monitoring of all antennas;

8.4.4.   determine the sites of any new GSM, UMTS, WiFi or WIMAX antennas not solely according to the operators’ interests but in consultation with local and regional government officials, local residents and associations of concerned citizens;

8.5.         concerning risk assessment and precautions:

8.5.1. make risk assessment more prevention oriented;

8.5.2. improve risk-assessment standards and quality by creating a standard risk scale, making the indication of the risk level mandatory, commissioning several risk hypotheses and considering compatibility with real life conditions;

8.5.3. pay heed to and protect “early warning” scientists;

8.5.4. formulate a human rights oriented definition of the precautionary and ALARA principles;

8.5.5. increase public funding of independent research, inter alia through grants from industry and taxation of products which are the subject of public research studies to evaluate health risks;

8.5.6. create independent commissions for the allocation of public funds; make the transparency of lobby groups mandatory;

8.5.7. promote pluralist and contradictory debates between all stakeholders;

8.5.8. including civil society (Aarhus Convention).

357. Food Prices Will Double by 2030, Says Oxfam Report

Hunger in Africa

By BBC, May 30, 2011
The prices of staple foods will more than double in 20 years unless world leaders take action to reform the global food system, Oxfam has warned.
By 2030, the average cost of key crops will increase by between 120% and 180%, the charity forecasts.
Half of that increase will be caused by climate change, Oxfam predicts, in its report Growing a Better Future.
It calls on world leaders to improve regulation of food markets and invest in a global climate fund.
"The food system must be overhauled if we are to overcome the increasingly pressing challenges of climate change, spiralling food prices and the scarcity of land, water and energy," said Barbara Stocking, Oxfam's chief executive.
Women and children
In its report, Oxfam highlights four "food insecurity hotspots", areas which are already struggling to feed their citizens.
·      in Guatemala, 865,000 people are at risk of food insecurity, due to a lack of state investment in smallholder farmers, who are highly dependent on imported food, the charity says.
·      in India, people spend more than twice the proportion of their income on food than UK residents - paying the equivalent of £10 for a litre of milk and £6 for a kilo of rice.
·      in Azerbaijan, wheat production fell 33% last year due to poor weather, forcing the country to import grains from Russia and Kazakhstan. Food prices were 20% higher in December 2010 than the same month in 2009.
·      in East Africa, eight million people currently face chronic food shortages due to drought, with women and children among the hardest hit.
The World Bank has also warned that rising food prices are pushing millions of people into extreme poverty.
In April, it said food prices were 36% above levels of a year ago, driven by problems in the Middle East and North Africa.
Oxfam wants nations to agree new rules to govern food markets, to ensure the poor do not go hungry.
It said world leaders must:
·      increase transparency in commodities markets and regulate futures markets
scale up food reserves
·      end policies promoting biofuels
·      invest in smallholder farmers, especially women
"We are sleepwalking towards an avoidable age of crisis," said Ms Stocking.
"One in seven people on the planet go hungry every day despite the fact that the world is capable of feeding everyone."
Among the many factors driving rising food prices in the coming decades, Oxfam predicts that climate change will have the most serious impact.
Ahead of the UN climate summit in South Africa in December, it calls on world leaders to launch a global climate fund, "so that people can protect themselves from the impacts of climate change and are better equipped to grow the food they need".

Sunday, May 29, 2011

356. Significant Role Played by Oceans in Ancient Global Cooling

During their lifetime, foraminifera incorporate certain
elements and elemental isotopes depending on environmental
conditions. By analyzing the ratios of different isotopes and
elements, the researchers are able to reconstruct the past
environmental conditions that surrounded the foraminifera
 during their life. (Credit: Image courtesy of Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute)

ScienceDaily, May 28, 2011 

Thirty-eight million years ago, tropical jungles thrived in what are now the cornfields of the American Midwest and furry marsupials wandered temperate forests in what is now the frozen Antarctic. The temperature differences of that era, known as the late Eocene, between the equator and Antarctica were only half of what they are today. A debate has long been raging in the scientific community on what changes in our global climate system led to such a major shift from the more tropical, greenhouse climate of the Eocene to the modern and much cooler climates of today.

New research published in the journal Science, led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute scientist Miriam Katz, is providing some of the strongest evidence to date that the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) played a key role in the major shift in the global climate that began approximately 38 million years ago. The research provides the first evidence that early ACC formation played a vital role in the formation of the modern ocean structure.

The paper, titled "Impact of Antarctic Circumpolar Current development on late Paleogene ocean structure," is published in the May 27, 2011, issue of Science.
"What we have found is that the evolution of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current influenced global ocean circulation much earlier than previous studies have shown," said Katz, who is assistant professor of earth and environmental science at Rensselaer. "This finding is particularly significant because it places the impact of initial shallow ACC circulation in the same interval when the climate began its long-term shift to cooler temperatures."

There has been a debate over the past 40 years on what role the Antarctic Circumpolar Current had in the underlying cooling trend on Earth. Previous research has placed the development of the deep ACC (greater than 2,000 meters water depth) in the late Oligocene (approximately 23-25 million years ago). This is well after the global cooling pattern had been established. With this research, Katz and her colleagues used information from ocean sediments to place the global impact of the ACC to approximately 30 million years ago, when it was still just a shallow current.

Oceans and global temperatures are closely linked. Warmer ocean waters result in warmer air temperatures and vice versa. In the more tropical environs of the Eocene, ocean circulation was much weaker and currents were more diffuse. As a result, heat was more evenly distributed around the world. This resulted in fairly mild oceans and temperatures worldwide, according to Katz. Today, ocean temperatures vary considerably and redistribute warm and cold water around the globe in significant ways.

"As the global ocean currents were formed and strengthened, the redistribution of heat likely played a significant role in the overall cooling of the Earth," Katz said.

And no current is more significant than the ACC. Often referred to as the "Mixmaster" of the ocean, the ACC thermally isolates Antarctica by preventing warm surface waters from subtropical gyres to pass through its current. The ACC instead redirects some of that warm surface water back up toward the North Atlantic, creating the Antarctic Intermediate Water. This blocking of heat enabled the formation and preservation of the Antarctic ice sheets, according to Katz. And it is this circumpolar circulation that Katz's research concludes was responsible for the development of our modern four-layer ocean current and heat distribution system.

To come to her conclusions, Katz looked at the uptake of different elemental isotopes in the skeletons of small organisms found in ocean sediments. The organisms, known as benthic foraminifera, are found in extremely long cores of sediments drilled from the bottom of the ocean floor.

During their lifetime, foraminifera incorporate certain elements and elemental isotopes depending on environmental conditions. By analyzing the ratios of different isotopes and elements, the researchers are able to reconstruct the past environmental conditions that surrounded the foraminifera during their life. Specifically, they looked at isotopes of oxygen and carbon, along with ratios of magnesium versus calcium. More detailed information on Katz's isotopic analysis methods can be found at http://green.rpi.edu/archives/fossils/index.html.

Analysis of these isotopes from sediment cores extracted directly off the North American Atlantic coast showed the earliest evidence for the Antarctic Intermediate Waters, which circulates strictly as a direct consequence of the ACC. This finding is the first evidence of the effects of shallow ACC formation. The findings place development of the ACC's global impact much closer to the time that Antarctica separated from South America. It had previously been thought that the currents moving through this new continental gateway could not be strong enough at such shallow depths to affect global ocean circulation.
Katz points out that the larger cooling trend addressed in the paper has been punctuated by many short, but often significant, episodes of global warming. Such ancient episodes of warming are another significant aspect of her research program, and play an important role in understanding the modern warming of the climate occurring on the planet.

"By reconstructing the climates of the past, we can provide a science-based means to explore or predict possible system responses to the current climate change," Katz said.

Katz is joined in the research by Benjamin Cramer of Theiss Research; J.R. Toggweiler of Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab/NOAA; Chengjie Liu of ExxonMobil Exploration Co.; Bridget Wade of University of Leeds; and Gar Esmay, Kenneth Miller, Yair Rosenthal, and James Wright of Rutgers University.

Story Source:
The above story is reprinted (with editorial adaptations by ScienceDaily staff) from materials provided by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Journal Reference:
  1. M. E. Katz, B. S. Cramer, J. R. Toggweiler, G. Esmay, C. Liu, K. G. Miller, Y. Rosenthal, B. S. Wade, J. D. Wright.Impact of Antarctic Circumpolar Current Development on Late Paleogene Ocean StructureScience, 2011; 332 (6033): 1076 DOI: 10.1126/science.1202122

Saturday, May 28, 2011

355. Brazil Confirms Big Jump in Amazon Deforestation

By Rhett A. Butler, mongaby.com, May 18, 2011
Amazon deforestation Mar-Apr

New data from the Brazilian government seems to confirm environmentalists' fears that farmers and ranchers are clearing rainforest in anticipation of a weakening of the country's rules governing forest protection.

Wednesday, Brazil's National Space Research Agency (INPE) announced a sharp rise in deforestation in March and April relative to the same period last year. INPE's rapid deforestation detection system (DETER) recorded 593 square kilometers of forest clearing during the past two months, an area of rainforest 10 times the size of Manhattan and a 473 percent increase over the 103.5 sq km chopped down from March-April 2010.

81 percent of the recent clearing occurred in Mato Grosso, the southernmost state in the Brazilian Amazon that has accounted for more than 35 percent of the region's deforestation since 1988.

"The recent deforestation in Amazonia detected by INPE has been concentrated in the agricultural areas of the Mato Grosso state," Gilberto Camara, Director of INPE, told mongabay.com. "Deforestation in these areas was high in the 1990s and early 2000s. From 2005 to 2010, due to increased law enforcement and private arrangements such as the Soy Moratorium, these areas had a substantial reduction on forest clearings."

INPE's announcement comes a day after Imazon, a research institute that also tracks deforestation, reported a big percent increase in clear-cutting. Imazon also found a surge in forest degradation, the logging, burning, and thinning of forest that often precedes deforestation.

The short-term deforestation tracking systems used by INPE and Imazon are used primarily for law enforcement. Both rely on relatively coarse satellite resolution, making them faster but less accurate than the systems used to determine annual deforestation, which is estimated every August. Month-to-month deforestation can be highly variable in Brazil, by clearing usually peaks in the dry season between July and October. High rates of clearing in April is unusual.

deforestation in brazil's amazon rainforest since 1988

Until last month, the trend in the Brazilian Amazon had been very positive, with annual deforestation falling nearly 80 percent since 2004.

The increase in deforestation in April is thought to be linked to the current debate over Brazil's forest code, which requires land owners to maintain 80 percent of their holdings as forest in the Amazon region. Anticipating a weakening in the code that would grant amnesty for deforestation, farmers and ranchers have been clearing swathes of forest. Dry conditions, lingering from last year's worst-ever drought, have exacerbated the situation.

INPE's Camara told mongabay.com that IBAMA, Brazil's environment agency, just sent agents into the region to curb illegal clearing and report on what is causing the increase in deforestation.

Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is typically driven by industrial agriculture and land speculation. More than 70 percent of deforested land ends up as cattle pasture. High commodity prices typically create incentives for deforestation.

While only about 20 percent of the Brazilian Amazon has been lost to date, environmentalists fear that rising demand for food and fuel, combined with planned infrastructure projects and the effects of climate change, could doom much of the Amazon

354. Widespread FBI Spying of Dissident Groups Reported

Cointerlpro (Counter Intelligence Program)
is ongoing

By Colin Moynihan and Scott Shane, The New York Times, May 28, 2011

Austin-, Texas — A fat sheaf of F.B.I. reports meticulously details the surveillance that counterterrorism agents directed at the one-story house in East Austin. For at least three years, they traced the license plates of cars parked out front, recorded the comings and goings of residents and guests and, in one case, speculated about a suspicious flat object spread out across the driveway.

 “The content could not be determined from the street,” an agent observing from his car reported one day in 2005. “It had a large number of multi-colored blocks, with figures and/or lettering,” the report said, and “may be a sign that is to be used in an upcoming protest.”
Actually, the item in question was more mundane.
“It was a quilt,” said Scott Crow, marveling over the papers at the dining table of his ramshackle home, where he lives with his wife, a housemate and a backyard menagerie that includes two goats, a dozen chickens and a turkey. “For a kids’ after-school program.”
Mr. Crow, 44, a self-described anarchist and veteran organizer of anticorporate demonstrations, is among dozens of political activists across the country known to have come under scrutiny from the F.B.I.’s increased counterterrorism operations since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Other targets of bureau surveillance, which has been criticized by civil liberties groups and mildly faulted by the Justice Department’s inspector general, have included antiwar activists in Pittsburgh, animal rights advocates in Virginia and liberal Roman Catholics in Nebraska. When such investigations produce no criminal charges, their methods rarely come to light publicly.
But Mr. Crow, a lanky Texas native who works at a recycling center, is one of several Austin activists who asked the F.B.I. for their files, citing the Freedom of Information Act. The 440 heavily-redacted pages he received, many bearing the rubric “Domestic Terrorism,” provide a revealing window on the efforts of the bureau, backed by other federal, state and local police agencies, to keep an eye on people it deems dangerous.
In the case of Mr. Crow, who has been arrested a dozen times during demonstrations but has never been convicted of anything more serious than trespassing, the bureau wielded an impressive array of tools, the documents show.
The agents watched from their cars for hours at a time — Mr. Crow recalls one regular as “a fat guy in an S.U.V. with the engine running and the air-conditioning on” — and watched gatherings at a bookstore and cafe. For round-the-clock coverage, they attached a video camera to the phone pole across from his house on New York Avenue.
They tracked Mr. Crow’s phone calls and e-mails and combed through his trash, identifying his bank and mortgage companies, which appear to have been served with subpoenas. They visited gun stores where he shopped for a rifle, noting dryly in one document that a vegan animal rights advocate like Mr. Crow made an unlikely hunter. (He says the weapon was for self-defense in a marginal neighborhood.)
They asked the Internal Revenue Service to examine his tax returns, but backed off after an I.R.S. employee suggested that Mr. Crow’s modest earnings would not impress a jury even if his returns were flawed. (He earns $32,000 a year at Ecology Action of Texas, he said.)
They infiltrated political meetings with undercover police officers and informers. Mr. Crow counts five supposed fellow activists who were reporting to the F.B.I.
Mr. Crow seems alternately astonished, angered and flattered by the government’s attention. “I’ve had times of intense paranoia,” he said, especially when he discovered that some trusted allies were actually spies.
“But first, it makes me laugh,” he said. “It’s just a big farce that the government’s created such paper tigers. Al Qaeda and real terrorists are hard to find. We’re easy to find. It’s outrageous that they would spend so much money surveilling civil activists, and anarchists in particular, and equating our actions with Al Qaeda.”
The investigation of political activists is an old story for the F.B.I., most infamously in the Cointel program, which scrutinized and sometimes harassed civil rights and antiwar advocates from the 1950s to the 1970s. Such activities were reined in after they were exposed by the Senate’s Church Committee, and F.B.I. surveillance has been governed by an evolving set of guidelines set by attorneys general since 1976.

But the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 demonstrated the lethal danger of domestic terrorism, and after the Sept. 11 attacks, the F.B.I. vowed never again to overlook terrorists hiding in plain sight. The Qaeda sleeper cells many Americans feared, though, turned out to be rare or nonexistent.
The result, said Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent now at the American Civil Liberties Union, has been a zeal to investigate political activists who pose no realistic threat of terrorism.
“You have a bunch of guys and women all over the country sent out to find terrorism. Fortunately, there isn’t a lot of terrorism in many communities,” Mr. German said. “So they end up pursuing people who are critical of the government.”
Complaints from the A.C.L.U. prompted the Justice Department’s inspector general to assess the F.B.I.’s forays into domestic surveillance. The resulting report last September absolved the bureau of investigating dissenters based purely on their expression of political views. But the inspector general also found skimpy justification for some investigations, uncertainty about whether any federal crime was even plausible in others and a mislabeling of nonviolent civil disobedience as “terrorism.”
Asked about the surveillance of Mr. Crow, an F.B.I. spokesman, Paul E. Bresson, said it would be “inappropriate” to discuss an individual case. But he said that investigations are conducted only after the bureau receives information about possible crimes.
“We do not open investigations based on individuals who exercise the rights afforded to them under the First Amendment,” Mr. Bresson said. “In fact, the Department of Justice and the bureau’s own guidelines for conducting domestic operations strictly forbid such actions.”
It is not hard to understand why Mr. Crow attracted the bureau’s attention. He has deliberately confronted skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members at their gatherings, relishing the resulting scuffles. He claims to have forced corporate executives to move with noisy nighttime protests.
He says he took particular pleasure in a 2003 demonstration for Greenpeace in which activists stormed the headquarters of ExxonMobil in Irving, Tex., to protest its environmental record. Dressed in tiger outfits, protesters carried banners to the roof of the company’s offices, while others wearing business suits arrived in chauffeured Jaguars, forcing frustrated police officers to sort real executives from faux ones.
“It was super fun,” said Mr. Crow, one of the suits, who escaped while 36 other protesters were arrested. “They had ignored us and ignored us. But that one got their attention.”
It got the attention of the F.B.I. as well, evidently, leading to the three-year investigation that focused specifically on Mr. Crow. The surveillance documents show that he also turned up in several other investigations of activism in Texas and beyond, from 2001 to at least 2008.
For an aficionado of civil disobedience, Mr. Crow comes across as more amiable than combative. He dropped out of college, toured with an electronic-rock band and ran a successful Dallas antiques business while dabbling in animal rights advocacy. In 2001, captivated by the philosophy of anarchism, he sold his share of the business and decided to become a full-time activist.
Since then, he has led a half-dozen groups and run an annual training camp for protesters. (The camps invariably attracted police infiltrators who were often not hard to spot. “We had a rule,” he said. “If you were burly, you didn’t belong.”) He also helped to found Common Ground Relief, a network of nonprofit organizations created in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Anarchism was the catchword for an international terrorist movement at the turn of the 20th century. But Mr. Crow, whose e-mail address contains the phrase “quixotic dreaming,” describes anarchism as a kind of locally oriented self-help movement, a variety of “social libertarianism.”
“I don’t like the state,” he said. “I don’t want to overthrow it, but I want to create alternatives to it.”
This kind of talk appears to have baffled some of the agents assigned to watch him, whose reports to F.B.I. bosses occasionally seem petulant. One agent calls “nonviolent direct action,” a phrase in activists’ materials, “an oxymoron.” Another agent comments, oddly, on Mr. Crow and his wife, Ann Harkness, who have been together for 24 years, writing that “outwardly they did not appear to look right for each other.” At a training session, “most attendees dressed like hippies.”
Such comments stand out amid detailed accounts of the banal: mail in the recycling bin included “a number of catalogs from retail outlets such as Neiman Marcus, Ann Taylor and Pottery Barn.”
Mr. Crow said he hoped the airing of such F.B.I. busywork might deter further efforts to keep watch over him. The last documents he has seen mentioning him date from 2008. But the Freedom of Information Act exempts from disclosure any investigations that are still open.
“I still occasionally see people sitting in cars across the street,” he said. “I don’t think they’ve given up.”