June 22, 2006

Anna the Medic, 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 (annadavies99@yahoo.com) 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?


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