Members of a Washington anti-war group are suing an Army intelligence analyst, as well as the city of Olympia and several of its police officials, claiming their organization was illegally infiltrated and that the information gathered was used to make wrongful arrests.

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Members of a Washington anti-war group are suing an Army intelligence analyst, as well as the city of Olympia and several of its police officials, claiming their organization was illegally infiltrated and that the information gathered was used to make wrongful arrests.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle, 13 people alleged John J. Towery, a civilian intelligence analyst at Fort Lewis, attended their meetings and demonstrations using a false identity and relayed information about them to law-enforcement authorities, such as Seattle’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Members of Olympia Port Mobilization Resistance – so called because it opposed the Army’s use of civilian ports to ship Stryker vehicles to Iraq – outed Towery last summer, after learning who he was through public disclosure requests filed with Olympia. They said he had been involved with the group since early 2007 and claimed he confessed when confronted.

“This is important because it’s one of the few times the military has actually been caught spying,” said Larry Hildes, the attorney who brought the case. “It has fundamentally chilled the climate for First Amendment activity in Olympia and Tacoma. It’s caused people to distrust each other, and it’s made it very difficult to organize peaceful demonstrations.”

The Reconstruction-era Posse Comitatus Act forbids the Army from performing law enforcement actions, such as making arrests, seizing property or searching people. In extreme cases, however, the president can invoke the Insurrection Act, which allows use of active-duty or National Guard troops for law enforcement.

Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek has confirmed that Towery worked for the post’s Force Protection Division, and said that because of the sensitive work Towery does, it would not be appropriate for him to speak with reporters. Piek declined to comment on the lawsuit, which also names Towery’s boss, Thomas R. Rudd, and alleged that Towery acted on Rudd’s orders.

Piek said Wednesday an internal investigation into the group’s accusations continues, though the lawsuit questioned whether such a probe ever really began.

Several Olympia Police Department officials are accused of helping coordinate Towery’s infiltration and acting on information he provided. Olympia’s city attorney, Tom Morrill, declined to comment.

Nor was Towery alone in infiltrating the group, Hildes insisted. He said other police departments or sheriff’s offices in the region placed undercover officers at meetings or demonstrations, and Olympia’s communications director, Cathie Butler, was asked to leave the group at one point. The lawsuit claims she relayed information about its activities to her boss, city manager Steve Hall, who is also named as a defendant.

Butler did not immediately return a call left on her office voice mail after hours Wednesday.

“At one point there were probably more people infiltrating Olympia PMR than were actually in it,” Hildes said.

The port protest group – one of several in the region – formed in 2006. Members sometimes engaged in civil disobedience by trying to block the shipments. They claim that thanks to the infiltration, police knew where they were going to protest in advance – sometimes arresting them before their civil disobedience even began.

About 200 people were arrested over a two-week period in November 2007, but only about three dozen were ever charged.

The lawsuit seeks damages for violations of constitutional and civil rights.