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Activist's Remark Starts FBI Probe

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Dooley noted that when it comes to determining security threats "there's probably a lower threshold after 9/11."

Marshall Stone, a supervisory special agent with the FBI office in Springfield, Ill., acknowledged that the corps had asked his agency to review Bensman's remarks. He wouldn't discuss the status of the inquiry, to avoid casting "a negative cloud" on Bensman if the review uncovers nothing.

Bensman is affiliated with the Sierra Club and the forest-protection group Heartwood, and his environmental activism is well-known around much of the Midwest. He has railed against logging and gone to bat for bats, woodpeckers and, lately, migratory fish in the Mississippi.

"They all know me, and I'm a thorn in their side," Bensman says of the Corps of Engineers. "I'm one of their biggest critics, and I'm sure I drive a lot of them crazy. But the First Amendment gives me a right to publicly speak out."

That's not the issue, Dooley said: "The issue was the (newspaper) report and not a matter of judgment about how well you do or don't know Mr. Bensman."

Bensman said his reaction when an FBI agent quizzed him about the newspaper article was that the case was "absurd."

"I told him, `How could you possible think this is a terroristic threat? Don't you have something more to worry about?'" Bensman said. "He said: 'We have to investigate everything.'"

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On the Net:

Corps of Engineers, St. Louis: http://www.mvs.usace.army.mil


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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