ACLU goes after FBI for illegal spying

Published December 3, 2004 1:26AM (EST)

The ACLU announced Thursday that it's launching a nationwide effort to expose FBI spying on citizens who organize and speak out politically -- people whom the ACLU says clearly have no connection to terrorism. The civil liberties watchdog is filing a series of Freedom of Information Act requests in 10 states and the District of Columbia.

"We have evidence that the FBI and local police -- working through so-called Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) -- are spying on environmental, anti-war, political, and faith-based groups. We think the public deserves to know more about who is being investigated and why.

"The FOIAs filed seek two kinds of information: 1) the actual FBI files of groups and individuals targeted for their political views or their religion; 2) information about how the structure and policies of the JTTFs are encouraging rampant and unwarranted spying. Our clients comprise a Whos Who of national and local advocates for well-known causes, including the environment, animal rights, labor, religion, Native American rights, fair trade, grassroots politics, peace, social justice, nuclear disarmament, human rights and civil liberties."

The ACLU says it has documented examples of JTTF activity against people "who are clearly not terrorists nor involved in terrorist activities," including: infiltrating student peace activists and tracking down their parents; gathering files on Americans Friends Service Committee anti-war events; interrogating animal rights activists in their homes; sending undercover agents to National Lawyers Guild meetings; and aggressively questioning Muslims and Arabs on the basis of religion or national origin rather than suspicion of wrongdoing.

By Mark Follman

Mark Follman is Salon's deputy news editor. Read his other articles here.

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