ACLU Asks the Federal Government for Records of Spying on Grassroots Groups In Montana

June 8, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: media@aclu.org

HELENA, MT – The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana today filed a Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of eight Montana grassroots organizations that fear they may have been monitored  because they have questioned federal policies including the war in Iraq.
 
“These Montana organizations have real concerns that their civil liberties are being violated by sweeping and overbroad government eavesdropping on their legitimate political activities,” said ACLU of Montana Executive Director Scott Crichton. “We want to help them determine whether their meetings have been monitored and their members targeted for surveillance by one of several agencies of the government.”
 
The request was filed simultaneously with the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense seeking records collected by the surveillance and monitoring of legitimate grassroots organizations exercising their constitutional rights to meet, associate, and organize.
 
The groups, including the Montana ACLU, are the Helena Peace Seekers; the Billings Peace Seekers; the Butte-based TAPS (Taking Action for Peaceful Solutions); the Helena-based “Just Don’t Go”; the Missoula-based University of Montana Students for Peace and Justice and the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center; and the Hamilton-based environmental group Friends of the Bitterroot.
 
“NSA spying programs tracking personal phone and Internet communications are deeply troubling, but they are only the tip of the iceberg,” Crichton said. “We are inquiring of multiple agencies because we know, for example, that the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) has been keeping tabs on organizations speaking against the pre-emptive war in Iraq, with complete disregard for human rights and the rule of law.”
 
The ACLU has filed similar Freedom of Information Act requests in 20 states on behalf of more than 150 organizations and individuals. In response to these requests, the government has released documents that reveal monitoring and infiltration by the FBI and local law enforcement, targeting political, environmental and anti-war groups.  Last month, for instance, ACLU of Georgia released new evidence that the FBI is using counterterrorism resources to spy on peaceful faith- and conscience-based advocacy groups including School of the Americas Watch and its multinational faith-based network. 
 
For details on the organizations requesting their files, and to see the complete text of the actual FOIA request online, go to www.aclumontana.org. For more information on "spyfiles" revelations around the country, go to www.aclu.org/spyfiles
 
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