Citing Free Speech Concerns, ACLU of MA Seeks FBI Records on Campus Surveillance Activities
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SPRINGFIELD, MA -- Citing concerns about free speech on campus, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts today said that it has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking details on government surveillance of college professors and students nationwide.
"We are concerned that an FBI presence on college campuses could have a chilling effect on the free speech of students, professors and other university employees and we are seeking more information about the extent of this program both in Massachusetts and nationwide," said John Reinstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts.
The request was prompted by recent disclosures that a police officer at the University of Massachusetts campus at Amherst was recruited by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to spend several days a week working exclusively for its Anti-Terrorism Task Force. The arrangement came to light after FBI agents, apparently acting on the basis of information provided by the campus officer, questioned a faculty member and an organizer for a campus union. The faculty member is of Iraqi descent and the union organizer is from Sri Lanka.
Neither university employee who was interviewed by the FBI is suspected of any wrongdoing, but both were questioned about their political views and organizational affiliations, and the Iraqi professor was asked about his loyalty to the United States.
The recent questioning of the employees and the news of the FBI presence on campus has roiled the Amherst community. Concerns about academic freedom were aired at a university forum last night entitled "The FBI and Terror." Attorney Bill Newman, director of the ACLU's Western Massachusetts office and a speaker at the forum, said that his group did not object to investigations of credible reports of suspicious activity. But, he said, "the FBI should not be investigating people based on their political views, particularly on a college campus."
"The presence of the FBI on a college campus can have an enormous chilling effect on students and faculty," he added. "We need to know what the FBI is doing on our nation's campuses."
In its FOIA request, the ACLU asked for information that would allow it "to assess the nature and scope of FBI activities at U.S. colleges and universities," including records about the enlistment of campus security officers to serve the interests of the FBI, any guidelines or documents about the questioning of students and faculty, and the name of every university campus security or police officer recruited after Sept. 11, 2001 who is now working under the direction and control of the FBI.
Federal law requires that the FBI respond to the request within ten days.
The full text of the FOIA request follows.
December 9, 2002
Chief, FOIA and Privacy Act Section
Room 6296 JEH
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20535
To the Chief of the FOIA and Privacy Act Section:
This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Officials at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst have recently acknowledged that one of its campus police officers, Barry Flanders, has been assigned to work with, and under the supervision of, the FBI's Anti-Terrorism Task Force. It is our understanding that Officer Flanders, while designated as a campus police Aliaison with the FBI and paid by the University, in fact works under the direction and control of the FBI for several days each week and is not permitted to inform his commanding officer about the nature of his activities, as she does not have the required security clearance. The FBI's arrangement with Officer Flanders and the University of Massachusetts police came to light after FBI agents, apparently acting on the basis of information provided by Flanders, questioned a faculty member and an organizer for a campus union about their political views and organizations in which they may have been involved.
Even apart from the specific information that was sought by the FBI agents in their interviews at the University of Massachusetts, the enlistment of campus security officers to serve the intelligence interests of the FBI within the academic community raises concerns for First Amendment freedoms. In the interests of public disclosure of the nature and scope of this program, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts hereby requests that you provide it with the opportunity to inspect and, if requested, with a copy of each of the following records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including records of its regional offices.
1. All records created after September 11, 2001 authorizing, describing the nature and purpose of or setting guidelines for FBI cooperation or liaison with campus police or security officers at colleges and universities in the United States for the purposes of gathering intelligence and/or investigating students, faculty and/or employees of the college or university;
2. All records created after September 11, 2001 of (a) communications from the FBI to any college or university in the United States soliciting, proposing or discussing cooperation or liaison between the FBI and the college or university police or security officers for the purposes of gathering intelligence and/or investigating students, faculty and/or employees of the college or university, and (b) communications from any college or university in the United States to the FBI responding thereto;
3. Records sufficient to show the names and locations of each and every college or university that has cooperated and/or is cooperating with the FBI in gathering intelligence and/or investigating students, faculty and/or employees of the college or university through the use of college or university campus police or security officers since September 11, 2001;
4. Records sufficient to show the name of each and every college or university campus police or security officer who has been and/or is under the direction and control of the FBI, in whole or in part, and/or who has reported and/or reports directly to the FBI since September 11, 2001;
5. Records sufficient to show the name of each and every college or university campus police or security officer who has received security clearance for work in cooperation with the FBI since September 11, 2001; and
6. Any records received by the FBI from Officer Barry Flanders of the University of Massachusetts police and any records of communications between Officer Barry Flanders of the University of Massachusetts police and the FBI.
The purpose of this request is to allow the requester to assess the nature and scope of FBI activities at U.S. colleges and universities. To the extent that a response to the foregoing request would require the copying of large volumes of essentially duplicative materials, I would certainly be willing to consider narrowing specific categories of records which have been requested.
As noted above, I have requested access to the original documents rather than having copies made in order to minimize the expense of obtaining the information they contain. To the extent that there are fees for the production of the requested documents, I hereby request a waiver of all applicable fees. The information contained in the requested documents is being sought by a public interest organization, and its disclosure would contribute significantly to the public understanding of the operations and activities of the government. The request is not made for any commercial purpose.
ACLU of Massachusetts