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Letter to the Editor: Unanswered Questions (New York Times)
ACLU Launches Nationwide Effort to Expose Illegal FBI Spying on Political and Religious Groups
SAN DIEGO -- Only a day after widespread reports that the FBI is monitoring and infiltrating political organizations, the three California affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union are seeking information about the intelligence gathering efforts of law enforcement agencies in the state. The Public Records Act request is being sent to Attorney General Bill Lockyer and focuses on the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center (CATIC) and information that it may have received from the FBI.
“The broad based federal surveillance programs are disturbing and reflect an unhealthy suspicion of dissenting political activity,” said Kevin Keenan, Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “Over the past several years, we have seen local law enforcement resources used to infiltrate peace groups and monitor protest activities. We are concerned that questionable federal policies are affecting local practices. That is why we are filing the Public Records Act request.”
On Tuesday, the national ACLU released FBI documents that were obtained after the organization filed Freedom of Information Act requests to find out whether the FBI’s partnerships with local law enforcement in Joint Terrorism Task Forces has resulted in increased surveillance of political and religious activity. The documents released on Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) showed the FBI expanding the definition of “domestic terrorism” to include citizens and groups that participate in lawful protests or civil disobedience.
In the Public Records Act request, the ACLU affiliates thanked Attorney General Lockyer for issuing guidelines two years ago protecting privacy rights under the California constitution but cautioned that, “with the growing use of state and local law enforcement officials on Joint Terrorism Task Forces run by the FBI there still exists the possibility of entanglement of local law enforcement in federal activities that exceed the scope of their authority under California law.”
The ACLU is seeking records held by CATIC and the Criminal Intelligence Bureau on the ACLU California affiliates and chapters, Greenpeace, PETA, United for Peace and Justice, Food not Bombs, Code Pink, War Resisters League West, College Not Combat, and the ADC, as well as a number of police documents. Under the California Public Records Act, the agencies have ten days to respond.
For a copy of the Public Records Act request, go to: www.aclunc.org/privacy/051221-catic.pdf
For more information on FBI documents obtained by the national ACLU, go to: www.aclu.org/spyfiles