FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Government Has Amassed Thousands of Pages on National Peace and Civil Rights Organizations
NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union today revealed that the FBI has amassed more than 1,100 pages of documents on its organization since 2001, as well as documents concerning other non-violent groups including Greenpeace and United for Peace and Justice.
"We now know that the government is keeping documents about the ACLU and other peaceful groups - the question is why," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.
"We are urging the court to order that these documents be turned over immediately," he added. "If the FBI has nothing to hide, it should release the documents promptly. The government's claim that it needs nine more months to turn over these documents is a stalling tactic," Romero said, referring to the FBI's request for more time to "process" the 1,173 pages of documents it says it has on the ACLU.
The ACLU also revealed today the contents of a report on United for Peace and Justice, a national peace organization that coordinates non-violent protests. The document, sections of which are redacted, is addressed to FBI "Counterterrorism" personnel and quotes from UFPJ's website calling for a public demonstration prior to the 2004 Republican National Convention.
The document was released in response to an ACLU lawsuit filed two months ago to expedite its FOIA request for FBI surveillance files on the ACLU, Greenpeace, United for Peace and Justice, Code Pink, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
"The UFPJ report underscores our concern that the FBI is violating Americans' right to peacefully assemble and oppose government policies without being branded as terrorist threats," said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU. "There is no need to open a counterterrorism file when people are simply exercising their First Amendment rights."
The ACLU has launched a nationwide effort to expose and prevent FBI spying on people and groups simply for speaking out or practicing their faith. In addition to the FOIA request on behalf of the national organizations, the ACLU has filed similar requests on behalf of more than 100 groups and individuals in 16 states and the District of Columbia. The ACLU is seeking information about the FBI's use of Joint Terrorism Task Forces and local police to engage in political surveillance. The requests were filed in response to widespread complaints from students and political activists who said they were questioned by FBI agents in the months leading up to the 2004 political conventions.
The FOIAs seek two kinds of information: 1) the actual FBI files of groups and individuals targeted for speaking out or practicing their faith; 2) information about how the practices and funding structure of the task forces, known as JTTFs, are encouraging rampant and unwarranted spying.
For more information on the FOIA requests, go to www.aclu.org/spyfiles.
The FBI Counterterrorism document on United for Peace and Justice is available online at: www.aclu.org/SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=18781&c=206.
The government's response to the ACLU's lawsuit for expedited processing is available online at: www.aclu.org/SafeandFree/SafeandFree.cfm?ID=18779&c=206.