FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DENVER -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado today released new documents that it says confirm that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) is inappropriately treating people who engage in peaceful protest as potential terrorists.
The ACLU obtained the documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed last December on behalf of 16 organizations and ten individuals. The files released today contain information on the Colorado American Indian Movement and the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center.
"These documents underscore the ACLU's concern that the JTTF inappropriately regards public protest as potential 'domestic terrorism,' and investigates and builds files on the political activities of peaceful dissenters because of the mere possibility that their activities will attract participants who may violate the law," said Mark Silverstein, ACLU of Colorado Legal Director. "By casting its net so unjustifiably wide, the FBI wastes taxpayers' money and threatens to chill legitimate dissent."
Silverstein said that the new files show that JTTF agents opened "domestic terrorism" investigations after they read notices on Web sites announcing an antiwar protest in Colorado Springs in 2003 and a protest against Columbus Day in Denver in 2002. They also reveal that the JTTF monitored the peaceful protest activities of law-abiding groups that formed the Coalition to Stop Vail Expansion in the late 1990s and that it investigated the Boulder-based Activist Media Project for videotaping a Lockheed Martin facility from a public street.
The ACLU said that these documents should raise particular concern from state officials because the Denver Police Department contributes the services of two full-time detectives to the JTTF. In May, the ACLU asked Denver to withdraw from the FBI task force, stating that a settlement agreement that resolved the "Spy Files" case forbids Denver detectives to target individuals or organizations for investigation because of their First Amendment activities.
The Colorado FOIA is part of a nationwide ACLU effort to expose and prevent FBI spying on people and groups simply for speaking out or practicing their faith. Last month, the FBI released 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 the organization's Web site calling for a public demonstration prior to the 2004 Republican National Convention.
The ACLU expects to receive additional responses from the FBI in the next few months.
More information on the ACLU's nationwide effort is online at www.aclu.org/spyfiles.
Links to the JTTF files on the Colorado American Indian Movement and the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center are available at http://www.aclu-co.org/spyfiles/JTTFdocuments.htm.
Additional information on the ACLU of Colorado's work regarding the Denver Joint Terrorism Task Force is available at http://www.aclu-co.org/docket/200406/200406_description.htm.