ACLU Demands FBI Rewrite Spying Guidelines in Light of Reports of Spying on Civil Rights Leader Coretta Scott King

August 31, 2007 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today issued a call to change FBI spying guidelines after documents were released revealing that the FBI spied on Coretta Scott King, after the death of her husband Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in an attempt to stem the civil rights movement. After the government was criticized for spying on Dr. King, the FBI was prohibited from spying on Americans. But in 2002 former Attorney General John Ashcroft changed the guidelines to permit the FBI to spy on individuals in public places.

The ACLU has issued two reports condemning FBI spying: the first in 2002 specifically about Dr. Martin Luther King, and another published this year titled “History Repeated: The Dangers of Domestic Spying by Federal Law Enforcement,” both by ACLU Legislative Counsel Marvin Johnson.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“The government’s spying on Coretta Scott King is despicable, but it unfortunately isn’t a surprise. When government agencies are given free rein to spy on Americans, they will inevitably use their power to suppress free speech for political reasons instead of averting real threats. We can’t trust the government to have this much power over our lives, and the FBI’s guidelines for spying must be rewritten with our freedom in mind. Political thought and freedom of speech can’t flourish with the government hovering over us.”

The 2007 ACLU report “History Repeated: The Dangers of Domestic Spying By Law Enforcement” can be found online at:

The 2002 ACLU report “The Dangers of Domestic Spying by Federal Law Enforcement: A Case Study on FBI Surveillance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” can be found online at:

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