ACLU of Ohio Launches Investigation into Defense Department Spying on Quakers and Peace Activists
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CLEVELAND- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio today said that it is investigating documented spying by the Department of Defense on two Northeast Ohio peace groups.
The Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (NOAFSC) and the Northeast Ohio Anti-War Coalition (NOAC) both appeared on a document detailing groups that were being watched by the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), a division of the Department of Defense.
“Both of these groups were engaging in First Amendment protected activities, yet were spied on simply because they expressed views counter to the government,” said Jeff Gamso, Legal Director of the ACLU of Ohio. “This type of surveillance is contrary to American values and hearkens back to the illegal government spying conducted during the Vietnam War and the McCarthy era.”
In December 2005, NBC National News leaked the eight-page document that led to the investigation. The leaked document, only eight out of four hundred pages, showed government surveillance of peace groups all over the country, including NOAFSC in Akron and NOAC in Cleveland.
The ACLU of Ohio issued records requests to CIFA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Cleveland Police Department and the Akron Police Department seeking any information on NOAFSC, NOAC, the ACLU of Ohio, and select individuals within those organizations.
As part of the investigation, the ACLU of Ohio asked for records on itself because NOAC holds regular meetings in the ACLU office in Cleveland. The ACLU of Ohio offices are open to many people throughout the community to utilize as a meeting space. Various groups including Cleveland Public Theatre and Case Western Reserve University have used this space in the past, according to the ACLU.
“As the defenders of the Constitution, we are deeply troubled that illegal surveillance of law-abiding Americans could be happening in our own building,” said Gamso.
The investigation was launched only days after the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency seeking to stop a secret electronic surveillance program that allows the NSA to monitor and collect e-mails and phone calls from innocent Americans without court approval. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of prominent journalists, scholars, attorneys and national nonprofit organizations who frequently communicate by phone and e-mail with people in the Middle East. The lawsuit seeks a court order declaring that the spying is illegal and ordering its immediate and permanent halt. More information is available online at www.aclu.org/nsaspying
The ACLU has also filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the FBI in 20 states on behalf of more than 150 organizations and individuals. In response, the government has released documents that reveal FBI monitoring and infiltration by the FBI and local law enforcement, targeting political, environmental, anti-war and faith-based groups. All the documents received to date are available online at www.aclu.org/spyfiles
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