ACLU Sues FBI on Behalf of Greenpeace and Other Organizations

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit in federal court today, charging that the FBI is wrongfully withholding information about its investigations of peaceful organizations. The lawsuit seeks to compel the Justice Department to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that the ACLU filed last year for records kept on a wide range of human rights, peace, environmental and religious groups and activists, including Greenpeace.

"We are grateful to the ACLU for exposing the FBI's unjust spying on public interest organizations," said Tom Wetterer, general counsel for Greenpeace.  "The FBI's investigations, compounded by its nondisclosure, are abuses of power that have become the norm under the Bush regime. These tactics are not only an attempt to stifle the free speech activities of groups like Greenpeace, but also threaten the civil liberties of all Americans."

The ACLU charges that the FBI and local police are engaging in intimidation based on political association and are improperly investigating individuals and nongovernmental organizations.  In December 2004, the ACLU filed FOIA requests on behalf of more than 100 parties. To date, fewer than 20 pages have been received in response to the FOIAs.  Today's lawsuit was filed on behalf of five plaintiffs:  Greenpeace, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, United for Peace and Justice and the ACLU itself.

The ACLU said that the few documents received shed light on the FBI's misuse of Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) to engage in political surveillance.  The controversial JTTF partnerships between the FBI and local police, in which local officers are "deputized" as federal agents, are allowing police to target peaceful political and religious groups with no connection to terrorism.

In July 2003, the Bush administration brought criminal charges against Greenpeace for a peaceful protest against the importation of illegal mahogany.  The case represented the first time ever that an organization was criminally prosecuted for the free speech activities of its supporters.  A federal judge threw out the charges during trial in May 2004.

A classified FBI intelligence memorandum disclosed publicly in November 2003 revealed that the FBI has actually directed police to target and monitor lawful political demonstrations under the guise of fighting terrorism.

For more on the ACLU lawsuit go to www.aclu.org/spyfiles

Other contacts: Nancy Hwa, Greenpeace media officer (202) 319- 2432

Exp. contact date: 2005-06-18 00:00:00

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