Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Arab groups join ACLU lawsuit May 18, 2005

ADC Press Release:ADC Joins ACLU in Lawsuit Asking for Information Release on Possible FBI JTTF Spying on Political and Religious Groups

May 18, 2005, Washington, DC - Today the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) joined the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Greenpeace, and United for Peace and Justice, among other organizations in filing a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and the US Department of Justice.Today's lawsuit asks the court for injunctive relief to intervene in the expedited processing of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests made by ADC, the ACLU, and the other organizations in December.

BACKGROUNDIn December, 2004, citing evidence that the FBI and local police are illegally spying on political, environmental and faith-based groups, ADC joined the ACLU in filing multiple FOIA requests around the country to uncover possible FBI JTTF spying activities on political and religious groups.

The requests sought information about the FBI's use of the JTTF and local police to engage in political surveillance. As part of the request, the organizations also requested expedited processing on the ground that the records sought pertained to "[a] matter of widespread and exceptional media interest in which there exist possible questions about the government's integrity which affect public confidence."

ADC President Mary Rose Oakar said, "As always, ADC supports all efforts to keep our country secure and support the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in their efforts to keep us all safe from real terrorists and criminals. However, the non-response we have so far had to our FOIA requests leaves a lot to be desired from our public servants. Targeting Arabs and Muslims on the basis of national origin, sending undercover agents to completely lawful and constitutionally protected anti-war meetings, and infiltrating student groups does not make us safer."

ADC and the other plaintiff organizations have pointed to many documented examples of JTTF involvement in the investigation of environmental activists, anti-war protesters, and others who are clearly neither terrorists nor involved in terrorist activities, including:> aggressively questioning Muslims and Arabs on the basis of religion or national origin rather than suspicion of wrongdoing> tracking down parents of student peace activists> downloading anti-war action alerts from Catholic Peace Ministries> infiltrating student groups> sending undercover agents to National Lawyers Guild meetings

These activities were, and are, not the only evidence that the FBI JTTF is building files on activists. It should be noted that ADC had already documented multiple incidents where JTTF members have inappropriately questioned, pursued, and, in some instances, harassed individuals for no reasons other than their political views and/or their national origin.A classified FBI intelligence memorandum disclosed publicly last November (2004) revealed that the FBI has actually directed police to target and monitor lawful political demonstrations under the rubric of fighting terrorism.

Included in these FOIA filings are national and local advocates for well-known causes, including the environment, animal rights, labor, religion, Native American rights, fair trade, grassroots politics, peace, social justice, nuclear disarmament, human rights and civil liberties. Requests were also filed on behalf of numerous individuals, including anorganizer for Service Employees International Union, a former Catholic priest, and student activists.ADC has joined in today's lawsuit because of the FBI's lack of response in complying with the requests in an expedited fashion.-30-