(AP) - WASHINGTON-Five civil rights, animal rights and environmental groups are
joining in a lawsuit against the FBI to release records about monitoring of anti-war
and other political activities by federal agents assigned to counterterrorism
The American Civil Liberties Union said the decision to file a lawsuit Wednesday
in U.S. District Court in Washington came after the Federal Bureau of Investigation
ignored requests for the documents under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.
The other organizations involved are the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee,
Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and United for Peace
The groups say they have been subjected to scrutiny by task forces set up to
"We think that if they have some reason to hide from the public the files
they have on political and religious groups, we want to know right now what
it is," said Ann Beeson, the ACLU's associate legal director.
The FBI has denied singling out individuals or groups for surveillance or investigation
based solely on activities protected by the Constitution's guarantees of free
speech. Officials have said agents adhere strictly to Justice Department guidelines
that require evidence of criminal activity or indications that a person may
know something about a crime.
The ACLU has been seeking FBI files about a broad range of individuals and
groups that have been interviewed, investigated or subjected to searches by
the task forces. The requests also sought information on how the task forces
are funded, to determine if they are rewarded with government money by labeling
high numbers of cases as related to terrorism.
The ACLU provided a list of examples, including the Quaker-affiliated American
Friends Service Committee, which had been monitored by police in Denver, Colorado,
and was listed as an "active case" by a local terrorism task force.
The FBI released some records requested by the ACLU. They involve two political
activists in Colorado, one of them a 21-year-old intern for the Friends.
Sarah Bardwell has no criminal record, according to a partially censored report
from the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force in Denver. The report said her Denver
residence was "found to be associated" with two groups that were of
interest to the FBI.
Bardwell said one of the groups, Food Not Bombs, distributes vegetarian food
to the hungry. "They are stretching as far as they can to insinuate that
these organizations are doing something wrong," Bardwell said.
The other person whose FBI file was released is Scott Silber, 29, a former
labor organizer for the Service Employees International Union. "The FBI
was engaging in a campaign to intimidate people who were working on progressive
causes," Silber said.
The FBI said in a statement that it sought to interview Bardwell, Silber and
others in Colorado "based on a specific and credible threat" of violence
at last summer's Democratic National Convention in Boston.
The Associated Press