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A return to the good old days of J. Edgar Hoover: FBI monitoring Lefty groups

“I know for an absolute fact that we have not been involved in anything related to promoting terrorism and yet the government has collected almost 1,200 pages on our activities. Why is the ACLU now the subject of scrutiny from the FBI?”

— Anthony Romero, ACLU’s executive director

[UPDATE: Welcome AmericaBloggers; you’ll also find more information below about the ACLU’s Reform the Patriot Act efforts at the end of this post; no doubt it’s going to get heat on this as well.]

Holy crap. Has Tricky Dick risen from the dead? Progressive groups watch out, because the Bush administration may put you on a 21st century version of Nixon’s “enemies” list.

The Patriot Act is up for renewal, and the ACLU has been active in trying to mobilize attention on this and other issues (including the launch of a citizen activism site over the weekend). It’s no surprise that the organization is not well-liked by the Bushies, but this activity of the FBI, going back who knows how long (probably since 9/11), smacks of more retaliation by the administration on a scale that should scare everyone. Environmental and anti-war organizations are also being monitored. These papers MUST be released. (AP):

The FBI has thousands of pages of records in its files relating to the monitoring of civil rights, environmental and similar advocacy groups, the Justice Department acknowledges.

The organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Greenpeace, are suing for the release of the documents. The organizations contend that the material will show that they have been subjected to scrutiny by FBI task forces set up to combat terrorism. The FBI has identified 1,173 pages related to the ACLU and 2,383 pages about Greenpeace, but it needs at least until February to process the ACLU files and until June to review the Greenpeace documents, the government said in a filing in U.S. District Court in Washington.

The FBI has not said specifically what those pages contain. The ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, said the disclosure indicates that the FBI is monitoring organizations that are engaging in lawful conduct.

…Justice Department and FBI spokesmen declined to comment, citing the ongoing case. 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 requiring evidence of criminal activity or indications that a person may know something about a crime.

The ACLU has sought FBI files on a range of individuals and groups interviewed, investigated or subjected to searches by the task forces. The requests also are for 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 government did release one document it gathered on United for Peace and Justice that Romero said reinforces his concerns. The organization describes itself as a coalition of more than 1,300 anti-war groups.

A memo from Sept. 4, 2003, about Internet sites that were promoting protests at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York was addressed to counterterrorism units in Boston, Los Angeles and New York.

“Why is this being labeled as counterterrorism when it’s nothing more protests at a political convention, a lawful First Amendment activity?” Romero asked.

Here we have it, the cover of 9/11 is being used, as tool to intimidate and infiltrate groups participating in Constitutionally-protected activities. The power-grab by this corrupt, immoral administration knows no boundaries.

It makes you wonder who else is being watched — journalists…bloggers? Anyone this administration perceives to be a threat has to take a deep breath and demand the release of this information. What is happening to this country?

If you add this crap to the fact that Bush should be prosecuted for lying to Congress in his SOTU address about the Niger uranium story (that nailed the coffin that got us into the freaking war in the first place), this administration should be toast. It’s a felony to to misrepresent to Congress in a State of the Union address.

I also have a diary up at DKos, “Back to the days of Hoover: FBI monitoring Lefty groups.”

***

The ACLU has launched a blog to alert folks on the progress, if you want to call it that, on the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Chimpy have urged Congress to renew the law in its entirety. They are praying that the people are not paying attention the serious jeopardy our civil liberties face if changes are not made to this Act, which is set to expire at the end of the year.

Surf over to Reform the Patriot Act. NC blogger Ruby Sinreich is right, it’s a real blog, featuring news, first-person posts on the ACLU’s work in Congress on this Act — and you can contribute to the conversation with comments and trackbacks. This site is chock-full of information and tools to help folks mobilize and take action as the political battle heats up, such as RSS feeds, and graphics for your blog to help spread the word. A form to contact your Senators and Representatives is here.

Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

Besides the bill just introduced in the Senate Intelligence Committee (sponsored by Specter and Feinstein), there are three other bills on tap to reauthorize with few changes, still giving the government far-reaching authority to breach our individual privacy in the name of “security.”

As Lisa Graves, ACLU senior legislative counsel at the ACLU notes:

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s bill from June would make the expiring provisions of Patriot permanent and expand its powers. It would allow the FBI to write its own search orders that businesses would be compelled to comply with for literally “any tangible thing.”

The FBI would not have to show any specific facts connecting a foreign power or foreign terrorist with the records they sought: me
dical records, employment records, gun purchase records, tax records, credit reports, insurance records, bank statements, and records from car dealerships, etc.

They would not even have to get court approval to issue one of these subpoenas. And the recipient of one of these subpoenas is gagged forever from telling anyone about it. This bill also enables law enforcement to track your postal mail if the FBI requests it.

The bill is already awaiting action on the Senate floor, but this bill is really a foil, a chit to force through other “more palatable” bills that would make Patriot largely permanent with no real change.

Myths about the Patriot Act and links to the Reality

Bonus extra for you stooges monitoring this site: An improvement to Time‘s Rove cover.

Cross posted at Big Brass Blog

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding