In light of recent revelations that the FBI and local law enforcement are spying on people engaged in peaceful political and religious activity, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed Freedom of Information requests today on behalf of itself and fourteen of New York's most prominent political and religious groups to determine whether the FBI is spying on them as well.
"New York has been the center of anti-war activity and is the home of scores of vocal Muslim groups," said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. "Given what we now know about the government spying on political and religious groups around the country, we have every reason to believe that such abuses of power are being committed in New York."
The NYCLU is filing requests on behalf of 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows; the American Friends Service Committee, Upper NY State Area Office; Brooklyn Parents for Peace; the Buffalo War Resisters League; antiwar activist and United for Peace and Justice National Coordinator Leslie Cagan; the Council on American-Islamic Relations, NY Chapter; the Council on Peoples Organization; MetroJustice (Rochester); the NY Immigration Coalition; Peace Action of Central NY; People for the American Way of NY; People for Animal Rights (Syracuse); Veterans for Peace Chapter 128; the Western NY Peace Center (Buffalo); and the NYCLU itself.
"The Freedom of Information Act is a powerful tool to force the government to disclose information it doesn't want to disclose," said Corey Stoughton, NYCLU staff attorney. "Today's requests will pull back the veil of secrecy that the National Security Agency, the Department of Defense, and the FBI have used to hide unlawful surveillance."
The NYCLU files its requests on the same day that the ACLU of Pennsylvania releases a series of documents the affiliate received in response to its own similar FOIA requests. These documents show that the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force is spying on the pacifist Thomas Merton Center in Pittsburgh.
"It scares us to know that our government spies on peaceful, law-abiding political activity," said John Leinung, a member of the Steering Committee for 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a pro-peace organization founded by family members of September 11th victims, which is seeking information as part of today's FOIA requests. "If our freedoms were under attack on 9/11, then we who lost so much that day must work to protect those freedoms from both outright attack and slow erosion."
For copies of the FOIA and FOIL requests filed by the NYCLU today and information about the groups included in those requests, see below. For details and legal papers regarding the FOIA requests filed by ACLU affiliates around the country, including a list of clients, go to www.aclu.org/spyfiles.
- Organizations seeking information
- Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI
- Freedom of Information Law request to the Syracuse City Police Department
- Freedom of Information Law request to the Buffalo Police Department
- Freedom of Information Law request to the Rochester Police Department
- Freedom of Information Law request to the New York Police Department
The freedom of information requests require the free Adobe Reader.