Sunday, July 17, 2005


Sixteen provisions of the Patriot Act, passed with next to no debate mere days after 9/11, are approaching their expiration date. At least fourteen of them are all but certain to be made permanent by Congress; the other two will likely be renewed as well, but -- as a sop to the tender sensibilities of civil libertarians -- for a limited period of time, either four or ten years. Now that the stake is poised directly above the late Frank Church's heart, our distinguished colleague Pam Spaulding thought you might be interested to know what's been happening on the domestic surveillance front:
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 . . . .

"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," Romero said. "Why is the ACLU now the subject of scrutiny from the FBI?" . . . .

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 . . . .

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.
UPDATE (via our distinguished colleague Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla): A new blog devoted to reforming the Patriot Act.

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