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NYCLU Seeks FBI Files on New York Political Groups and Activists (3/14/2006)

CONTACT: media@aclu.org

NEW YORK -- In light of recent revelations that the Federal Bureau of Investigation 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 14 of New York's most prominent political and religious groups to determine whether the FBI is spying on them.

"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 filed 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; anti-war 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, an 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 filed its requests on the same day that the ACLU of Pennsylvania released 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 Thomas Merton Center, a peace and justice organization 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. The pro-peace organization was founded by family members of 9/1111 victims and 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."

Copies of the FOIA and Freedom of Information Law requests filed by the NYCLU today and information about the groups included in those requests available online at www.nyclu.org. 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