Over 60 national and local groups have signed on to a letter initiated by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Defending Dissent Foundation, calling on the Senate and House Judiciary Committees to investigate the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) monitoring of political protests and social movements. Signatories include the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, Center for Constitutional Rights, ColorOfChange, Government Accountability Project, Greenpeace USA, National Lawyers Guild, Popular Resistance, Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, Rising Tide North America, School of the Americas Watch, US Uncut, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, and Veterans for Peace.
The letter is a response to recent revelations that the FBI has been spying on Black Lives Matter, School of the Americas Watch, and anti-Keystone Pipeline groups, and earlier revelations that both the FBI and DHS engaged in similar surveillance of Occupy Wall Street. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the FBI continuously invokes counterterrorism authorities to monitor groups it admits are peaceful and nonviolent. The signatories are asking for a full investigation to determine the extent of FBI and DHS spying in the past decade.
The letter is delivered on the 45th anniversary of the break-in at the FBI’s Media, PA office by eight peace activists, which exposed COINTELPRO, the FBI’s expansive program to surveil, disrupt, and “neutralize” lawful political groups. Popular outrage over the revelations forced Congress to act with its own investigation (the Church and Pike Committees) and reform legislation (such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act).
“That the FBI cannot discern between activism and terrorism shows us that they think dissent is still the enemy,” BORDC/DDF Legal Fellow Chip Gibbons said. “There have been multiple attempts at reform but after each and every one we see the same thing happening again. The FBI claims to no longer investigate groups for their political beliefs, but look at who the FBI investigates under its counterterrorism authority – peace groups, racial justice groups, economic justice groups – the very same types of organizations that were targeted during the heyday of J. Edgar Hoover.”