The American Civil Liberties Union wants access to law enforcement files it believes will shed light on how government anti-terrorism task forces monitor human rights groups and individuals, reports USA Today. In federal Freedom of Information Act requests, the ACLU seeks reports on “surveillance, questioning and interrogation” of people named in intelligence files kept by terrorism task forces scattered across 10 states.
Investigators from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies have joined to form the anti-terrorism groups, which have grown from 34 in 2001 to 100 this year. Attorney General John Ashcroft authorized the rapid expansion in order to unify police agencies against the threat of terrorism. The ACLU has received dozens of reports from people complaining that they had been approached by the FBI because of their affiliation with activist organizations or because of their travel to the Middle East. In one request to 22 law enforcement agencies in 47 California counties, the ACLU claims that numerous people throughout Northern California have been “interrogated by the FBI for no apparent reason other than having been born in or traveled to the Middle East. These random interviews or interrogations raise the concern that the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Forces operating in Northern California are infringing upon the civil rights and civil liberties of immigrants, U.S. citizens and organizations by interrogating them without any valid basis.”