The FBI has collected at least 3,500 pages of internal documents in the last several years on a handful of civil rights and antiwar protest groups in what the groups charge is an attempt to stifle political opposition to the Bush administration, reports the New York Times. The FBI has in its files 1,173 pages of internal documents on the American Civil Liberties Union, the leading critic of the Bush administration’s antiterrorism policies, and 2,383 pages on Greenpeace, an environmental group that has led acts of civil disobedience in protest over the administration’s policies, the Justice Department disclosed in a court filing this month in a federal court in Washington.
The filing came as part of a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act brought by the ACLU and other groups that maintain that the FBI has engaged in a pattern of political surveillance against critics of the Bush administration. FBI and Justice Department officials declined to say what was in the ACLU and Greenpeace files, citing the pending lawsuit. But officials at the two groups said they were troubled by the disclosure. Said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, “Why would the FBI collect almost 1,200 pages on a civil rights organization engaged in lawful activity? What justification could there be, other than political surveillance of lawful First Amendment activities?”