FBI counterterrorism agents have conducted many surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief, reports the New York Times. FBI officials said they had no interest in monitoring political or social activities and that any investigations that touched on advocacy groups were driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings. Documents to be released by the American Civil Liberties Union prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.
One document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a “Vegan Community Project.” Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group’s “semi-communistic ideology.” A third indicates the bureau’s interest in the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The 2,300 pages of documents center on references to a handful of groups, including PETA, the environmental group Greenpeace and the Catholic Workers group, which promotes antipoverty efforts and social causes.