The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Guardian sued the FBI in federal court today to find out whether and to what extent agents have investigated or watched members of the Occupy movement.
Filed under the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act, the lawsuit says the ACLU and the Guardian filed a public information request in March that the FBI promised to fast-track – and then never provided a response.
The lawsuit says the FBI has a long history of surveilling constitutionally protected political and religious activity, and says the FBI already acknowledged that “potentially responsive documents may exist” related to requests for records about Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Wall Street.
“There is great urgency in shedding light on the extent of the FBI’s role in surveilling Occupy activists, and in particular, on whether the FBI has complied with local and national norms in monitoring those engaged in First Amendment activity,” the lawsuit says.
In a web posting announcing the lawsuit, ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye said that although “the right of protest goes to the heart of our democracy, and the FBI exists to keep us safe, the FBI has a perverse history of interpreting its mission to mean that it can spy on political activists including Martin Luther King Jr.”