The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado released new documents today that it says confirm that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) is inappropriately treating peaceful protest as potential terrorism.
The ACLU obtained the documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed last December on behalf of sixteen organizations and ten individuals. The files released today concern the Colorado American Indian Movement and the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. The ACLU expects to receive additional responses from the FBI in the next few months.
“These documents underscore the ACLU’s concern that the JTTF inappropriately regards public protest as potential “domestic terrorism,” prompting it to investigate and build files on the political activities of peaceful dissenters because of the mere possibility that their activities will attract participants who may violate the law,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU Legal Director. “The FBI apparently regards even peaceful nonviolent civil disobedience as the proper subject of a ‘domestic terrorism’ investigation,” Silverstein continued. “By casting its net so unjustifiably wide, the FBI wastes taxpayers’ money and threatens to chill legitimate dissent.”
Silverstein said that the new files show that JTTF agents opened “domestic terrorism” investigations after they read web sites announcing an antiwar protest in Colorado Springs in 2003 and a protest against Columbus Day in Denver in 2002. They also reveal that the JTTF monitored the peaceful protest activities of law-abiding groups that formed the Coalition to Stop Vail Expansion in the late 1990s and that it investigated the Boulder-based Activist Media Project for videotaping a Lockheed Martin facility from a public street.
Denver contributes the services of two full-time detectives to the JTTF. In May, the ACLU asked Denver to withdraw from the FBI task force, because the Settlement Agreement that resolved the “Spy Files” case forbids Denver detectives to target individuals or organizations for investigation because of their First Amendment activities.