[JURIST] The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [official website] monitored gatherings organized by the Thomas Merton Center for Peace and Justice [advocacy website], an anti-war activist organization based in Pittsburgh, according to documents [press release; ACLU backgrounder] released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website]. The ACLU contends that the FBI based its investigation solely on the organization's political views, particularly its opposition to the war in Iraq. An FBI spokesperson responded to the claims, stating that the agency was "acting with all appropriate investigative authorities." In addition to the documents released by the ACLU on Tuesday, an FBI report also indicates that agents photographed members of the Thomas Merton Center during a November 2002 gathering, during which members handed out leaflets opposing the war in Iraq. The documents came from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [DOJ backgrounder] requests filed by the ACLU in twenty states on behalf of over 150 organizations and individuals. The Washington Post has more.
On the heels of the ACLU's announcement, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) [advocacy website] on Tuesday announced [press release] that it filed a FOIA request [document, PDF] on behalf of itself and fourteen New York-based political and religious groups to determine whether the FBI is investigating them as well. The NYCLU also filed FOIA requests with the New York, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse police departments. AP has more.