The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday took legal action to get
documents the group says show the FBI, with the help of local authorities
that include Chicago police, is spying on faith-based and activist
The ACLU’s Illinois chapter filed Freedom of Information Act requests on
behalf of several Muslim and peace-activist organizations to see their FBI
The ACLU and the groups are also asking for information about the National
Joint Terrorism Task Force, which has a local branch in each major American
city. The Chicago task force is made up of law-enforcement agencies,
including the FBI’s Chicago office and the Illinois State Police.
“Give up the files. Tell us what you are doing,” said Harvey Grossman,
director of ACLU’s Illinois chapter. “We don’t know how the FBI is
Nationally on Thursday, the ACLU filed requests for information in nine
other states and Washington, D.C., to find out more on how, Grossman said,
the FBI is “wasting our tax dollars.”
Officials from the FBI and Chicago police said Thursday they follow the law
when it comes to surveillance.
“The FBI has no interest in investigating individuals who are engaged in
their exercise of their constitutional rights,” FBI spokesman Bill Carter
said. “It’s our job to investigate terrorism.”
Carter declined to comment on the information request, saying his office
had not received it yet.
The FBI posted a description on its Web site Wednesday of what the joint
terrorism task forces do and how they operate. The task forces exist in 100
cities worldwide and employ 2,196 agents and 838 local law-enforcement
officers, according to the Web site.
But at a news conference Thursday to announce the information request,
several representatives of faith-based groups gave a different account of
what the FBI and the task forces do. Leaders from Muslim organizations told
stories of FBI agents showing up at people’s homes late at night or at
their jobs to interview and harass them. These individuals did nothing
wrong–they were just Muslim, the leaders said