Monday, July 18, 2005

FBI Monitored Web Sites for 2004 Protests

From today's Washington Post:

FBI agents monitored Web sites calling for protests against the 2004 political conventions in New York and Boston on behalf of the bureau's counterterrorism unit, according to FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union pointed to the documents as evidence that the Bush administration has reacted to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States by blurring the distinction between terrorism and political protest. FBI officials defended the involvement of counterterrorism agents in providing security for the Republican and Democratic conventions as an administrative convenience.

The documents were released by the FBI in response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights, animal rights and environmental groups that say they have been subjected to scrutiny by task forces set up to combat terrorism. The FBI has denied targeting the groups because of their political views.

"It's increasingly clear that the government is involved in political surveillance of organizations that are involved in nothing more than lawful First Amendment activities," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "It raises very serious questions about whether the FBI is back to its old tricks."

All of the ACLU hypervenilation over this seems way overblown and their knee-jerk reaction is not only predictable but it highlights their increasing irrelevance. Note that the story says that the FBI has been doing no more than "monitoring" websites. They haven't been intercepting email, hacking into computers or fondling the contents of anyone's underwear drawer. They are simply reading material that has been put on websites with the intention of people reading it. Since when is reading what is written for public consumption considered "surveillance?"

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