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    Crossposted From Stop The ACLU

    Word on the liberal blogs are spreading this press release of the ACLU.

    The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Pennsylvania today released new evidence that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting investigations into a political organizations based solely on its anti-war views.

    Two documents released today reveal that the FBI investigated gatherings of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice just because the organization opposed the war in Iraq. Although previously disclosed documents show that the FBI is retaining files on anti-war groups, these documents are the first to show conclusively that the rationale for FBI targeting is the group's opposition to the war.

    “It makes no sense that the FBI would be spying on peace activists handing out flyers,” said Jim Kleissler, Executive Director of the Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice. “Our members were simply offering leaflets to passersby, legally and peacefully, and now they’re being investigated by a counter–terrorism unit. Something is seriously wrong in how our government determines who and what constitutes terrorism when peace activists find themselves targeted.”

    According to the documents released today, the FBI initiated a classified investigation into the activities of the Thomas Merton Center, noting in a November 2002 memo that the center “holds daily leaflet distribution activities in downtown Pittsburgh and is currently focused on its opposition to the potential war on Iraq.” The synopsis of the document is provided to “report results of investigation on Pittsburgh anti-war activities.” The FBI memo points out that the Merton Center “is a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism.”

    Indeed, the ACLU's allegations make no sense. I find it hard to believe that the FBI would waste their time investigating a group for simply offering leaflets. Of course the ACLU and liberal blogs are only telling one side of the story. The FBI counters that an agent checked out the group on a tip that a wanted individual was a member.

    The FBI's Press Release on this:

    Recent statements by officials of the American Civil Liberties Union including those carried by the news media ("FBI Watched Activist Groups," The New York Times, 12/20/2005; "FBI Papers Show Terror Inquiries into PETA, Other Groups," Washington Post (12/20/2005) are misleading and imply that the FBI has engaged in unauthorized or otherwise inappropriate investigative activity. The FBI does not investigate any public interest or advocacy group based on the group's lawful activities or political beliefs. Investigations and interviews of individuals conducted as part of a criminal and/or terrorism investigation are always predicated on specific information about a potential criminal act or terrorist threat, and, they are conducted in strict conformance with federal law, Department of Justice investigative guidelines and FBI policies. FBI Agents are obliged to respond to all threats of violence under FBI jurisdiction and take an oath to conduct such investigations within the bounds of the Constitution, while respecting the dignity and civil liberties of the public.

    As the present Freedom of Information Act releases have shown, the FBI collects a vast amount of information—lawfully and appropriately—including public source material, which is then later indexed and is retrievable. The existence of a file naming an individual or organization does not, in itself, indicate that the FBI has in the past or is presently investigating that individual or group. FBI files are composed of any record or communication regarding an individual or organization that may have been indexed under that individual's or organization's name in the Central Records System; these records would include any communications that individual or organization may have had with the FBI. This would include requests for information, as well as coordination of meetings or reports by other individuals about the individual or organization.

    We will let you decide who to trust on this one, but you should at least hear both sides of the story.
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