As part of a national campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois is asking the FBI to release "spy files" they government group is keeping on Chicago anti-war and Islamic organizations. The FBI is not commenting except to say they only investigate if there is evidence of criminal activity (which is easy to do when everything falls under counterterrorism). To hammer the point home, Chicago organizations are filing FOIA requests for the FBI to release any records opened on these organizations and affiliated individuals.During the past few years, there have been increasing reports of the FBI harassing anti-war protesters or working with local police to spy on them.One of the major targets of the FBI has been the American Friends Service Committee. ???The American Friends Service Committee Great Lakes Region knows that spying on political and religious activities is a sad reality since 9/11,??? said Michael McConnell, Great Lakes Regional Director. ???Two years ago, a meeting of our organization ??? with a long history of peaceful protest on behalf of social justice causes ??? was infiltrated by the Chicago Police Department in advance of a protest regarding globalization during the Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue. Do Americans really want to return to a time when anyone critical of government policy was subjected to this sort of intrusive surveillance???? He asks a good question, but it seems we've already returned to this time. Take the IRS's investigation into the NAACP for example.A leader from a local Islamic organization, added: "Arab and Muslim community members are continuously having to endure the disruptive and distressing consequences of the overly intrusive investigations by the federal government ??? especially in the past three years,??? added M. Yaser Tabbara of Council on American Islamic Relations of Chicago. ???Leaders and activists in our community have been singled out for surveillance, monitoring and questioning. In many instances, the result has been the deportation of these individuals on minor civil immigration violations, tearing apart families and doing nothing to make our nation more safe and secure.??? This is a good move by the ACLU and Chicago organizations. We'll keep our eye on it and continue to update you.
Tracy Van Slyke, a former publisher of In These Times, is the project director for The Media Consortium.