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ACTION ALERT: Investigate FBI and DHS Surveillance of Political Activists


August 1, 2016
CREDO Action from Working Assets & Alice Speri / The Intercept & Dustin Volz / Reuters

In a blatant attempt to intimidate peaceful protesters and discourage First Amendment protected activities, FBI and DHS agents reportedly visited the homes of peaceful activists and community organizers in Cleveland, Ohio, asking about their plans for the Republican National Convention. This type of behavior is not new. The FBI and DHS have conducted ongoing surveillance of nonviolent social justice activists and political organizations for years.

http://act.credoaction.com/sign/fbi_dhs_spying/

ACTION ALERT: Investigate FBI and DHS Surveillance of Political Activists
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Sign the petition to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees:

"Fulfill Congress's oversight role by investigating the FBI and DHS surveillance of activists and political organizations. The US government should never subject Americans to surveillance for exercising basic Constitutional rights."

In a blatant attempt to intimidate peaceful protesters and discourage First Amendment protected activities, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents reportedly visited the homes of peaceful activists and community organizers in Cleveland, Ohio recently, asking about their plans for the Republican National Convention. (1)

This type of behavior is not new. The FBI and DHS have conducted ongoing surveillance of nonviolent social justice activists and political organizations for years. They have engaged confidential informants, infiltrated groups, interrogated organizers and used social media to create dossiers on activists with Black Lives Matter, School of the Americas Watch (SOAW), Occupy Wall Street and anti-Keystone XL pipeline groups.

Despite these revelations -- and demands for an investigation from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation and more than 60 civil society organizations -- Congress has so far refused to fulfill its oversight duty and rein in these attacks on our civil liberties.

Tell the House and Senate Judiciary Committees: Investigate FBI and DHS surveillance of activists. Click here to sign the petition.

With some congressional Republicans already seeking to use the tragedy in Orlando to make it easier for the FBI to spy on Americans without a warrant, (2) the potential for expanded surveillance powers increases the threat to political groups and activists. And details of the FBI and DHS surveillance activities show a pattern of abuse. (3)

* The FBI infiltrated SOAW for 10 years with confidential informants using "counterterrorism authority" — despite acknowledging the group had no relationship to terrorism.

* It engaged in similar "counterterrorism" surveillance of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

* DHS used social media to prepare detailed reports about peaceful Black Lives Matter protests for "situational awareness."

* FBI agents interrogated Keystone XL pipeline activists, cultivated informants, and created dossiers.

The use of counterterrorism authority to monitor peaceful social justice organizations and organizers is an attack on politically protected activity, and is a threat to civil society. Congress must find out who is being spied on, why it keeps happening and take steps to make sure it never happens again.

Our government should never spy on Americans for exercising our basic Constitutional rights. The time is now to build a groundswell of support and pressure Congress to launch immediate investigations.

Tell the House and Senate Judiciary Committees: Investigate FBI and DHS surveillance of activists. Click here to sign the petition.

Thanks for fighting to defend our civil liberties.

Josh Nelson, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets


Add your name:

Footnotes
1 "FBI and Police are Knocking on Activists' Doors Ahead of Republican National Convention," The Intercept, June 23, 2016.

2 Dustin Volz, "Invoking Orlando, Senate Republicans set up vote to expand FBI spying," Reuters, June 20, 2016.

3 "Recap: What We've Learned About Surveillance of Black Lives Matter," Bill of Rights Defense Committee/ Defending Dissent Foundation, March 7, 2016.
http://act.credoaction.com/sign/fbi_dhs_spying/



FBI and Police Were Knocking on Activists' Doors
Ahead of the Republican National Convention

Alice Speri / The Intercept

(June 23 2016) -- Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have been knocking on the doors of activists and community organizers in Cleveland, Ohio, asking about their plans for the Republican National Convention in July.

As the city gears up to welcome an estimated 50,000 visitors, and an unknown number of protesters, some of the preparations and restrictions put in place by officials have angered civil rights activists. But the latest string of unannounced home visits by local and federal police marks a significant escalation in officials' efforts to stifle protest, they say.

"The purpose of these door knocks is simple: to intimidate the target and others in efforts to discourage people from engaging in lawful First Amendment activities," Jocelyn Rosnick, a coordinator with the Ohio chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, wrote in a statement denouncing the home visits.

More than a dozen people in the Cleveland area have reported being visited this week by local police, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Secret Service.

Michael Nelson, an attorney and the president of the Cleveland chapter of the NAACP, said that police officers visited the parents of one of his clients, a young woman who was among 71 people arrested in May 2015 following the acquittal of a police officer in the deaths of two unarmed people.

When the parents asked whether their daughter was in trouble and why they wanted to speak with her, the officers replied that they wanted to ask "about any information she might have about anybody engaging in violence, planning violence for the RNC." Nelson and others have asked for a meeting with the agencies involved in the door knocks.

"Maybe we need to have a discussion about the Constitution," he told The Intercept. "Last time we heard of anything like this was when Dr. King and J. Edgar Hoover were around."

The FBI confirmed that visits have taken place. "In preparation for the upcoming RNC, the FBI, along with our federal, state, and local partners, has been working collaboratively with members of the community," a spokesperson for the FBI's Cleveland field office told The Intercept. "As part of this preparation, law enforcement is reaching out to individuals known in the community who may have information that could help ensure a safe and secure environment during the RNC." Cleveland's police department did not respond to requests for comment.

Maggie Rice, an organizer with Food Not Bombs, said that members of her group were visited by police but felt too "rattled" to speak to a reporter. The group is not planning to stage protests but has applied for permits to be in the RNC event zone in order to feed both protesters and Cleveland residents dealing with disruptions to public transportation and services like Meals on Wheels.

"A lot of Cleveland's most vulnerable residents will be at risk," Rice said. "The idea that the FBI would be coming in, knocking on our doors and asking questions of people that they know are not involved in organizing any protests and that are basically a humanitarian organization is completely unacceptable and very disturbing."

"One FBI agent and one plainclothes Cleveland police officer, both white men, showed up and started asking questions about other Food Not Bombs members and our activities," Rice said. "I personally believe that this is an attempt to intimidate because they know we play a vital role in helping people stay out longer and have their voices heard."

In other visits, officers asked about people's previous addresses, political and social affiliation, and convention plans, according to the NLG. "We are concerned these visits will chill the free speech activities of individuals wishing to lawfully protest," said Rosnick. "And that individuals who are not planning to be involved in the RNC are being harassed due to their associations."

The group is holding free legal training sessions for local activists and residents and has been monitoring law enforcement preparations ahead of the convention. To Cleveland organizers, the recent door knocks are just a reminder that they are being watched.

"Cleveland is no stranger to FBI interference and FBI entrapment," said Rice. "I'd say most Cleveland activists and support organizations like ours are aware that every room we're in probably has an FBI agent in it. And we act accordingly."


Invoking Orlando, Senate Republicans
Set Up Vote to Expand FBI Spying

Dustin Volz / Reuters

WASHINGTON (June 20, 2016) -- US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set up a vote late on Monday to expand the Federal Bureau of Investigation's authority to use a secretive surveillance order without a warrant to include email metadata and some browsing history information.

The move, made via an amendment to a criminal justice appropriations bill, is an effort by Senate Republicans to respond to last week's mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub after a series of measures to restrict guns offered by both parties failed on Monday.

"In the wake of the tragic massacre in Orlando, it is important our law enforcement have the tools they need to conduct counterterrorism investigations," Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican and sponsor of the amendment, said in a statement.

The bill is also supported by Republican Senators John Cornyn, Jeff Sessions and Richard Burr, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Privacy advocates denounced the effort, saying it seeks to exploit a mass shooting in order to expand the government's digital spying powers.

Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, criticized a similar effort last month as one that "takes a hatchet to important protections for Americans' liberty."

The amendment would broaden the FBI's authority to use so-called National Security Letters to include electronic communications transaction records such as time stamps of emails and the emails' senders and recipients.

The Obama administration for years has lobbied for a change to how NSLs can be used, after a 2008 legal memo from the Justice Department said the law limits them largely to phone billing records. FBI Director James Comey has said the change essentially corrects a typo and is a top legislative priority for his agency.

NSLs do not require a warrant and are almost always accompanied by a gag order preventing the service provider from sharing the request with a targeted user.

The letters have existed since the 1970s, though the scope and frequency of their use expanded greatly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The amendment filed Monday would also make permanent a provision of the USA Patriot Act that allows the intelligence community to conduct surveillance on "lone wolf" suspects who do not have confirmed ties to a foreign terrorist group. That provision, which the Justice Department said last year had never been used, is currently set to expire in December 2019.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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