PR Newswire: Today the ACLU sued the FBI in a freedom of the press lawsuit on behalf of two editors at a libertarian online magazine. After learning that their Bay Area-based site, Antiwar.com, was the subject of FBI surveillance, Eric Garris and Justin Raimondo sought the documents the government had compiled on both them and the site. After a year, the FBI has failed to produce any documents, so Garris and Raimondo do not know the full extent of the surveillance and whether it is ongoing. The editors are asking the FBI to turn over relevant documents, and to stop collecting records of their constitutionally protected speech.
“Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy, whether it’s the Associated Press or Antiwar.com,” said Julia Mass, staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. “Government surveillance of news organizations interferes with journalists’ ability to do their jobs.”
Garris and Raimondo discovered FBI documents [details in question begin at page 62] that showed a record of surveillance of the online magazine. In these documents an FBI analyst recognized that Antiwar.com’s content is constitutionally protected speech, but still recommended opening an investigation and continued FBI monitoring of the site. [Continue reading…]
Antiwar.com says this is one more example of post-9/11 government overreach, and a stark reminder that the First Amendment has been treated as little more than a speed bump on the road to a government surveillance state. The lawsuit is particularly timely, considering recent scandals in which the Department of Justice secretly seized months of journalists’ phone records at the Associated Press, and did the same and more to a FOX News reporter, while the IRS is acknowledging it singled out conservative groups that criticize the government for extra scrutiny.
Suddenly, the press is more aware than ever that the state has the ability to secretly monitor its activities, heretofore thought of as constitutionally protected from government interference and intimidation.
“Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy, whether it’s AP or Antiwar.com,” said Julia Harumi Mass, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which is representing Antiwar.com in the case. “FBI surveillance of news organizations interferes with journalists’ ability to do their jobs as watchdogs that hold the government accountable.”