The editors of Antiwar.com have known for some time that the FBI has had an eye on them. Naturally enough, they used the Freedom of Information Act to request bureau’s files on them and their organization—but the FBI hasn’t been forthcoming. Now the ACLU has filed suit to force the bureau to divulge the extent of its snooping on anti-interventionist journalists. As Kelley Vlahos reports:
According to the suit, the ACLU has made several futile attempts to obtain the FBI files since a reader alerted [Antiwar.com editors] Garris and Raimondo to this lengthy FBI memo in 2011. The details in question begin at page 62 of the heavily redacted 94-page document. It’s clear from these documents, the suit alleges, that the FBI has files on Garris and Raimondo, and at one point the FBI agent writing the April 30, 2004 memo on Antiwar.com recommends further monitoring of the website in the form of opening a “preliminary investigation …to determine if [redaction] are engaging in, or have engaged in, activities which constitute a threat to national security.”
“On one hand it seemed almost funny that we would be considered a threat to national security, but it’s very scary, because what we are engaging in is free speech, and free speech by ordinary citizens and journalists is now being considered a threat to national security and they don’t have to prove it because the government has the ability to suppress information and not disclose any of their activities – as witnessed with what is going on now at the AP and other things,” said Garris.
“The government’s attitude is they want to know all, but they want the public to know as little as possible.”
That’s the crux of the matter. How many more, and more intrusive, incidents are there like this and the Justice Department’s sweep of Associated Press phone records and surveillance of Fox News’s James Rosen? Whereas the Justice Department’s investigations were meant to be in pursuit of national-security leaks, Antiwar.com seems to have been targeted based on nothing more than its name and mission: reporting critically on U.S. foreign policy. In none of these cases does Uncle Sam’s dragnet seem at all justified—which is presumably why the government resists disclosure of its activities. We’ll have more as the suit proceeds.