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ACLU, other groups seek information about government surveillance

By The Associated Press


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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union and three other groups sued the Bush administration yesterday, demanding information about expanded Justice Department surveillance in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The private organizations are seeking information about how the government is carrying out record-gathering at libraries, bookstores and Internet service providers. The lawsuit comes almost a year after President Bush signed the USA Patriot Act, which widened the government's surveillance power as part of the effort to prevent further terrorist attacks.

The case filed in U.S. District Court alleges that the Justice Department has provided no information on parts of the Patriot Act that have "obvious and serious implications for individual privacy and the freedom of speech."

The groups on Aug. 21 asked for all policy directives and other guidance that the Justice Department and the FBI issued to their employees on:

  • Obtaining circulation records from libraries, purchase records from bookstores or e-mail records from Internet service providers.
  • The expanded use of pen registers and trap-and-trace devices. Pen registers capture phone numbers dialed on outgoing calls, while trap-and-trace devices capture numbers identifying incoming phone calls.

The groups also are demanding information about the number of times the Justice Department has engaged in various types of surveillance in the past year. The Justice Department says such data is classified.

"The Justice Department conceded in early September that the information is of exceeding importance to the American public, but it nonetheless continues to stonewall," ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer said in a statement.

Other groups joining the suit were the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression and the Freedom to Read Foundation.


U.S. to disclose which surveillance documents it will release
Justice Department agrees to tell ACLU by Jan. 15 what it will and will not make public on how it is implementing Patriot Act.  11.29.02


Secret court meets to consider Justice Department appeal
U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review convenes for first time; civil libertarians denounce panel's secret nature.  09.11.02

FBI monitoring library records in terror probe
Library officials say government investigators are visiting branches nationwide and checking reading records of people they suspect of having ties to terrorists.  06.25.02