May 31, 2013

Justice Department Tramples on First Amendment Rights of Associated Press and Anti-war Activists

On Monday, May 13th, the Associated Press (AP) announced that the US Justice Department secretly obtained two months worth of reporters’ and editors’ phone records. The AP says its privacy was violated in an effort by the US government to investigate an exclusive AP report on May 7, 2012. The AP reported that the CIA stopped a plot by an Al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen.  

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression ( demands an end to the Justice Department overreach and fishing expeditions that violate First Amendment freedoms. We have personal experience with this type of privacy and First Amendment violations.  

AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt protested the extensive privacy intrusion into the AP in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday, May 13, 2013:

“There can be no possible justification for such an overbroad collection of the telephone communications of The Associated Press and its reporters. These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations, and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know. We regard this action by the Department of Justice as a serious interference with AP’s constitutional rights to gather and report the news.”

Anti-war activists are also outraged. This attack on the media is one more way the government tries to stifle protests against US wars and occupations, by keeping the knowledge of these acts from the public in the first place. 

The Obama administration is not only trying to scare the media, but also to intimidate people of conscious from being whistle-blowers about the role the U.S. plays in massacres and rights violations overseas. The US government wants to hide its acts of war and dirty tricks from the American public. They want to hide U.S. drone strikes; massacres in Afghanistan, and CIA missions in countries the U.S. has determined are “hostile” to US corporate interests. US wars, covert interventions, and deadly drone attacks are unpopular around the world and here at home. The US government is battling isolation on a global scale.  

The FBI and the Justice Department are increasingly using “terrorism” as the justification for putting the First Amendment through the shredder. On September 24, 2010, the FBI raided and subpoenaed Midwest anti-war and international solidarity activists, revealing that these activists were being investigated for “material support for terrorism” because of their work to end U.S. aid to Israel and Colombia. 23 activists were subpoenaed to appear before a secretive grand jury in Chicago. The Anti-War 23 all refused to testify or to cooperate with the investigation because it was a violation of their constitutionally protected right to organize and free speech.  

Ironically, only four days prior to the September 24th raids, the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. declared that the FBI had systematically and wrongly spied on political activists.  

On April 2, 2013, the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund reported that government documents obtained through their FOIA records requests reveal that the Department of Homeland Security conducts daily monitoring of peaceful, lawful protests as a matter of policy. The heavily redacted documents show that Homeland Security’s “Threat Management Division” directed Regional Intelligence Analysts to provide a “Daily Intelligence Briefing” that includes a category of reporting on “Peaceful Activist Demonstrations” along with “Domestic Terrorist Activity.”  The Department of Homeland Security is functioning as a secret political police force against people participating in lawful, peaceful free speech activity.

Every time the U.S. government violates the First Amendment in order to promote war and aggression, it damages our rights here at home and jeopardizes people’s lives abroad.  

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression calls on its supporters to call President Obama to say:

  • Stop the crackdown on journalists & whistleblowers!
  • Stop the attacks on the anti-war movement!
  • Stop the erosion of our civil liberties!