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The FBI will not be required to release sensitive documents detailing the surveillance of domestic political and religious organizations, a federal judge ruled last week. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint in May 2005 seeking FBI records about investigations conducted by the National Joint Terrorism Task Force, as well as the government’s monitoring of groups including the ACLU, Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The FBI turned over thousands of documents in response to the request but refused to provide hundreds of pages containing classified information. Despite last week’s ruling, ACLU lawyer Arthur Spitzer says that overall, “this was an enormous success for the ACLU and for the right of the American people to learn that their own government has been spying on them for engaging in peaceful, constitutionally protected political, religious, and social activism.” In an affidavit submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia earlier this year, David Hardy, chief of the FBI’s Record/Information Dissemination Section, suggested the release of the documents in question could cause “serious damage to national security.” After reviewing a sample of the withheld documents, Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle agreed. In her May 2 opinion, Huvelle cited a necessary balance between the public’s right to know and the government’s need to keep certain information private.
Sarah Kelley can be contacted at [email protected].

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