FBI Harassment

Protesters Subjected To ‘Pretext Interviews’: New FBI documents to be released today show that anti-terrorism agents who questioned antiwar protesters last summer in Denver were conducting “pretext interviews” that did not lead to any information about criminal activity.

Instead, one heavily censored memo from the FBI’s Denver field office, dated Aug. 2, 2004, characterized the effort as “pretext interviews to gain general information concerning possible criminal activity at the upcoming political conventions and presidential election.”

Michael Froomkin explains why this is bad:
No one is saying that the FBI shouldn't investigate threats. The question is, how does the FBI allocate its resources. We don't say that the FBI should go and randomly interview people, on the grounds that it might turn up a threat, even though finding out where threats might be is part of the FBI's job. (And if there is going to be random interviewing it @#$@$# better be really random...)

We expect the FBI to prioritize. But if the metric that the FBI uses to prioritize is to target people engaged in protected political speech, then that's chilling -- and a serious First Amendment violation.

So, the (only) way that the FBI interviews activists without being accused of mis-behavior is by only doing so when the reason for the interview has nothing whatsoever to do with their exercise of their legal rights. It's that simple.


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