Through wars popular and not so much, Antiwar.com has made the case from a libertarian perspective for peaceful relations and against imperialist policies since 1995. Two years ago, the group's leadership discovered they'd attracted the federal government's interest — long before — when a reader shared with them FBI documents (PDF) retrieved with a FOIA request. Now, as noted at Reason 24/7, tired of asking nicely, Antiwar.com is suing to find out just what the feds have on them.
The suit was filed on Tuesday at the United States District Court, Northern District of California, San Francisco Division. Both Garris and Raimondo live and work in the San Francisco Bay area.
According to the suit, the ACLU has made several futile attempts to obtain the FBI files since a reader alerted 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."
The lawsuit isn't just a matter of curiosity, or even of principled outrage at government snoopiness. In an echo of the "chilling effect" that journalists have discussed in the wake of the secret federal subpoena of Associated Press records, and the ongoing investigation of Fox News correspondent James Rosen, Antiwar.com reports that it has lost donors who fear attracting government attention. In the age of curiously targeted IRS interest, it's no surprise that, without making any formal moves, the government is capable of effectively punishing critical voices simply by letting it be known that they're subject to scrutiny.