December 21, 2005
ACLU claims FBI planned to spy at IU
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. ó The American Civil Liberties Union claims government documents it obtained show that the FBI planned to have terrorism investigators spy on a 2003 animal rights event at Indiana University.
The alleged plan to infiltrate a campus speech by an environmental activist was contained in hundreds of pages of heavily censored documents ACLU lawyers obtained from the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act. An FBI spokeswoman denied the agency took any such action.
One of the documents, which the ACLU posted on its Web site Tuesday, is from the Indianapolis FBI office and referred to plans to conduct surveillance and collect "general intelligence" during an April 2003 speech by animal-rights advocate Gary Yourofsky at the Indiana Memorial Union.
"Itís hard to see how surveillance of animal-rights groups makes us safer from terrorism, but itís easy to see how it threatens our constitutional rights to free speech and privacy," said Fran Quigley, executive director of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union, an ACLU affiliate.
Wendy Osborne, a spokeswoman for the FBIís Indianapolis office, said the surveillance did not take place.
"I can tell you we did not conduct surveillance in Bloomington at that meeting or any meeting like that," she told The Herald-Times.
"The FBI has to operate under the attorney generalís guidelines," she said. "We donít just go around and watch organizations and go to meetings to see whoís showing up. Weíre not allowed to do that, nor do we do that."
Yourofsky was sentenced to six months in jail in Ontario, Canada, for his part in releasing more than 1,500 minks from a mink farm. The activist, who has been affiliated with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Animals Deserve Absolute Protection Today and Tomorrow, has lectured at several college campuses.
In May, Fresno State Universityís president warned authorities no police surveillance would be permitted on campus unless it was required by law and approved by administrators, following student complaints that undercover officers attended a lecture by Yourofsky in November 2004.