Federal Bureau of Investigation documents released last week reveal the FBI investigated Antiwar.com, a website regularly publishing content critical of US foreign policy, for at least six years based on the content and audience of the antiwar.com website, as well as an asinine mistake by the FBI.
According to Julia Harumi Mass of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which is representing Antiwar.com in a lawsuit against the FBI, the FBI produced in response to a document request in the lawsuit documents confirming “that the FBI targeted and spied on Antiwar.com [and the website’s founding editors Eric] Garris and [Justin] Raimondo based on their First Amendment protected activity and kept records about that activity in violation of federal law.” Mass elaborates on the anti-press freedom justifications for the investigation:
One of the factors that prompted the FBI to investigate the editors of the online magazine was that Justin Raimondo writes under this pseudonym. The content of a writer’s published opinions and whether they write under a pseduonym [sic] should never be used to characterize someone as a potential threat to national security, or justify an FBI investigation. The First Amendment protects anonymous speech too. News articles and the comments of the public should not be included in FBI intelligence files unless they’re necessary to a real criminal investigation.
The second flawed factor that prompted the FBI investivgation [sic] is that “many individuals worldwide…including individuals who are currently under investigation” view the website. Presumably people around the world, “including individuals who are currently under [FBI] investigation” view all kinds of websites and news sources. Being part of a successful media outlet should not make a journalist suspicious and should not be the basis for government surveillance.
In addition, Mass points to a mistake as a third factor prompting the investigation:
The third flawed and incorrect factor was the FBI’s mistaken conclusion that Eric Garris had threatened to hack the FBI website. In fact, Garris reported to the FBI that he was the recipient of a hacking threat to Antiwar.com. After reporting this threat, he was instructed to forward the email to the FBI, which he did. The FBI later concluded that Garris had threatened to hack the FBI website and placed him under suspicion.
It is an odd mistake for the FBI to interpret Garris’s reporting of a hacking threat against the Antiwar.com website as a threat by Garris against the FBI’s website. The flub up could have been rectified and an illegitimate investigation potentially prevented by just double-checking Garris’s communication with the FBI. Instead, the asinine mistake remained uncorrected, allowing the investigation to proceed with a justification not rooted in concern about First Amendment-protected expression.
Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.