CLEVELAND– The ACLU of Ohio has announced a new investigation into documented government spying on two Northeast Ohio peace groups. The Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee (NOAFSC) and the Northeast Ohio Anti-War Coalition (NOAC) were two organizations that appeared on a document detailing groups that were being watched by the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), a division of the Department of Defense.
ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Jeff Gamso said, “Both of these groups were engaging in First Amendment protected activities, yet were spied on simply because they expressed views counter to the government. ”
Gamso went on, “This type of surveillance is contrary to American values and hearkens back to the illegal government spying conducted during the Vietnam War and the McCarthy era.”
In December 2005, NBC National News leaked the eight-page document that led to the investigation. The leaked document, only eight out of four hundred pages, showed government surveillance of peace groups all over the country, including NOAFSC in Akron and NOAC in Cleveland.
The ACLU of Ohio issued records requests to CIFA, the FBI, the Cleveland Police Department and the Akron Police Department. The ACLU requested any information on NOAFSC, NOAC, the ACLU of Ohio and select individuals within those organizations.
As part of the investigation, the ACLU of Ohio asked for records on itself because NOAC holds regular meetings in the ACLU office in Cleveland, Ohio. The ACLU of Ohio offices are open to many people throughout the community to utilize as a meeting space. Various groups, including Cleveland Public Theatre and Case Western Reserve University have used this space in the past.
Gamso added, “As the defenders of the Constitution, we are deeply troubled that illegal surveillance of law-abiding Americans could be happening in our own building.”