Pour le FBI, Antiwar.com vaut bien AP

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Pour le FBI, Antiwar.com vaut bien AP

Le site libertarien, antiguerre et pour nous antiSystème Antiwar.com vient de déposer une requête devant une cour fédérale impliquant indirectement le FBI, pour une demande d’accès aux archives du FBI selon la législation sur la liberté de l'information (Freedom Information Act). Cette action en justice suit diverses demandes formelles d'Antiwar.com auprès du FBI, restées sans effet. Les plaignants, – le fondateur et le directeur de la gestion Eric Garris et le directeur de la rédaction Justin Raimondo, – estiment que le FBI pratique contre le site une surveillance illégale, notamment en constituant des dossiers confidentiels sur ses principaux dirigeants qui supposent diverses pratiques illégales, depuis 17 ans que le site existe. L’importance d’Antiwar.com, tant en influence qu’en puissance d’audience, est bien connue. La requête d’Antiwar.com s’inscrit dans le contexte des scandales qui secouent actuellement Washington, et spécifiquement du scandale AP/FBI qui concerne une violation du Premier Amendement de la Constitution sur la liberté de la presse.

L’avocate choisie par Antiwar.com, Julia Harumi Mass qui fait partie du cabinet de l’American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) de la Californie du Nord, a déclaré  : «Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy, whether it’s AP or Antiwar.com. [...] FBI surveillance of news organizations interferes with journalists’ ability to do their jobs as watchdogs that hold the government accountable.» L’initiative de Antiwar.com est intéressante sur deux plans : dans la mesure où elle s’inscrit dans un contexte générale de pression et de riposte de la presse générale face au dispositif de surveillance, le plus souvent illégal, de cette presse par le gouvernement ; dans la mesure où, grâce aux circonstances et au contexte, l’internet et la presse antiSystème entrent directement dans cette bataille presse-gouvernement désormais parvenue au niveau légal et judiciaire.

Justin Raimondo remet en ligne ce 22 mai 2013 un texte du 11 août 2011 où il exposait ses soupçons à l’égard d’une entreprise de surveillance du FBI. Kelley B. Vlahos, collaboratrice du site, se charge d’un article sur l’actualité de l’affaire, décrivant la démarche d’Antiwar.com, ce 22 mai 2013, et rajoutant de nombreux détails sur divers aspects intéressants de cette affaire. Il y a notamment l’impact négatif de l’action du FBI sur certains donateurs de Antiwar.com, craignant d’être eux-mêmes mis sous surveillance par le FBI et abandonnant leur soutien au site. (Raimondo avait souligné ce problème il y a deux ans, lorsque Antiwar.com avait commencé à connaître des difficultés, qu'il connaît toujours aujourd'hui, à réunir les sommes nécessaires à son fonctionnement.).

«Antiwar.com is taking the FBI to court.

»The website’s founder and managing editor Eric Garris, along with longtime editorial director Justin Raimondo, filed a lawsuit in federal court today, demanding the release of records they believe the FBI is keeping on them and the 17-year-old online magazine.

»Antiwar.com says this is one more example of post-9/11 government overreach, and a stark reminder that the First Amendment has been treated as little more than a speed bump on the road to a government surveillance state. The lawsuit is particularly timely, considering recent scandals in which the Department of Justice secretly seized months of journalists’ phone records at the Associated Press, and did the same and more to a FOX News reporter, while the IRS is acknowledging it singled out conservative groups that criticize the government for extra scrutiny.

»Suddenly, the press is more aware than ever that the state has the ability to secretly monitor its activities, heretofore thought of as constitutionally protected from government interference and intimidation. “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy, whether it’s AP or Antiwar.com,” said Julia Harumi Mass, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which is representing Antiwar.com in the case. “FBI surveillance of news organizations interferes with journalists’ ability to do their jobs as watchdogs that hold the government accountable.”

»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.” [...]

»After Raimondo wrote about the FBI memo in August 2011, which at the time, independent journalist Marcy Wheeler at EmptyWheel.net deemed a “troubling story,” Antiwar.com started losing donors, and according to the lawsuit, it was big time.

»In October 2011, one of Antiwar.com’s major donors withdrew his financial support from Antiwar.com out of concern that the FBI would monitor him if he continued to provide, as he wished to do, financial support to Antiwar.com. Since then, three significant donors have also withdrawn financial support, citing their fear that FBI interest in Antiwar.com would lead to surveillance of the donors as a reason for withdrawing financial support. As a result, Antiwar.com has lost about $75,000 per year since 2011 in otherwise expected contributions.

»Reached over the weekend, Wheeler, who routinely investigates and reports on the impact of post-9/11 government surveillance on civil liberties for EmptyWheel.net, voiced her concern about the apparent FBI surveillance of Antiwar.com and its far-reaching implications. “It’s likely (the) FBI is hiding one or another things: Bush era investigations into the peace community that were improper to start with, and/or the degree to which First Amendment activities have become one reason to investigate completely innocent activity,” she said.

»After a series of FOIA requests, amended requests and empty responses, Garris and Raimondo have “received no agency determination setting forth whether Defendant FBI intends to produce records or any basis for withholding them,” since the last request dated May 24, 2012. Taking it to court, Mass said, is the next step. “Our clients are entitled to obtain records the FBI has gathered about them and their online magazine,” she said. “This is especially important because the FBI’s surveillance has impacted our clients’ ability to maintain support for their website and has impacted their editorial choices– exactly the type of harm the First Amendment is supposed to protect against.”»

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