The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada has filed a federal Freedom of Information Act request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding reports that the FBI is investigating “No Bear Hunt” of Nevada and members of the American Indian Movement of Northern Nevada, in relationship to their protected First Amendment activities.
“One of the most cherished values we have as a nation is that those who engage in peaceful political speech, in public forums, are deserving of the fullest protections afforded by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Verbally opposing the hunting of bears should never lead to harassment by law enforcement officials,” stated Staci Pratt, Legal Director of the ACLU of Nevada. “We aim to discover the full extent of the FBI’s efforts and ensure that there is accountability for investigatory behaviors that do not accord with the Constitution.”
The FOIA requests any records related to surveillance of expressive activity during: public meetings of the Nevada Wildlife Commission on March 23-24, 2012, and the public meeting of the Washoe County Wildlife Advisory Board on March 15, 2012. It also seeks any records related to contact with and investigation of Native Americans or AIM members during the period of April 2-4, 2012; and any records related to the arrest, incarceration, and questioning of AIM member Lisa Bonta, and the related effort to force her to sign documentation about alleged “terrorist” activity or membership in targeted organizations.
The FOIA request also seeks any records since January 2005 related to the FBI conducting as-sessments, training, legal opinions, policies, final memoranda, and other material related to individual Native Americans in Nevada; the American Indian Movement, No Bear Hunt Nevada, and other Native American organizations in Nevada; and environmental organizations in Nevada, especially but not only under the FBI’s Domestic Investigative Operations Guidelines.
Some events that prompted this FOIA request were previously reported on by various news media, in the following stories: “FBI Probes Native Americans Opposed Nevada Bear Hunt,” Indian Voices, April 2012; “American Indians Questioned About Nevada Bear Hunt by FBI,” Reno Gazette-Journal, April 11, 2012; and “Native Americans Join Fight vs. Nevada Bear Hunt,” Associated Press, March 23, 2012. Versions of the Associated Press article were published or posted in the Las Vegas Sun, Censored News, and YubaNet.com, among other media outlets.
“It is extremely disturbing that the FBI has apparently chosen to treat peaceful Native Americans who have legitimate issues with various hunting practices and environmental policies as if they are, or are potential, domestic terrorists,” said Dane S. Claussen, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nevada. “Surely the FBI in northern Nevada has better things to do with its time and taxpayer dollars.”