In June 1987 CCR uncovered the FBI’s massive, illegal surveillance of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). CISPES members, and other individuals and organizations investigated, then sought to prevent the FBI from using or disseminating records obtained during the investigation and demanded that it retrieve information previously disseminated to other governmental agencies or to its own electronic surveillance system. CCR filed a class action lawsuit in Washington, D.C. federal court in November 1988, requesting these remedies and that all CISPES-related files be sealed and placed in the National Archives.
The FBI responded to CCR’s lawsuit, and to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s inquiry, by acknowledging the investigations’ impropriety, invasiveness and obstruction of constitutionally protected activities. In February 1990 the FBI agreed to store the CISPES files in the National Archives.
However, in May 1990 the court granted the government’s motion to dismiss the remainder of the complaint. Plaintiffs demanded review of this decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia immediately thereafter, since it failed to guarantee the FBI’s retrieval of information already disseminated. They also requested a judicial ruling recognizing that their constitutional rights were violated by the admittedly illegal investigation as a protection against future violations. The appeal was denied in April 1991.
Beth Stephens, Margaret l. Ratner, Michael Ratner, Alan Levine, Mel Wulf, Joe K. Crews and James Klimaski