Haase v. Webster – Government Harassment – CCR Docket Report 1985-1986

As part of the CCR’s efforts to stop FBI harassment , it recently took the case of Edward Haase, a journalist whose address book, notes, diary and other personal papers were seized by U.S. Customs on his return from Nicaragua. At Customs, Haase was questioned by FBI agents who photo­ copied the seized materials and threatened to disseminate them to other government agencies.

In February 1985 the CCR filed a lawsuit challenging the seizure and dissemination, and the participation of the FBI.

The suit charges that the seizure violates the free speech and association provisions of the First and Fourteenth  Amend­ments to the Constitution. The FBI had no statutory author­ity to take the materials. The suit seeks an immediate halt to any dissemination of Haase’s papers, the destruction or return of any copies that were made, and a halt to the seizure of citizens’ private papers.

The court granted Haase’s request for a temporary re­straining order. It also ordered the Miami FBI to send all copies of Haase’s papers to the FBI director for safekeeping until this case is settled, and to include a list of agencies to which copies were sent. But, convinced that no additional copies of the documents had been made and that the FBI had not used the information, the court dismissed the suit as an isolated incident not likely to recur. This dismissal is being appealed.

Michael Ratner, Margaret Ratner, with CCR cooperating attorney John J. Privitera