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FBI, police spying is rising, groups allege

The ACLU has filed Freedom of Information requests for more than 150 groups and individuals.

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Inside the Time's UP! office on Houston Street in Manhattan, pictures of people taking part in an environmental protest line an old refrigerator. In one, a man with short hair and a chiseled physique is talking on his cellphone. In another, a large man wields a video camera.

The people at Time's UP!, an environmental activist group, suspect these men are not protesters at all, but rather plainclothes police officers. "We say these people are spying, and they're definitely being assisted by the police if they're not police themselves," says Bill DiPaola, director of Time's UP!

Is that concern paranoia? Or is it skepticism in this post-9/11 era of increased surveillance?

Political activists from New York to Colorado to California report that they believe police and FBI surveillance of their activities has increased markedly since the terror attacks 4-1/2 years ago since Congress approved the USA Patriot Act loosening some of the strictures on law enforcement. They include environmental groups like Time's UP!, peace activists in Pittsburgh, and even a police union protesting for higher wages in New York City.

To try to find out if law officers are spying on them, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed Freedom of Information requests for more than 150 groups and individuals in more than 20 states who believe their first amendment rights are being violated.

Time's UP! is one of the groups that says the alleged surveillance is aimed at intimidating them. They acknowledge public events can be watched by anyone but they're concerned police have crossed the line into inappropriate spying to discourage people's from publicly criticizing government policies.

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