- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A federal judge in Philadelphia has ordered the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency to produce any potential evidence concerning their possible monitoring of local Occupy protesters in 2011.

Senior U.S. District Judge Berle Schiller ordered the agencies last week to show the court any information they have about surveillance operations potentially conducted against Occupy Philadelphia, a protest group that camped out downtown for several weeks in late 2011 in concurrence with similar Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in cities across the world.

Attorney Paul J. Hetznecker initially asked for details about the agencies’ potential spying of protesters through Freedom of Information Act requests filed in 2014. The FBI eventually turned over several highly redacted pages in response, but the CIA and NSA both claimed to be exempt from even acknowledging the existence of any such documents.

In the latest ruling, Judge Schiller ordered all three agencies to provide the court with information relevant to the attorney’s FOIA requests. His order asks the FBI to turn over unredacted copies of its FOIA disclosures for the court for review, and compels the other two agencies to search their respective databases for any documents related to Occupy Philadelphia.

From there, the two groups will have to supply the court with a summary of its findings, if any, for the judge to consider for further review.

The court order was authorized on Nov. 10 but went unnoticed until reported Tuesday in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“It is important that this tool of transparency sheds light on the secrets of government,” Mr. Hetznecker told The Inquirer. “In a democracy, we should know more about what the government is doing than they know about the privacy and secrets of our own personal and political lives.”

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment Tuesday when reached by The Associated Press.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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