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Judge orders FBI, CIA to disclose Occupy surveillance

In this 2011 file photo, people occupy the area in front of City Hall in Philadelphia. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
In this 2011 file photo, people occupy the area in front of City Hall in Philadelphia. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
By Maryclaire Dale Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA – A federal judge has ordered the FBI and other federal agencies to turn over any potential evidence they spied on Occupy Philadelphia protesters.

The FBI, CIA and National Security Agency have 60 days to comply with the order from Senior U.S. District Judge Berle M. Schiller.

Lawyer Paul Hetznecker hopes to learn if the agencies surveilled demonstrators who encamped outside Philadelphia City Hall for seven weeks in 2011 to protest income inequality.

The FBI has turned over seven redacted pages in response to his right-to-know lawsuit. The judge plans to review the unredacted FBI document and information from the CIA and NSA to determine if the material should be made public.

Hetznecker, a civil rights lawyer in Philadelphia, argues that press investigations have shown that federal intelligence agencies have infiltrated Muslim groups, civil rights groups and other lawful organizations since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. A right-to-know request filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund in 2012 led the FBI to disclose its efforts to monitor Occupy Wall Street activities in New York and around the country, he said.

“The government should not be investigating its citizens simply because they’ve raised their voices in dissent, whether it’s against government or corporate policy,” Hetznecker told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia, which is defending the government, declined to comment on the pending case. The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported Tuesday on Schiller’s order from late last week.

The Occupy Wall Street movement began in New York and spread to cities across the country. The Philadelphia group spent seven weeks encamped outside City Hall before city officials evicted them to begin a $50 million renovation of the public plaza.

About 80 people arrested during the eviction and other key demonstrations were later acquitted, Hetznecker said. The city this year agreed to pay $200,000 to settle lawsuits filed by some of those arrested.

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