Defending Rights & Dissent Releases Groundbreaking Report Exposing A Pattern of FBI First Amendment Abuse

Wisconsin Legislature Considers Two Bills Meant to Silence Protest
October 21, 2019
Our Report on FBI Spying Featured in The Intercept
October 23, 2019

October 22–For Immediate Release: Defending Rights & Dissent has published a major new report titled Still Spying on Dissent: The Enduring Problem of FBI First Amendment. The report details FBI monitoring of political expression and social movements during the last decade. 

The report finds that nearly every major social movement of the past decade, including Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock protesters, environmental activists, and supporters of Palestinian rights, has been targeted by the FBI.

The reports exposes FBI political surveillance as systemic and part of  a wider pattern of abuse. The report documents how the FBI frequently cites its counterterrorism authorities when spying on protest groups. It also documents how the groups targeted by the FBI are frequently peace, racial justice, environmental, and economic justice advocates. 

“The evidence marshaled in this report creates a powerful case that greater oversight of the FBI is urgently needed. Congress must exercise its oversight powers to investigate FBI First Amendment abuses. It is imperative for Congress to determine the full extent of this surveillance and take steps to address it,” said Chip Gibbons, the report’s author and policy & legislative counsel for Defending Rights & Dissent.

“For 60 years, DefendingRights and Dissent has been at the forefront of in-depth investigation and critique of US government surveillance practices that have infringed on our civil liberties. Mr. Gibbons’ research provides a compendium of evidence that unconstitutional and illegal surveillance practices are all-too-widespread, and continue to directly target minority constituencies and progressive causes; his analysis lays the foundation for immediate corrective actions, and demands both further investigation and individual accountability,” said Sascha Meinrath, President of Defending Rights & Dissent. 

The report is authored by Chip Gibbons, who in addition to being Defending Rights & Dissent’s policy & legislative counsel is a journalist and frequent commentator on civil liberties issues. Gibbons’s writings on the FBI have appeared in Jacobin, The Nation, In These Times, and The Washington Post. 

Defending Rights & Dissent strengthens our participatory democracy by protecting the right to political expression. We monitor and expose patterns and practices of government repression of dissent, and work closely with grassroots activists to defend First Amendment rights.

The report is available at For More Information Contact Chip Gibbons  (202) 552-7408 or