The FBI’s Office of Inspector General released a report this month in which it reviewed several domestic spying operations, including one in preparation for 2003′s raucous gathering in Miami to protest a Free Trade Area of the Americas meeting. The report was the product of an investigation to address “concerns over whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation had improperly targeted domestic advocacy groups for investigation based solely upon their exercise of first amendment rights.”
The FBI’s Miami field office opened a “special events case” to monitor groups and individuals intending to attend the event and determine if they planned to be violent. Miami agents traveled to Pittsburgh to attend meetings of the Merton Center and the Pittsburgh Organizing Group to see if they planned disrupt the meeting.
The Inspector General found that the FBI agents did not violate the U.S. Attorney General’s guidelines or FBI policies. Other police agencies were heavily criticized for everything from excessive force to violating free speech. Organized protesters, including several union groups, that applied for permits to march with signs, were diverted down empty streets, journalists were arrested while walking on sidewalks, and protesters were generally repeatedly pushed back from where the meetings were being held.
In 2009 Amnesty International and the ACLU settled several lawsuits against Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami and its police department for violating the First Amendment right to free speech. Government officials expressed “regret” that free speech was curtailed during the event. The settlements were settled out of court. The FBI was not as a named defendant in the suits.