While challenging the Denver Police Department Spy Files, the ACLU of Colorado learned that the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) was also monitoring and keeping files on the lawful protest activities of peaceful advocacy organizations.   In the early 2000s, the ACLU of Colorado worked both inside and outside the courtroom to call public attention to the JTTF’s activities that pose a threat to civil liberties.

There are over five dozen JTTFs.  Every FBI field office, including Denver, hosts a Joint Terrorism Task Force.  They are staffed with FBI agents as well as detectives from local law enforcement agencies who work full-time for the FBI.   Denver contributed two full-time detectives to the FBI’s Denver-based JTTF.

The following pages present details of the ACLU’s investigation and advocacy regarding JTTF’s compiling files about activists’ legal political activity.

  • Denver’s Spy Files reveal JTTF political spying.  During the litigation of the Denver Spy Files case, the ACLU of Colorado obtained documents that indicate that the JTTF has been collecting information about peaceful political activities that have nothing to do with terrorism.
  • ACLU sues to obtain Denver’s MOU with JTTF.  In 2004, after Denver officials refused to disclose the Memorandum of Understanding that spells out the Denver Police Department’s relationship with the JTTF, the ACLU of Colorado sued under the Colorado Open Records Act to obtain the document.
  • JTTF’s multi-state campaign to intimidate protesters.  In the summer of 2004, the Colorado ACLU helped to publicize a multi-state JTTF campaign to visit the homes and workplaces of political activists, a tactic apparently aimed at intimidating dissenters rather than investigating criminal or terrorist activity.
  • ACLU of Colorado FOIA Requests Flush Out JTTF political spying.   On December 2, 2004, the Colorado ACLU invoked the Freedom of Information Act on behalf of 16 organizations and 10 individuals, seeking information from the FBI about the JTTF files on their peaceful political activity.   Documents obtained from these and subsequent FOIA requests confirm that the FBI has been gathering information about nonviolent political activity under the guise of fighting terrorism.
  • Sample JTTF files obtained from ACLU of Colorado FOIA requests.  Documents obtained through FOIA show that the FBI has been gathering information about nonviolent political activity in files labled as “domestic terrorism.”
  • ACLU of Colorado asks Denver to withdraw from JTTF. On December 30, 2004, the ACLU wrote to Denver’s elected officials raising concerns about Denver’s continued participation in the JTTF. The letter explained that JTTF activities may pose a greater threat to civil liberties than the Denver Police Department practices that spawned the Spy Files controversy. In subsequent correspondence, the ACLU called on Denver to withdraw from the JTTF.