1976 September 15

ACLU Sues Memphis over Destroyed Police Spying Files


The ACLU on this day filed suit against the City of Memphis, Tennessee, over the case of 180 police intelligence files that were reportedly destroyed by burning. The burning came to light the previous week when it was reported that the chief of police had burned one file rather than show it to Eric Carter, former Regional Director of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, who believed he had been spied upon. Carter had requested the file under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The ACLU had sought a restraining order to prevent further files from being burned, but was exactly one hour late. The mayor of Memphis had just met with top police officials and ordered all the files burned and the police department’s Domestic Intelligence Unit be disbanded.

The ACLU was founded on January 19, 1920. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was signed into law on July 4, 1966.

Learn more about state and local police spying from the ACLU here.

Read the outstanding new book: Michael Schudson, The Rise of the Right to Know: Politics and the Culture of Transparency, 1945-1975 (2015)

Read: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)

Read the ACLU FBI File (not the complete file): http://vault.fbi.gov/ACLU

Learn about the ACLU today: www.aclu.org

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