OPM sued over watch lists

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"ACLU challenge"

The American Civil Liberties Union and 12 national nonprofits sued the Office of Personnel Management's Combined Federal Campaign today over an OPM requirement that all participating charities must check their employees and expenditures against government watch lists for terrorist activities.

"We think that these [watch lists] effectively make [charities] an arm of federal law enforcement in an entirely inappropriate way," ACLU spokeswoman Emily Whitfield said. "Our general experience with watch lists is that they are really notoriously riddled with errors. We're saying if you're going to have a watch list, the government should be responsible, and there should be a mechanism for getting names off the list."

The Combined Federal Campaign collects money for charity from federal workers. In 2003, campaign workers collected $248 million from almost 1.35 million federal employees, according to the ACLU. The funds went to more than 10,000 participating nonprofit organizations.

The lawsuit charges that the government did not follow appropriate procedures in instituting the watch list policy, that the policy is vague and misleading, and that it violates the First and Fifth Amendments. The ACLU and many of the organizations in today's lawsuit withdrew from the CFC rather than accept those terms.

In addition to the ACLU, the following organizations are plaintiffs: the Advocacy Institute, Amnesty International, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the NAACP Special Contribution Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, OMB Watch, Our Bodies Ourselves, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.

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