Washington Post on FBI "Monitoring" of Website:
An ACLU Freedom of Information Act request has revealed that in the course of investigating the security situation at the 2004 Republican convention, someone at the FBI visited a website of a group that planned to stage protests at the convention — and then wrote an e-mail to agents who were involved in the counterterrorism side of the security picture to let them know about the planned protests announced on the website. You can get a redacted copy of the e-mail here.

  Looking at the document, it seems pretty innocuous to me. Imagine you're an FBI agent trying to get a handle on the security situation at a political convention, and you want all the security people to know what's up. Wouldn't you want to visit the public website that announced major planned protests? And why would you want to keep the counterterror people in the dark about what you found posted on the website?

  The Washington Post offers a more troublesome picture. Here's how the Post reports the FBI's web surfing and e-mailing:
FBI Monitored Web Sites for 2004 Protests
Groups Criticize Agency's Surveillance for Terror Unit

By Michael Dobbs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 18, 2005; Page A03

  FBI agents monitored Web sites calling for protests against the 2004 political conventions in New York and Boston on behalf of the bureau's counterterrorism unit, according to FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
  The American Civil Liberties Union pointed to the documents as evidence that the Bush administration has reacted to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States by blurring the distinction between terrorism and political protest. FBI officials defended the involvement of counterterrorism agents in providing security for the Republican and Democratic conventions as an administrative convenience.
  The documents were released by the FBI in response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of civil rights, animal rights and environmental groups that say they have been subjected to scrutiny by task forces set up to combat terrorism. The FBI has denied targeting the groups because of their political views.
  "It's increasingly clear that the government is involved in political surveillance of organizations that are involved in nothing more than lawful First Amendment activities," said Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "It raises very serious questions about whether the FBI is back to its old tricks."
  I suppose you could say that visiting a website and e-mailing someone about what you find is "monitoring" the website "on behalf" of the person you e-mail. But this seems to be a somewhat odd way to describe it. What am I missing? Is the FBI's conduct more troubling than I am suggesting, or is the Washington Post overplaying the story?