A judge dismissed a lawsuit against the FBI by a 17-year-old student, who said he was under illegal surveillance because he had written foreign embassies for information to complete a sixth-grade project.
Authorities have said the lawsuit, which was dismissed Tuesday, was the first seeking to wipe out FBI files on First Amendment activities."We're quite upset," said Edgar Patterson, whose son Todd was the subject of FBI surveillance. "We think the Attorney General should issue a warning like the Surgeon General that says all letters written to foreign countries may result in an FBI file on you."
Todd Patterson, now a senior at Don Bosco Preparatory School in Ramsey, sought a halt to the surveillance, deletion of the FBI file, and unspecified damages for invasion of his privacy.
The FBI has acknowledged it kept a file on Patterson when he was a sixth-grader.
Patterson said the FBI violated his privacy rights by tampering with mail, but U.S. District Judge Alfred M. Wolin said none of the secret documents supported Patterson's claim, nor another allegation - that the FBI wiretapped his family's telephone.
Wolin, in throwing out the lawsuit, reviewed several FBI documents that were not made available to Patterson. The government had said releasing the documents would damage national security.
Lawyers for Patterson said his right of free speech was violated because the youth was penalized for pursuing his education and expressing himself.
Attorney Frank Askin, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union and Patterson, criticized the judge for basing his decision on FBI documents not available to the plaintiff.