The organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Greenpeace, are suing for the release of the documents. The organizations contend that the material will show that they have been subjected to scrutiny by FBI task forces set up to combat terrorism.
The FBI has identified 1,173 pages related to the ACLU and 2,383 pages about Greenpeace, but it needs at least until February to process the ACLU files and until June to review the Greenpeace documents, the government said in a filing in U.S. District Court in Washington.
The FBI has not said specifically what those pages contain. The ACLU's executive director, Anthony Romero, said the disclosure indicates that the FBI is monitoring organizations that are engaging in lawful conduct.
"I know for an absolute fact that we have not been involved in anything related to promoting terrorism and yet the government has collected almost 1,200 pages on our activities," Romero said. "Why is the ACLU now the subject of scrutiny from the FBI?"
Speaking for Greenpeace, John Passacantando, the executive director of the environmental group's operations in the U.S., said his organization is a forceful, but peaceful, critic of the Bush administration's war and environmental policies.
"This administration has a history of using its powers against its peaceful critics. If, in fact, the FBI has been deployed to help in that effort, that would be quite shocking," said Passacantando.