[Hpn] FW: POLICE SPYING 101
Sun, 28 Jan 2001 11:10:59 -0700
From: radman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 27 Jan 2001 23:26:32 -0800
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
Subject: POLICE SPYING 101
POLICE SPYING 101
by Jim Redden, author, SNITCH CULTURE
Activists are alarmed by a recent federal court ruling which eases
restrictions against political surveillance by law enforcement agencies.
The ruling was issued on January 11, 2001 by the 7th Circuit Court of
Appeals. It relaxed restrictions intended to prevent the Chicago Police
Department from spying on law-abiding political dissidents. The
restrictions were included in a 1981 consent decree stemming from a 1974
lawsuit by the Alliance to End Repression. The suit charged that the FBIıs
Chicago office and the Chicago police routinely violated First Amendment
rights when investigating dissidents. The suit particularly targeted the
police department Intelligence Division, dubbed the 'Red Squad' because of
its infiltration on communist, socialist and other left-wing organizations.
In its ruling, the court said todayıs political climate is so different
from the 1960s and 1970s that the rules need to be changed.
"The era in which the Red Squad flourished is history, along with the Red
Squad itself," the court said. "The instabilities of that era have largely
disappeared. Fear of communist subversion, so strong a motivator of
constitutional infringement in those days, has disappeared.
"Today, the concern, prudent and not paranoid, is with ideologically
motivated terrorism," the ruling continued. "The city does not want to
resurrect the Red Squad. It wants to be able to keep tabs on incipient
terrorist groups. And if the ... investigation cannot begin until the group
is well on its way toward the commission of terrorist acts, the
investigation may come too late to prevent the acts or identify the
Douglas Lee, a lawyer and legal correspondent for the First Amendment
Center, says the ruling is based on faulty reasoning.
"From a First Amendment perspective, no distinction exists between
'communist subversion' and 'ideologically motivated terrorism'," Lee wrote
in the January 1, 2001 edition of The Freedom Forum Online. "As long as
First Amendment conduct does not directly incite imminent illegal action,
it is protected, whether it advocates communism or some other
anti-democratic message. Conduct falling outside the freedoms of speech and
assembly never has been protected by the First Amendment and was not
protected by the decree. The effect of modifying the decree, therefore, can
only be to permit investigation of pure First Amendment conduct."
Lee is correct. And because the ruling came from a federal court, it
potentially applies to all police intelligence divisions. So political
activists across the country have a right to be concerned.
But the truth is, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies never
stopped spying on law-abiding political dissidents. That why the Washington
DC police department is able to boast that it successfully infiltrated the
protesters who demonstrated against the inauguration of George W. Bush on
Confused? You should be. The corporate press has long pushed the myth that
political spying in this country was substantially curtailed in the wake of
the Watergate Scandal. Many aging liberals have embraced this myth as proof
that they helped drive Richard Nixon out of office.
Reality is a little different, as I documented in my recently-released
book, SNITCH CULTURE: HOW CITIZENS ARE TURNED INTO THE EYES AND EARS OF THE
STATE (Feral House, 2000).
Hereıs what happened.
Despite all the press coverage it received, Watergate was not the biggest
political scandal of the early 1970s. A U.S. Senate subcommittee chaired by
Frank Church discovered far more serious examples of illegal government
surveillance than the botched break-in at the Democratic National Committee
headquarters and subsequent cover-up. Formally called the Select Committee
to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activity, the
committee documented such infamous surveillance operations as the FBIıs
Counter Intelligence Programs (COINTELPRO), the CIAıs Operation Chaos, and
the NSAıs Watch List.
The corporate media was so busy patting itself on the back over Nixonıs
resignation that it hardly covered the Church Committeeıs final report,
which was released in April 1976. But the revelations were so shocking that
the Department of Justice adopted new guidelines aimed at curtailing
political surveillance. State legislatures and city councils passed similar
restrictions, usually under threat of lawsuits by the ACLU.
But these victories were short-lived. For starters, the DOJ guidelines only
applied to the FBI. They did not cover such federal law enforcement
agencies as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is part of
the Treasury Department.
And federal, state and local law enforcement agencies quickly found ways
around the restrictions. Among other things, they established
information-sharing relationships with private organizations which spied on
political dissidents. The best example is the Anti-Defamation League, which
employs ³fact finders² in major cities to track suspected dissidents.
Although the ADL calls itself a civil rights watchdog, it was caught spying
on a wide range of both left and right wing organizations in the early
1990s. See for yourself. A list of the ADL spy files is posted on the Feral
Reporters looking into the ADL spy scandal confirmed the organizationıs
involvement with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. As the
liberal Village Voice said on May 11, 1993, "In fact, the ADL has become a
clearinghouse for law enforcement agencies. In the '70s and '80s, as many
police intelligence units that gathered political information on citizens
were shut down under court orders because they violated constitutional
guarantees to privacy and freedom of speech and assembly, their files were
often bequeathed to the ADL. The ADL, in turn, would often lend the files
back to their original donor or broker them to another intelligence agency."
But law enforcement agencies also took advantage of a huge loophole in the
restrictions against political surveillance. The 7th Circuit Court of
Appeals is wrong when it claims that police cannot investigate a political
group until it is well on its ways towards breaking the law. Police are
always able to investigate anyone planning to break the law and the
planned crime doesnıt even have to be a serious one. In fact, police can
and do infiltrate groups who are merely planning peaceful civil
disobedience demonstrations, such as blocking streets, sitting on sidewalks
or occupying offices.
An example from my home town of Portland, Oregon proves this point.
In 1995, an anti-war protester named Douglas Squirrel sued the police for
opening a file on him. Squirrel had been arrested during a street clash
between the police and self-proclaimed anarchists outside a downtown rock
club on July 18, 1993.
When Squirrel tried to post the $5,000 bail required of everyone else who
had been arrested, Portland Police Captain Roy Kindrick, commander of the
bureauıs Central Precinct, called the jail and insisted that it be raised
to $50,000. Kindrick said Squirrel was the leader of the anarchists, and
responsible for 'planning' the riot.
Why did Kindrick think this? Squirrel had no criminal record at the time.
But he had participated in a local group of peace activists known as
B.E.I.R.U.T., which stood for Boisterous Extremists for Insurrection
against Republicans and other Unprincipled Thugs. The name was inspired by
former President George Bush, who called Portland a 'little Beirut' because
of its long history of protest movements. Squirrel and the others with
B.E.I.R.U.T. did little more than operate a telephone message line which
announced visits by Republican officials and other conservative political
figures. Although B.E.I.R.U.T. announced the visits, the protests were
organized by other, more established organizations. Central American
solidarity groups were especially active during the Reagan and Bush years.
Nevertheless, the police had not only identified Squirrel as a major
political organizer, but punished him for it by raising his bail.
After Squirrel got out of jail, he hired a lawyer and sued the police to
find out what they had on him. After a great deal of stalling and
stonewalling by the city, the trial finally took place on December 18 and
19, 1995. It provided a rare look at how police across the country use the
pretext of preventing crimes to spy on political activists.
The trial was covered by journalist Mitzi Waltz for PDXS, an alternative
newspaper I published at the time. During the trial, Squirrel learned that
the police had been spying on him and his friends since 1990, when
B.E.I.R.U.T. posted a notice about an upcoming visit by Bush.
The first witness was Officer Larry Siewert, a member of the Criminal
Intelligence Division, who admitted he routinely spied on political
organizations. "I was assigned to monitor subversive groups, the extremists
on the left and on the right," he testified under oath. "Also Earth First!,
animal rights groups. I also monitored the anti-abortion movement and
provided all the dignitary protection."
Also testifying was CIS Sergeant Irv McGeachy, who said that he and Siewert
were regularly assigned to stake out political meetings, noting who comes
and goes, taking down license plate numbers and compiling physical
descriptions of everyone they see. McGeachy also said he and Siewart would
check out rumors of political gatherings. "Weıd receive information that a
demonstration or protest was going to occur," he said. "We routinely then
would go out to bookstores and college campuses to see if this were
occurring. Then we would make a tactical recommendation", about whether to
send more officers or the riot squad.
Siewart and McGeachy also admitted that CID operated Confidential Reliable
Informants (CRI) within many political groups in the Portland area. The
trial revealed the Portland police kept dozens of informants on the payroll
to infiltrate political organizations and to report on their activities.
The police also used informants who are motivated by their opposition to
the groups they are infiltrating.
The police released five confidential reports which mentioned Squirrel at
the trial. They clearly showed that the police were gathering information
on a broad range of liberal organizations, including Greenpeace
International, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Womens
International League for Peace and Freedom, Northwest Veterans for Peace,
the Portland Central American Solidarity Committee and NO on Hate, a gay
rights group. Siewart and McGeachy testified that spying on these
organizations was justified under the law because all their protests
involve criminal activity which the two officers defined as including
such minor offenses as jaywalking and such traditional acts of civil
disobedience as blocking sidewalks. "Civil disobedience is some sort of
peaceful action that could be a criminal act," Siewert testified. "Itıs
still a crime."
According to the trial testimony, preventing such 'crimes' justifies a lot
of spying. Siewert testified that in the early 1990ıs, "It took our whole
unit just to keep on all the activities, all the different causes and
demonstrations that are going on."
At the end of the trail, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Michael
Marcus ruled that four of the five reports on Squirrel were legal, while
one had to be purged because it contained no allegation of criminal
activity. That report concerned a gathering involving a large number of
local peace and justice activists who met at Colonel Sumner Park on July
26, 1992 to discuss common issues. The meeting was infiltrated by a CRI,
who provided the names of the participants to Siewert. In his report on the
gathering, Siewert noted that many of the groups were concerned about the
lack of effective civilian oversight of the police. Although the city had
such a board [the Portland Internal Investigation Auditing Committee
(PIIAC)] the activists did not feel it had any real power. "[F]or the local
issues, the main topic was the need to push for a civilian police review
board," the report stated.
Testifying under oath at the trial, Portland Police Officer Greg Kurath
tried to justify spying on the Colonel Sumner Park gathering by saying the
activists might take over PIIAC and use it for some kind of 'criminal
activity.' Marcus responded by calling the theory "preposterous," asking,
"What on earth were you thinking here."
This report would have been legal if it claimed the activists were planning
a sit-down strike outside police headquarters, however. And this is the
same argument that law enforcement agencies are currently making to justify
spying on the emerging anti-corporate globablization movement.
After the World Trade Organization protests in Portland, law enforcement
agencies infiltrated the activists planning to demonstrate against the
World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington DC, the Republican
National Convention in Philadelphia, and the Democratic National Convention
in Los Angeles. All of these agencies claimed their surveillance targets
were planning to break the law. The corporate press ran wild stories about
potential bio-terrorist attacks. But the police didnıt need to suspect that
someone was going to be killed to launch an undercover demonstration.
Even before the 7th Circuit Court ruling, all it took was jaywalking rumor.
SNITCH CULTURE (ISBN 0-922915-63-6) is available at local bookstores, on
Amazon.com, and from Feral House, PO Box 13067, Los Angeles CALIF 90013. It
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