Sunday, March 25, 2007

NYC police spied on "dissident" groups throughout the country

By Heraclitus

The Unapologetic Mexican, check out this story in The New York Times:

For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews.

From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show.

They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department’s Intelligence Division. Other investigators mined Internet sites and chat rooms.

From these operations, run by the department’s “R.N.C. Intelligence Squad,” the police identified a handful of groups and individuals who expressed interest in creating havoc during the convention, as well as some who used Web sites to urge or predict violence.

But potential troublemakers were hardly the only ones to end up in the files. In hundreds of reports stamped “N.Y.P.D. Secret,” the Intelligence Division chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law, the records show.

These included members of street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations, as well as environmentalists and people opposed to the death penalty, globalization and other government policies. Three New York City elected officials were cited in the reports.

In at least some cases, intelligence on what appeared to be lawful activity was shared with police departments in other cities. A police report on an organization of artists called Bands Against Bush noted that the group was planning concerts on Oct. 11, 2003, in New York, Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Between musical sets, the report said, there would be political speeches and videos.

“Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda,” said the report, dated Oct. 9, 2003. “Police departments in above listed areas have been contacted regarding this event.”

During the convention itself, 1,806 people were arrested and held without bail or access to a lawyer on minor charges that, according to The Times, would ordinarily be handled by a summons.

Whether laws were broken and, if they were, how serious the illegality was, has yet to be determined. Predictably, the head of the New York ACLU promises the records, which are in the process of being released, will show serious illegalities, while the head of the NYPD says there were none. But spying on groups throughout the country simply because they are critical of Bush and planning a protest is obviously unacceptable, regardless of whether it is strictly speaking illegal. As Nez puts it:

These latest revelations in how police have been (and still are, better believe it) working in our country and how closely they are colluding with the Federal Government show us that what our government is truly afraid of is You. That's right, baby. Time's 2006 Person of the Year. Did you know you were also Public Enemy #1s-#?....

Our government is terrified of the People. Because they know what the People, as a whole, have forgotten: That power is never voted upon or commanded or taken. It is always given. And so, it can be rescinded.

Speaking of Nez, check out this post on the GOP's use of terrorism in the past election.. It's not new, but it's one of the best descriptions of the what the Republican Party has become.

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