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Widespread Spying Preceded '04 GOP Convention 471

Posted by kdawson
from the protest-as-terrorism dept.
Frosty Piss alerts us to a story in the New York Times reporting on details that are emerging of a far-flung spying operation lasting up to a year leading up to the 2004 Republican National Convention. The New York Police Department mounted a spy campaign reaching well beyond the state of New York. For at least a year before the convention, teams of undercover New York police officers traveled to cities across the US, Canada, and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention. Across the country undercover officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists. In at least some cases, intelligence on what appeared to be lawful activity was shared with other police departments. Outlines of the pre-convention operations are emerging from records in federal lawsuits brought over mass arrests during the convention.
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Widespread Spying Preceded '04 GOP Convention

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  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@gmBOHRail.com minus physicist> on Sunday March 25, 2007 @07:55PM (#18482335) Journal
    This is the police.

    Police has no morality whatsoever; they are not sworn-in to the Constitution like the armed forces are, and so are open to perform all abuses for the rich and powerful.

    • by chris_eineke (634570) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:02PM (#18482367) Homepage Journal

      the rich and powerful
      Follow the money. Don't stop at Parties. Don't stop at banks. Stop at the Federal Reserve.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Kagura (843695)
        Follow the money. Don't stop at Parties. Don't stop at banks. Stop at the Federal Reserve.

        Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. :)
        • by jacquesm (154384)
          follow the money is an excellent principle but it really does not apply to the case at hand.

          These people were spying abroad, no point in tracing the money. Throwing the book at them
          would be a better alternative, surely there are records of who went where and when.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2007 @09:10PM (#18482789)
        Follow the money. Don't stop at Parties. Don't stop at banks. Stop at the Federal Reserve.

        Make a huge withdrawal. Then go to the Parties.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by wdr1 (31310) *
        Funny. Every time I do that, I end up with organized labor. They dominate [opensecrets.org] the list of groups throwing around their weight in terms of political contributions. Unions hold the #1 (AFSCME/$38 million), #6 (IBEW/$26M), #7 (Laborers/$25M), #9 (SEIU/$25M), and #10 (Carpenters & Joiners Union/$24M).

        It's a shame as 1) people often have no choice & are forced to join the union, and 2) that money could be spent on improving the lives of their members.

        -Bill
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          So lobbying for laws benefiting their constituency isn't trying to improve their lives?
    • by Seumas (6865) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:03PM (#18482377)
      Of course, the typical American response is going to be this:

      For a couple days, half of people will get upset over the abuse of power and invasion of privacy and misuse of government while the other half excuse and justify it with comments like "if ya don't have nuthin' tuh hide" and "we're at war - you have to give up some freedoms to be safe during war!".

      Some minor news organizations will make a huge deal out of it.

      Most will largely ignore it and not make a story out of it.

      Within 72 hours, Americans will have forgotten entirely about it and be back to fretting over the poor blond haired, blue-eyed, pretty, affluent girl that disappeared a couple years ago in Bermuda thanks to the non-stop cable news coverage (still, two years later - as of the broadcasts LASTNIGHT!).

      Remember, this is America. We don't start revolutions. We don't fight for anything unless it's the last Tickle Me Elmo on store shelves at Christmas. The most effort we're willing to put into our civics and society and the most we're willing to risk of ourselves for them is a text vote or two on our cell phones.
      • by El Torico (732160) * on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:30PM (#18482561)
        Within 72 hours, Americans will have forgotten entirely about it
        and we'll find something else to read and rant about on /.
      • by owlnation (858981) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @09:31PM (#18482923)

        Within 72 hours, Americans will have forgotten entirely about it and be back to fretting over the poor blond haired, blue-eyed, pretty, affluent girl that disappeared a couple years ago in Bermuda thanks to the non-stop cable news coverage (still, two years later - as of the broadcasts LASTNIGHT!).
        Yup. Gore Vidal said it best... welcome to the United States of Amnesia.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sumdumass (711423)
        I'm one of those most Americans And i just don't find an issue with it. Are we trying to say that someone who comes to a public meeting of an organization cannot talk about what went on there? Are we trying to say a cop cannot join said org on his own? These were public meeting of public organizations. What is there to worry about? Oh yea, it was the police and they were doing it to protect the security of the republicans who held the convention in that city.

        Really, this is a non issue. Even the police file
        • by asninn (1071320) on Monday March 26, 2007 @04:17AM (#18485375)
          The issue is that the police should leave people who haven't committed any crime, who're not suspected of having committed any crime, and who are not suspected of planning to commit any crime in the future ALONE.

          Suppose a police officer would get posted outside your house. He doesn't enter your private property or anything, but he stands there, and when you leave the house, he follows you; if you enter another piece of private property (one that he can't enter - your office, for example, or a friend's house, as opposed to a supermarket or a pub), he waits outside again until you come back out. He's always with you, listening to everything you say in public, compiling a file on you that gets shared with the FBI later on. Heck, for added fun, suppose he's also recording every public conversation of yours and videotaping your actions in public.

          Are you OK with that?

          Clearly, the same reasoning you use could be applied here: you're in public, so everything you do and say is - well - public. And if you ask the police officer why he's doing this, he will tell you that it's in the interest of "security", of course - national security, most likely. And he's sorry, but he cannot give any details, but since he's not intruding on your *private* life, there's no issue there, right?

          Now suppose the same thing's happening, but he's not identifying as a police officer or letting you know he's recording your conversations etc. or compiling a file on you; in fact, you don't even notice that he's there. He's always following you, but you don't even know until you find out years later by pure coincidence. Are you still OK with that?

          The problem here is that the police simply has no business interfering with the lives of people who aren't suspected of doing anything wrong. And that's DOUBLY TRUE when we're talking about protesting and political dissent, since that's arguably one of the fundamental pillars upon which democracy rests; harassing (and I intentionally say "harassing"!) innocent people simply because they intend to attend a political demonstration creates a chilling effect and is at completely odds with democracy.

          THAT is what the issue is.
      • by Bassman59 (519820) <(andy) (at) (latke.net)> on Sunday March 25, 2007 @11:30PM (#18483849) Homepage

        Of course, the typical American response is going to be this:

        For a couple days, half of people will get upset over the abuse of power and invasion of privacy and misuse of government while the other half excuse and justify it with comments like "if ya don't have nuthin' tuh hide" and "we're at war - you have to give up some freedoms to be safe during war!".

        Ah, so then by that logic, Alberto Gonzales, Harriet Miers and Karl Rove should be the first ones to volunteer to testify in front of the House and Senate committees investigating the federal attorney firings. After all, if they had nothing to hide, then they should have no objections to testifying under oath, in public, with published transcripts made available immediately.

        • by Seumas (6865) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @11:54PM (#18484027)
          No, that's an exception. After all - remember that if the president's advisers can be held accountable for the advice they give the president, then when they give the president advice to do illegal or immoral things, they will be held accountable for it. And - knowing that they would be held accountable for it - they would cease to be willing to advise the president do illegal things that they would otherwise have been willing to advise him to do had they not had the fear of being held publicly accountable via testimony for!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sumdumass (711423)
          They offered to go in front of the comity. Were did you hear that they won't? They just want ot do it in their terms.

          What they wont do is go in and have all this stuff made public or be sworn to an oath that has no other purpose then to position them into a perjury trap. The dems are trying to pull a Lewis Libby in were they confuse them, and then hold a misstatement that was made that he later corrected on his own admission as perjury (lying to an investigator)and trick a conviction out of them when nothin
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jadavis (473492)
        abuse of power and invasion of privacy and misuse of government

        Surveillance of activities in public as well as undercover operations have been used by the police for a long time. The police are allowed to do these things based on a hunch if they want, they don't need a warrant to do any of it.

        What, specifically, did they do that's illegal/unconstitutional?
    • The police aren't sworn in to serve and protect the Constitution?

      I've served on the Planning and Zoning Committee of a small town, and I took an oath to take my office.
    • by vandan (151516)
      Certainly the police are not there to protect individual freedoms. They're there to protect private property of the fabulously wealth, and a part of that 'protection' is intimidating anyone who argues against the rights of these people to continue to enrich themselves at everyone else's expense.

      On 18th April, at 7pm at the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre ( Sydney ), I will be speaking at a Socialist Worker forum on these issues precisely, entitled, "The Police, the State, and Civil Liberties". Anyone intereste
  • AGAIN again ..... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Brad1138 (590148) *
    The corruption we see today from the republican side never ceases. I am sure it has probably been as bad from the other side in the past but not in my memory. It just keeps coming. I can't think of a single truth I have heard from the current administration.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      And you're surprised because.....

      Just to be even-handed, wasn't it Clinton who caged protesters off in areas where he'd never have to see them? Something along the lines of "you have the right to free speech, but you don't have the right for anybody to hear you".

      But no, you're probably right, that this admin is working hard to rise to Nixonian levels.
      • by quanticle (843097) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @09:44PM (#18483033) Homepage
        >>But no, you're probably right, that this admin is working hard to rise to Nixonian levels.<<

        Huh? By many measures of governmental openness, this administration has surpassed Nixonian levels of secrecy. Don't forget that this administration had a long period where they controlled all three branches of government, enabling them to change policies and regulations so that secrecy became institutionalized. Nixon did not have an opportunity to do this.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by koreth (409849) *

        What the hell difference does it make whether Clinton did it? Are you saying that the proper standard for Republican conduct is, "If Clinton did it, it's cool?" If Clinton does bad thing X and Bush also does bad thing X, it's bad and they should both be called on it.

        To be consistent, you should turn your logic around. If Bush does something Clinton was criticized for and isn't himself criticized, does that mean the critics were wrong before and it was okay when Clinton did it?

        The kneejerk Republican "But

    • by reporter (666905) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:50PM (#18482677) Homepage
      This domestic spying is almost identical to what the FSB in Russia has done since Putin ascended to power. The FSB has been extensively spying on anyone who supports peaceful, democratic dissent. Spying, by itself, does not suppress democracy. The trouble is that spying often leads to abusing civil rights and other egregious activities that do ruin democratic society.

      Once the FSB determines who the troublemakers are, the Kremlin orders its loyalists in the city governments to suppress dissent. In fact, on March 24, Russian authorities arrested all the peaceful protestors [iht.com] before they could begin their rally.

      Will Washington follow in the footsteps of Moscow and go to the next logical step after spying? I hope that the answer is "no", but I cannot be 100% certain that the answer is "no".

    • by ArcherB (796902) * on Sunday March 25, 2007 @09:48PM (#18483063) Journal
      Since when is the NYPD Republican?

  • by mikelieman (35628) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:01PM (#18482361) Homepage
    The NYPD exhibiting "Bad Faith"?

    Why am I not surprised?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cold fjord (826450)
      The NYPD exhibiting "Bad Faith"?
      Why am I not surprised?


      Let me guess, you comments were in "good faith", ignoring these sections of the article?

      The operation was mounted in 2003 after the Police Department, invoking the fresh horrors of the World Trade Center attack and the prospect of future terrorism, won greater authority from a federal judge to investigate political organizations for criminal activity.....

      "All our activities were legal and were subject in advance to Handschu review," Mr. Browne said. ...

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mikelieman (35628)
        How is it subject to the Handschu Agreement if it's not being reviewed as PER the Handschu Agreement. *A* Single Police Official is NOT the 3 person review board, is it?

        And how is a court settlement modified without the agreement of the original parties?

  • No more New Yorkers at my parties....

    Oh, wait, I read /.

    Never mind
  • by soren42 (700305) * <j.son-kay@com> on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:03PM (#18482385) Homepage Journal
    So, what I took from this article is that the NYPD has domestic and international espionage capabilities comparable to (or, worse, better than) our nation's designed intelligence bodies. They also seem to do a better job of sharing information between agencies than the CIA, NSA, the various military intelligence organizations, and the FBI.

    This is yet another illustration of my point... the people that need to be in Iraq and Afghanistan are the NYPD and the LAPD. Their SWAT, negotiations, and (apparently!) intelligence teams are what's needed - these efforts ceased being appropriate "military actions" some time ago. What's needed now is an effective police force - which not the U.S. Army or Marines.

    And, by the way, yes, I do agree with what will no doubt the general sentiment on there - that is an outrageous, appalling, and despicable invasion of the personal privacy rights of ordinary citizens around the globe... but, aside from whining about how corrupt our elected officials and expressing my outrage, I figured there was some small glimmer of upside in this piece.

    • the people that need to be in Iraq and Afghanistan are the NYPD and the LAPD
      So when the NYPD catches Bin Laden, they'll sodomize him with a baton? And then give him to the LAPs who beat up Rodney King? Hmmm...I'm beginning to like your idea.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FFFish (7567)
      Leads me to believe, yet again, that there is are population size constraints on effective/efficient government. The best-run countries don't have a humongous population.
      • by Nutria (679911)
        Leads me to believe, yet again, that there is are population size constraints on effective/efficient government. The best-run countries don't have a humongous population.

        Whew, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks that.

      • by samkass (174571) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @10:52PM (#18483541) Homepage Journal
        The best-run countries don't have a humongous population.

        I take it your assertion is that China and India have ineffective, inefficient, badly run governments? Because while I sure don't agree with the means to China's ends, they don't seem to be failing at their goals or wasting their GNP.
  • Yep. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:08PM (#18482425)
    When I read that, I couldn't help but feel an overwhelming sense of well, nothing. Our government as a whole has fallen so far it is no longer suprising or even "despicable", it's almost routine, and that is the truly disgusting part.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:08PM (#18482427)
    So let's review what we know so far...

    * FBI abusing its snooping authority under the patriot act
    * Major telecommunications companies provide secret rooms to the government to pick through Internet communications
    * Al Gonzalez authorizes (illegal) collection of phone call databases
    * "Total Information Awareness" (TIA) program continues to create mass associative database of all american entities (people, businesses)
    * Inkjet printers embed hidden serial numbers
    * Newly issued American passports leak personal information including pictures
    * Government has access to all Americans' financial transactions
    * US government contracts w/private companies to harvest information (which it itself can't do)
    * Law enforcement infiltrates peaceful organizations (occasionally incites and/or foments violence)
    * Attorney General removes Federal Prosecutor for lack of loyalty to Administration... (raising questions about those who WEREN'T fired)
    * ???
    * Someone profits.

  • Knowing what to do? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:12PM (#18482447)
    Does anyone thing that maybe the reason we put up with this stuff is that we just don't know how to effectively change it? It seems like the only examples we have are

    (a) Ineffectual: writing or congresspersons, letters to the editor, voting.

    (b) (Typically) Crazy: armed revolt.

    It's like none of us (including me) knows how to navigate the territory between those two extremes. Heck, I don't even know whether or not there is any territory in between.

    Is this why we're damned to stand bye, then get over these things and go watch the newest B.S.G episode to forget about the state of the nation? We're just convinced that there's no effective way to deal with these things without resorting to violence, which we're (sensibly) loathe to do?
    • by jeff4747 (256583) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:21PM (#18482507)
      There is an effective way to deal with these things. Vote. When elections are lost because of this kind of thing, this kind of thing will stop happening.

      It doesn't matter if the other candidate is only slightly less repugnant. Eventually you'll run the crappy people out.

      Apathy is the only reason politics is in it's current cesspool state.
      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @09:21PM (#18482861) Journal

        It doesn't matter if the other candidate is only slightly less repugnant. Eventually you'll run the crappy people out.
        Are you implying that the number of crappy people in politics isn't infinite? :)

        Apathy is the only reason politics is in it's current cesspool state.
        I disagree. You'll never get good citizen oversight of elected officials and the election process (at the national level) when the average Senator represents 6 million people. Politicians are not responsible to the people, they are responsible to the media who inform the people. Even most self-described "informed" voters get the bulk of their information from television.

        You're right, apathy is a problem. But ignorance and miseducation are just as big a problem, as is access to media.
    • It's like none of us (including me) knows how to navigate the territory between those two extremes. Heck, I don't even know whether or not there is any territory in between. It looks like there is no territory between, because if you do something effective ( stronger than 'a' ) and non-violent ( not quite as strong as 'b' ) you get squashed. Examples of this range from the Whiskey Rebellion to Selma to Waco. The only way to do something effective for very long is to be armed so that you can shoot back. A
      • There is a small amount of middle ground. A show of force and unity against a group that protects the government(the military) and you hope like hell that the majority of the soldiers find the prospect of shooting fellow citizens so distasteful that they refuse to follow orders or if your lucky significant parts of the military structure command structure join said rebellion because they realize that the government no longer follows that which they swore loyalty to. You still have to deal with the inevitabl
    • Fuck letters to the editor. Power only respects power.

      Get your friends together and get yourselves registered to vote. Agree on how you'll vote on what issues.

      Then get in touch with your elected representatives (and people hoping to run for office) and make it clear that you represent X voters who WILL be voting in the next election. And tell them what you want to see changed.

      Then carry through and VOTE.

      If you want it to happen faster, volunteer to work on the campaigns of people who are willing to vote for
      • by SirGarlon (845873)

        Get your friends together and get yourselves registered to vote. Agree on how you'll vote on what issues.
        This is more or less how political parties get started. I think America could do with some more of those, so by all means, organize!
  • It's kind of annoying that extremists can't seperate themselves from peaceful protesters. I mean, if you want to throw stones at cops, do it when they are beating up on civilians, or taking bribes, or driving through red lights without the siren on. Don't go fuck up a peaceful protest.

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Or turning on the siren just so they can drive through a red light, after which they quickly turn it back off, and continue on at their regular non-emergency pace. Guess they just couldn't wait get to Tim Horton's.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dun Malg (230075)

      It's kind of annoying that extremists can't seperate themselves from peaceful protesters. I mean, if you want to throw stones at cops, do it when they are beating up on civilians, or taking bribes, or driving through red lights without the siren on. Don't go fuck up a peaceful protest.

      Part of the problem is that you will still be classified as an "extremist" if you do something they don't like. FOr example, if you try to stage a peaceful public protest where the leaders in question can actually see you, rather than staying in your "free speech zone" box in the corner of a parking lot, like they told you (cough)DNC '04(cough). They consider anyone who doesn't sit quietly at home watching TV to be an extremist.

    • by dr2chase (653338) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:42PM (#18482641) Homepage
      How do you know the "extremists" aren't police plants? Once upon a time, that would have sounded like a paranoid remark, but with this crowd, who knows?

      And kids, don't forget, not only should we start planning how to disrupt the 2008 Republican Convention, we should make "plans" even if we have no intention of going. Make those spies earn their pay. Shouldn't be hard to get their attention, if they are willing to infiltrate the Quakers and Billionaires for Bush.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by _KiTA_ (241027)

      It's kind of annoying that extremists can't seperate themselves from peaceful protesters. I mean, if you want to throw stones at cops, do it when they are beating up on civilians, or taking bribes, or driving through red lights without the siren on. Don't go fuck up a peaceful protest.


      Funny, I always thought the guys starting those riots were undercover cops. Say, the type that would go cross country and violate who knows how many laws to spy on innocent civilians wanting to use their free speech rights.

      C'
    • by Yartrebo (690383)
      Violent extremists are actually quite rare at protests. I've never seen an incident personally. Even with the violence that does happen, a lot of it is done or egged on by undercover cops.
  • My brother was one of the 1,800 people held for one or two days at the old vehicle maintenance facility on the west side of Manhattan. Many of these people (including my brother) were rounded up like cattle just because they were walking down a block where a protest was taking place. People were out getting groceries and arrested, with no way to place phone calls, no place to sit, and unhealthy conditions (the police who worked in the facility during the same time period have filed numerous health claims).

    So all this data was gathered and used for what...to cordon off a city block with snow fence and arrest EVERYONE in that block?

    Ultimately the police likely had no real way to use any of the data, and to keep their Republican guests happy they resorted instead to just rounding up as many people as they could. By the time everyone was released the convention was over. The lawsuits will drag on for years (my brother is suing the city) and cost the city a ton of money.

    The police like to boast that there were no disturbances or major incidents during the convention and they take the credit. More likely the reason is that the protestors and the citizens of New York were well behaved, protested peacefully, and even welcomed many of the convention attendees. My daughters (13 and 10 at the time) and I marched in the protest on Sunday during the convention and it was a wonderful day of peaceful expression of our political feelings.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mikael (484)
      Here's a link to the story:

      Arrests at GOP convention criticised [archive.org]
  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki.cox@net> on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:21PM (#18482511)
    is the fact that we have G. Gordon Liddy talking about similar plans for the '72 (or was it 76?) elections.

    it's not democrat or republican specifically. It just happens that the guys who were behind what happend in '72 were also behind what happend in '04. They just happened to be republican. of course, now we have the problem that most of their ilk ARE the republican party, but that's beside the point.
  • by SRA8 (859587) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:30PM (#18482557)
    The argument I constantly hear from those on the far right -- if there actually was a conspiracy, someone would have spoken out. Well, if that is the case, how come such a national "conspiracy," if you would call it, took 3 years to come out?
  • We know this sort of thing costs the nation its soul, but what I can't find in TFA is what all these operations cost the city of New York. Was the city reimbursed? I thought the Bush administarion was failing to deliver on promises regarding security for NYC? Why are they helping him then?
    --
    Thank goodness for sunshine: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-user s -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
  • not what you think (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mastershake_phd (1050150) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @08:51PM (#18482683) Homepage
    They must mean New York, USSR. Americans would never allow this type of stuff.
  • ... when I read a story like this, I usually try to stop and ask myself, "What if I did live there? Would this kind of craziness make more sense?" I cannot imagine that it would, but, like I said, I don't life in New York. ... BTW, if you haven't read the article, you really should just to catch the part about the "wireless bicycle."

    http://www.networkworld.com/community/?q=node/1287 4 [networkworld.com]
  • In Soviet Russia...

    ...we're all Republicans!

  • The New York City Government obviously has too much money if they can waste money illegally spying on non-violent, peaceful groups. It seems highly doubtful that citizens of NYC approve of this use of their money. Therefore, the police budget should be cut and savings returned to citizens through reduced taxes.
  • I am going broke (Score:2, Interesting)

    by janneH (720747)
    Everytime something like this happens I log on to the ACLU site and give them another hundred dollars. At this rate I am going to broke by next week.
  • The good citizens of New York City must be delighted to know that their tax dollars and police manpower went to safeguarding the Republican Party from protesters instead of, for example, finding Al Quaeda operatives.

    Vote for Guiliani for president, he really knows how to respond to terrorist threats. Not!

  • The issue is? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by OakLEE (91103) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @09:20PM (#18482851)
    Disclosure: I don't feel like registering, so I did not read the article. My comments are based completely on the summary. Feel free to correct me if the story indicates otherwise.

    That said, what the NYPD did is (1) travel to cities around the world (2) to observe public meetings of groups of people (3) who were likely to be in NYC during the convention (4) and cause significant disruptions in business and city services (5) for an extended period of time.

    This is not espionage [reference.com], it is scouting [reference.com]. The NYPD did not obtain any secret information from these meetings. These were publicly open meetings intended to disseminate the information the NYPD was after to anyone in attendance. The NYPD took action that an average person could take if they were willing to spend a several thousand dollars.

    This is no different than a basketball coach attending an opposing team's game or looking at their game film. This is no different, even, than a police man listening to two people talking in the middle of a busy street. It is settled law, in the US at least, that individuals or groups of individuals have no expectation of privacy in a public area.

    The NYPD did not exercise any extra-jurisdictional control over these people or use any methods that would illegal under either US, New York, or Local Country law. All they did was attend public meetings without advertising their presence. There is no evidence here that NYPD was abusing its authority in observing these groups, that it infiltrated these groups to cause internal disruptions, or that its observation invaded the privacy of these groups. In short, the NYPD did nothing legally or morally wrong.

    • Shit-My Bad (Score:4, Interesting)

      by OakLEE (91103) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @09:25PM (#18482889)
      Ok, I did not read the part about NYPD officers posing as sympathizers. That completely blows my argument up. I was under the impression that the officers were silent, uninvolved observers. There's nothing to look at here, carry on.
    • Re:The issue is? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fermion (181285) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @10:49PM (#18483513) Homepage Journal
      The issue is that the New York police investigated, created records, and exchanged such records with other jurisdictions, without any evidence of wrong doing. Generally such investigations, done without probable cause, is called harassment, and is frowned upon.

      What is missing in this hysterical world is good police work. Such work requires investigation, analysis, and conclusions free of political bias. Such work is difficult, not glamourous, but must be done. So, instead of working to reduce the 80,000+ violent crimes, the nearly 900 murders, that is one every 10 hours, 3000+ forcible rapes, they decided to attend meeting, file reports, and make accusations against individuals for which they had not evidence.

      Is it clear the parent did not read the article because the parent missed the whole point. Let's put this in another perspective. What the NYPD did is in effect a very expensive fishing expedition. Such work is frowned upon. For instance, police cannot enter a premises without cause. Police cannot create reports and exchange reports for innocent person. For instance, a police officer does not have the right to claim that parent poster is a murderer if not such evidence exists. For those who have forgotten history, we do this because the country we were fighting in the American revolutionary war felt like it had the right to enter where it like, take what it wanted, and hold anyone indefinitely without cause. Many thousands good people lost their life fighting England for the freedoms we know enjoy. What is sad that we are so afraid of losing our lifestyle, not out life, just our lifestyle, that we are willing to throw it all away.

      I often wonder if the people who support the policy of widespread detainment and widespread police power would actually be willing to allow their property or person to be searched without warrant, or would be willing to give up all possession for the benefit of the state.

  • by Nemus (639101) <astarchman@hotmail.com> on Sunday March 25, 2007 @09:58PM (#18483157) Journal
    I've noticed several people attempting to use fallicious arguments in order to dismiss this report as "liberal-bias." So, as a conservative (a real one, as in small, limited government = the exact opposite of Bush and co.) let me lay it out for you.

    The problem here isn't necessarily what they were monitoring, but why they were monitioring it. As the article repeatedly states, one must have grounds for an inquiry (i.e. possible illegal activity, backed up by either compelling circumstantial evidence or hard empirical evidence) before conducting a covert inquiry. As an example: it would be perfectly legal, in most cases, to begin covert surveillance of a target if the object of the investigation could in some way be demonstrated to be a possible factor involved in illegal activty, such as someone here in TN buying extremely large amounts of, say, nyquil (can be used in making crytsal methamphetamine), so long as the amounts were truly beyond any conceivable norm (compelling circumstantial evidence). While this would by no means be enough for an arrest or conviction, a judge could be convinced to allow wiretapping, diversion of assets towards surveillance, etc. However, one bottle of nyquil would not be enough (one would hope) to get this kind of permission.

    In the case reported in the article, the NYPD was effectively conducting surveillance of the one bottle of nyquil people. Simply being involved in a political protest group is by no means indicitive of illegal activity; however, the police apparently deployed assets to groups with apparently peacful intentions, with no cause to suspect illegal activity (one bottle of nyquil.) Now, if the police could show that Group A. had been responsible, say, for severe property damage at the WTO riots in Seatlle, that is compelling circumstantial evidence (did it before, might do it again) that could be used in obtaining permission for covert intelligence gathering (55 gallons of nyquil, so to speak). This does not seem to be the case here, however.

    The reason that this distinction is so important is that power does tend to corrupt, not necessarily morally, as the old adage is often taken to be stating, but more often ethically. You're a cop: protect and serve, preserve the peace, and all that. By the very nature of your job, if you're dedicated to it, anyways, you are going to always be pushing as close to the edge as possible. But where exactly is that edge? Where society (in the form of government, an ethical government one would hope) places it. Only when these distinctions are upheld, only when this line is constantly reinforced and restated, does the concept of checks and balances truly work. In this case, the police have overstepped their authority, it seems. Conducting an investigation with no probable cause is no different than pulling random people off of the street and interrogating them for a crime that one has no reason to suspect they comitted. Case in point: guys, how would you feel if everytime a woman was raped in your town, every male was wiretapped, followed, and snooped on? You might say that such a thing would be different, but it's not. After all, you have a penis (these people were involved in protest groups), and almost all women are raped by men (these groups are similar in form to groups that have created disruptions in the past), so all men should be surveilled equally (RTFA).

    The argument can go on and on: it is logically sound. However, the thing that is most compelling to me in this instance is it reminds me of the FBI during the Cold War, expecially during the Mcarthy era, and the Vietnam war. Do we not find it disturbing that people like MLK Jr., John Lennon, and the vast majority of the faculties of NE colleges were under surveillance, that dossiers were compiled on their potential "socialist," or "Communist," leanings, due to no more evidence than that they "fit the profile,"? Same thing here. Such policies were the product of Hoover and his protegees at the FBI, which nowadays are

  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Sunday March 25, 2007 @11:23PM (#18483791)
    Police around the world use intimidation to discourage people from attending protests. The article states that the intelligence reports "chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law". They must have known this would come out at some point. Having your name end up on police files for no good reason is precisely the sort of thing that scares many people away from protesting in the first place. One common tactic in the UK is for police forward intelligence units to photograph protesters, making them feel like criminals. This going on all the time.

    Now, people may say that what the police did is ok and legal because the meetings were all public, but think about it for a moment. In democratic countries we are supposed to have the right to protest and the purpose of protesting is to make a big noise, attract media attention and make governments change their minds about things. If everyone is arrested on route because the police knew exactly what train people were going to use, no big noise is made at all. That is an affront to our right to protest. The police are not there to protect governments or political parties from embarrassment. That is a complete misuse of the police force, yet it happens routinely. The easier it is for the police to stop people protesting, the worse it is for our democracies.

    In the UK we now have the wonderful protest exclusion zone for a kilometer or so around parliament. Although you can apply for permission to protest, any effective protest is now impossible since the police dictate how many people you can have, how many signs you can have etc. It's not so much the protests themselves that the government fears, but rather the media attention that a protest draws. A protest outside parliament is much more attractive to the media than one in some random field, and the government knows this full well. It seems that the police are also briefed to avoid drawing media attention to protests. You will find that when celebrities attend protests, the police tend to keep their distance since their intervention could only result in more media attention.

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