When Boston Police Spy on Free Speech, Democracy Suffers

Published On October 20, 2012 | By CopBlock | Articles

This post was submitted to CopBlock.org by utilizing the submission tab. It’s an eye opening piece by Nancy Murray about police monitoring. Isn’t it scary to know that if you preach peace or care about veteren’s rights the police will monitor you, even after they are the only ones doing something illegal? Don’t believe me, continue reading or watch the video below.

By Nancy Murray, Education Director, ACLU of Massachusetts at 9:51am

Originally posted by boston.com.

Psst! Check out this super-secret Boston Police “intelligence report”:

Local activists have been trying to get ‘celebrity guest speakers’ (Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon) for the March 24th demonstration, but at this time it appears that they have been unable to book any of these speakers for their event.

But some well-known speakers will be there. According to this intelligence report,” compiled by the Boston police under the heading “Criminal Act–Groups-Extremists,” among them will be Cindy Sheehan and a “BU professor emeritus/activist” whose name is redacted–it was the late Howard Zinn.

These excerpts come from one of several documents and videotapes obtained through a lawsuit brought against the Boston Police Department by the ACLU of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. We are making these criminal “intelligence” reports public today, along with a report analyzing its significance–and avideo of some of the peace activists who have been targeted.

We now have proof of what peace groups and activists have long suspected: Boston Police officers have worked within the local fusion spying center, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), to monitor the lawful political activity of local peace groups and track their movements and beliefs. This information has been retained in searchable electronic “intelligence” reports bearing labels such as “Groups – Civil Disturbance,” “Groups–Extremists,” “HomeSec-Domestic” under the heading “Criminal Act.”

Under what interpretation of the US and Massachusetts Constitutions can the non-violent First Amendment activity of groups like Veterans for Peace and United for Justice with Peace be routinely classified as a criminal act?

If you have glanced at the US Senate subcommittee report on fusion centers that came out earlier this month, you may not be surprised to hear that Boston’s fusion center has been collecting dubious “intelligence” and violating civil liberties in the process.

Fusion centers were set up in the aftermath of 9/11 to facilitate the sharing of “terrorism-related” information among local, state, and federal law enforcement and private entities. But the Senate subcommittee report finds that the nation’s 70 or so fusion centers (the exact number is in dispute–DHS, which contributed the seed funding for the centers, doesn’t know how many exist today) have not uncovered a single terrorist plot.

Indeed, the spying centers have produced “nothing of value,” and instead needlessly duplicate the “more efficient information-sharing process already in place between local police and the FBI-led Terrorist Screening Center.”

Their output is often, in the words of one government official, “a bunch of crap.”

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  • Hey

    Boston Police like many other PDs across the nation have unlimited funds to use which apart from investing hundreds of millions of taxpayers money into a major state of the art monitoring command center with fancy cameras and monitors, they can also use this unlimited funds to waste your taxes to build themselves a spy agency to spy on their citizens.

    There is no shame to how they use your tax dollars. They have access to bugs to listen in what is going on in your house and new technologies such as seeing through walls.

    Police will eventually bankrupt a city as it has happen in a few cities that went bankrupt.

    There is no Democracy and people will slowly realize that we live in a genuine Police State.

  • t.

    I love this story. Quite possibly my new favorite.

    I don’t want to be filmed! I don’t want to be filmed!! Wow, what’s good for the goose ain’t so fun for the gander.

    But the first woman was the funniest. Don’t film while I commit crimes…oops, sorry, acts of civil disodience. Hilarious that she thinks its wrong for the police to watch her.

    And its not like a “peaceful protest” has ever turned violent or destructive. I mean, there hasn’t been any property damage or person crimes with OWS now has there?

    Now, really…if they don’t like the way the report classified them…well I can kinda understand that. But I will point back to the first lady. She is openly advocating…and admitting to committing crimes.

    Film the protesters!!! Banners don’t grant extra rights!!!

  • Common Sense

    ha ha ha, I can film you but you can’t film me….oh wait….

  • zon

    T since when is the first amendment extra rights.

    also I would oppose any police action that would harm the right of speech or to protest as should you.

  • T

    @zon: The police in this instance did NOTHING to impede, harm, stop or subvert anyones freedom of speech, or right to peaceably protest. These people may never have, nor will ever harm anyone. Good. But lots, LOTS, of groups DO harm others. Their causes may be good, and maybe even just or right…but their actions are what is important. Lets say that a fringe element gets into this otherwise peaceful movement. They high jack it at some point and suddenly it’s not a peaceful group. Even if its just a one time incident. The police would be remiss if they don’t gather at least some intelligence about these potential issues. The rest of it is mostly baselessly paranoia.

  • 2minutes

    “I love this story. Quite possibly my new favorite.

    I don’t want to be filmed! I don’t want to be filmed!! Wow, what’s good for the goose ain’t so fun for the gander.”

    While it is true that filming is a right, and anyone out in the public does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, the goose and gander analogy is misleading at best. The situations are not the same, other than the basic act of filming. How many times have people been arrested for filming the police? Charged with obstructing, or disturbing, or interfering? And don’t tell me they were justifiable arrests, the lawsuits in a number of them prove otherwise. How many times do the police have their cameras confiscated on a flimsy excuse? The answer is none. Like everything else, the police hold an advantage and use it indiscriminately.
    The police can film, knowing that they will not face arrest, or have their cameras, or phones, taken from them, by force if necessary, and illegally, all by the people who are supposed to uphold the law. Yet the police then point to that same law that they violated and say “but it’s O.K. for me to film you, its the law.”

    And when do the people filming the police file police reports on the police? Ones that call them “domestic terrorists’ or “extremists”?
    Ones that demonize people that have committed no crime? ones that become available to other government agencies, so that that person is eternally under suspicion, despite having preformed no illegal activity? Why is it that the police can, under some pretext, obtain you video, and even destroy it, right on the spot, but it takes a FOIA request to even get them to admit to theirs?

    Goose and gander? not even close…

    P.S. Why is it that every time a cop, or cop advocate, attempts to explain or justify a behavior, they go with “What if? or Let’s say..”? A hypothetical situation is just that, hypothetical, yet it has to be acted on each and every time? So, lets go with the goose and gander – let’s say that there is a cop that likes to run around shoving his fingers up suspects asses looking for drugs – can we treat all officers like they are doing it? Assaulting people on the street? Because that’s what they do, treat the public like they are all guilty until proven innocent. After all, that what surveillance is all about, and stop and frisk, and the Terry stops, and drug dogs. What if?

    O.K. that was a bad example, since it happened. What if there was groups of cops who cannot read, or are dyslexic, or had some other comprehension problem, and they go around kicking in peoples doors and ransacking their homes and terrorizing the owners, Because they cannot discern the difference in the numbers used in addresses? Can we treat all cops like they do that? I’d say that a home invasion without cause definitely counts as domestic terrorism. (Yes, another bad example, since it happens so often.) Are the cops gonna jump right on that, maybe put them under surveillance? After all, maybe a fringe element got into the department, and is causing the problem. No? So why can the police treat anyone who protests, or photographs, or does something else that is legal as a potential criminal, including labeling them as domestic terrorists or extremists and keeping files on them to share with other agencies; yet at the same time give themselves a pass when performing actual illegal or harmful activities?

  • Lurker

    What a bunch of crybabies. You have no expectation of privacy in public, isnt that what you guys always say?

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  • The difference

    There is a difference between the public monitoring the government and the government monitoring the government.
    The first leads to accountability of the actions of those with authority.
    The second leads to suppression and intimidation.

  • BigPoppaAZ

    @TheDifference well stated.

    Surveillance: a watch kept over a person, group, etc., especially over a suspect, prisoner, or the like:
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Surveillance?s=ts

    Viewed as the monitoring of the behavior, activities, usually of people for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting. It most usually refers to observation of individuals or groups by government organizations.

    @T “These people may never have, nor will ever harm anyone. Good. But lots, LOTS, of groups DO harm others…The police would be remiss if they don’t gather at least some intelligence about these potential issues.”

    If no crime has been committed, but your name is in a file, as a potential criminal, hasn’t your LIBERTY been compromised?

    Liberty: 1: freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/liberty?s=t

    I’ll stick with Ben Franklin here

    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

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  • John Q Public

    Seems like some of you need to put your tin foil hats on.

  • 2minutes

    And others need to go polish their jackboots..

  • spirit of 46

    The 1st amendment gives CITIZENS the right to film the police (Government)> The 4th amendment denies the government the right to film citizens. Don’t like it t, and other cops? Well, this is America: Love or leave it you tree-hugging big government liberals!

  • t.

    Spirit: Your colossal ignorance is showing. The fourth amendment says no such thing. Not even close. Watch the video clip attached to this story. The video is being shot from across the street. No interference. So does it hurt being that wrong? It should. And I’ve been calledlots of things, but liberal has never been one of them, you seemed to be confused about a great many things.

    2: My goose / gander comment was spot on…apples to apples. The people who get arrested for the filming for the largest part are interfering eight he police. I say to you the same as I said to Spirit, watch the video attached to the story. The police camera person is across the street just filming the over all activity. The “cop blockers” jump into the middle of the incident, the interior the police, interest with them. VERY different from what you are trying to imply.

    @the difference: huh? If you get “intimidated” by some one filming you from across the street and not interfering with you in anyway…but yet you thinks its OK for you to do it to someone else…you’ve bigger issues.

    @pooppa: What liberty have you lost? I said that I can understand that the heading / labeling on the file jacket may not be the best…but you are living with your head in the ground if you don’t think that his protest groups don’t commit crimes. The first woman ADMITS to committing crimes. The police filming them prote ts business owners, the police and the taxpayers. Proactive policing…keeping the crime from occurring or suppressing it through high visibility or presence is the perfect answer.

  • Helena Maga

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  • BigPoppaAZ

    @t,
    I appreciate the follow-up. As to: “but you are living with your head in the ground if you don’t think that his protest groups don’t commit crimes.” Sure, I can agree, “some protest groups” have committed crimes. This does not mean that all protest groups commit crimes. Accusing all, for the actions of some, seems to be your premise for justifying warrantless discretionary surveillance on all groups/organizations whom do protest.

    I’ve no problem with Police observing protesters that is well within the community’s right to ensure public safety, and validate the protesters right to organize. The issue, I believe is at hand, comes from the lack of Probable Cause that crimes will be committed, in order to justify filming, we both know Probable Cause must be based on factual evidence and not just on suspicion.

    All the BPD has is a suspicion, at best. The woman you mention, discusses these points after the fact. If BPD (as well as other LE Organizations) have evidence that a crime may be committed, then they can apply for a warrant. However, as can be seen here, Warrantless Discretionary surveillance of the citizenry is unconstitutional and a violation of Liberty.

    (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan operate under laws that allow the government to engage in widespread discretionary surveillance.)

    @Spirit is right in the “Spirit” of the 4th amendment, maybe not the declaration as stated.

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons…against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized

    Proactive policing, as you mentioned, through high visibility and/or presence does not need to violate the rights of the citizenry through warrantless discretionary surveillance.

  • t.

    @poppa: guy you are really missing it, being lead down the path that the author want to take you on, use your own mind.

    The police simply, and in no way (at least by what is depicted here) do anything wrong, invasive, intrusive or even close to illegal. Who many times is it said over and over on this site….YOU HAVE NO EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY WHILE IN PUBLIC!! Does that sound familiar? Its like plain view. Its PLAIN VIEW because, well its in plain view. You protesting in a public park is…well plain view. There isn’t even a creative, untruthful to connect that to the fourth amendment. Not even a little bit.

    Watching them, filming them, and even finding out who they are isn’t wrong or illegal. As I said, if they don’t like the classification, I can understand that.

  • BigPoppaAZ

    @t,

    “Watching them, filming them, and even finding out who they are isn’t wrong or illegal. As I said, if they don’t like the classification, I can understand that.”

    Observing them, i.e., watching them, protest, agree it’s a non issue.

    However, filming them to find out who they are without their consent, under the pretense that they could possibly, at some point in the near future, maybe, just maybe, commit a crime is an invasion of privacy and a violation of liberty. There is no other way around it.

    Observe and report, no worries. Creating a “personal file” on someone when there is no reasonable suspicion that they have or are about to commit a crime or are in the process of doing so, is illegal.

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  • t.

    Poppa: Not illegal. Responsible. The police and the elected government have a responsibility to ALL that they serve. You and the Cop Blockers always miss that as you only think about you and your “rights”. Everyone else has them too.

  • BigPoppaAZ

    @t,

    We all have the same rights. Badges and being in the Government doesn’t grant you extra rights.

    How is “Creating a “personal file” on someone when there is no reasonable suspicion that they have or are about to commit a crime or are in the process of doing so” responsible? It’s a violation of OUR Constitutional rights. The ones that officers take an oath to protect and serve.

    You seem to be okay with granting extra rights to those we allow to protect and serve. I, and those dastardly Cop Blocker’s you associate me with, and to that point I’m proud to be associated with, believe that no one person is above the law.

    As Uncle Ben said: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

  • t.

    Quote whoever you’d like. What constitutional right did it violate? Be specific. I’ll wait… …. …. …. …. ….