Sunday, March 25, 2007

It's official - the terrorists have won

I've been warning about this since the day after 9/11 and finally the evidence is being revealed. In the shock and panic after 9/11 we allowed our government to create a police state with nary a murmur of protest. How is this even legal?
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 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.
No one would argue that the NYC PD doesn't have a legitimate interest in preventing acts of violence but the difference between a group of Quakers and an anarchists bent on vandalism couldn't be more clear. Even more clear is that the NYPD overstepped their boundaries by thousands of miles, apparently under court sanction.
...In its preparations, the department applied the intelligence resources that had just been strengthened for fighting terrorism to an entirely different task: collecting information on people participating in political protests.

In the records reviewed by The Times, some of the police intelligence concerned people and groups bent on causing trouble, but the bulk of the reports covered the plans and views of people with no obvious intention of breaking the law.

...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.
There is a glaring difference between groups organizing to exercise their constitutionally protected right to peacefully protest and the very few radical organizations that intend to cause mayhem, and among those there are even fewer that would seek to hurt innocent citizens. Their brand of violence mostly lends itself towards disruption and vandalism. The difference is easily discerned by historical reference and a cursory look at websites.

The wide net approach taken by the NYPD betrays the bedrock principles of our democracy and smacks more of the intimidation tactics of the Gestapo than a law enforcement unit with a mission to protect and serve. Even more concerning is just how wide a net the NYPD cast.
New York undercover officers were active themselves in at least 15 places outside New York — including California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montreal, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C. — and in Europe.
Again, the NYPD has every right to protect its biggest city, but we are talking about a local law enforcement unit that is operating far outside the limits of its jurisdiction. The NYPD may have rightly felt failed by federal intelligence agencies, but that is not a justification for them to effectively take over a federal function that itself has already run amok in shattering the limits of reasonable domestic surveillance. Even worse, they conducted this operation to "protect" the the ruling political party's convention from having to encounter uncomfortable rhetoric from peaceful protestors. I've seen no indication that the delegates themselves were in imminent danger of physical harm.

If this isn't the definition of a police state, then please tell me how to define it.

[thanks to Cernig, Gun Toting Liberal and Sonia Smith at Slate for the links]

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