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Another letter to the Santa Cruz City Council in protest of police infiltration:

Dear Mayor and City Council:

I am perplexed and dismayed by the apparent disregard for civil liberties recently excercised by the Santa Cruz undercover Police in their investigation of the Last Night planning meetings. It has been established by Congress in the 1970's that it is illegal for police agencies to infiltrate peaceful organizing groups when there is no evidence of a crime having been committed, that it violates first amendment gaurantees of the US constitution.

In addition to first amendment protections, there are also 4th amendment protections. At least as of May 30, 2002 (see writ.news.findlaw.com/amar/20020614.html ) even in public places, only recently has the Patriot Act extended law enforcement's ability to do surveillance to include those PUBLIC places where activists gather to organize, and this can only be used in the case of a terrorism investigation -- even under Ashcroft's interpretation of the Patriot Act. In contrast, online discussion forums can be browsed by the FBI the same as a member of the general public for the purpose of detecting ANY criminal activity, not just terrorist activity. I would think that a private home, such was utilized for some of the Last Night planning meetings that were attended by the SC Police, would have even greater 4th amendment protections against unreasonable searches. I am specifically concerned that a warrant or court order may have been required to do the surveillance that was done at a private home, for it is no different in my opinion than tapping the phone, which can be turned into a room bug even when the phone is on the hook. The police would not even be required to enter a person's home for this latter scenario to occur. It is clear to me from this discussion that it is likely that the police did not in fact have a warrant, otherwise why would they even need to be there in person.

It is true that today the FBI may have even more power to spy at will on the American people, since it has been specifically authorized under the Patriot Act and can search homes and tap databases without notifying the people searched and without getting any kind of a court order. This is Section 215 of the Patriot Act. ( See www.aclu.org/privacy/spying/15423res20021024.html ) Even here though, the FBI is theoretically restricted to investigating suspected terrorism or clandestine intelligence activity. But the SCPD is not the FBI, so they may not have the same carte blanche as the FBI do do just any old search.

For more details, please check out the comments on this issue at www.santacruz.indymedia.org .

Both the SCPD and the FBI need to learn to respect the spirit and the letter of the US Constitution, especially as intended by Congress in the 1970's after the COINTELPRO controversy. Please clean up your act and get it together. Thank You.

Sincerely

John Thielking


PS: I think there would have been better ways to get the information the cops were looking for from the organizers. They could have e-mailed the organizers for instance. They have a contact link on their website. The organizers were in touch with the Police dept directly, though they themselves were bent on gathering intelligence in their own way, not just communicating. Maybe next time it would be better for the organizers to simply call the Police, be direct, and let them know what the specific plans were. This was done for some of the bigger Mumia demos around 1998 and didn't generate nearly as much controversy about police spying. The cops were also very cooperative at directing traffic around the Mumia demo/march which proceeded on Bay and Mission and Laurel in the traffic lanes without incident. Hopefully the Last Night 2006 march will have less interference via police spying since now they know what is up.
 


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