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Police Infiltrate Anti-War Protests

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    Police Infiltrate Protests, Videotapes Show By JIM DWYER December 22, 2005 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/22/nyregion/22police.html?
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 6, 2006
      Police Infiltrate Protests, Videotapes Show
      By JIM DWYER
      December 22, 2005
      http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/22/nyregion/22police.html?
      hp&ex=1135314000&en=10dca8926beae1ec&ei=5094&partner=homepage


      Undercover New York City police officers have conducted covert
      surveillance in the last 16 months of people protesting the Iraq
      war, bicycle riders taking part in mass rallies and even mourners at
      a street vigil for a cyclist killed in an accident, a series of
      videotapes show.



      Frame grab of a woman with a "shameless agitator" button at a rally.


      Police Video Caught a Couple's Intimate Moment on a Manhattan
      Rooftop (December 22, 2005) In glimpses and in glaring detail, the
      videotape images reveal the robust presence of disguised officers or
      others working with them at seven public gatherings since August
      2004.

      The officers hoist protest signs. They hold flowers with mourners.
      They ride in bicycle events. At the vigil for the cyclist, an
      officer in biking gear wore a button that said, "I am a shameless
      agitator." She also carried a camera and videotaped the roughly 15
      people present.

      Beyond collecting information, some of the undercover officers or
      their associates are seen on the tape having influence on events. At
      a demonstration last year during the Republican National Convention,
      the sham arrest of a man secretly working with the police led to a
      bruising confrontation between officers in riot gear and bystanders.

      Until Sept. 11, the secret monitoring of events where people
      expressed their opinions was among the most tightly limited of
      police powers.

      Provided with images from the tape, the Police Department's chief
      spokesman, Paul J. Browne, did not dispute that they showed officers
      at work but said that disguised officers had always attended such
      gatherings - not to investigate political activities but to keep
      order and protect free speech. Activists, however, say that police
      officers masquerading as protesters and bicycle riders distort their
      messages and provoke trouble.

      The pictures of the undercover officers were culled from an
      unofficial archive of civilian and police videotapes by Eileen
      Clancy, a forensic video analyst who is critical of the tactics. She
      gave the tapes to The New York Times. Based on what the individuals
      said, the equipment they carried and their almost immediate release
      after they had been arrested amid protesters or bicycle riders, The
      Times concluded that at least 10 officers were incognito at the
      events.

      After the 2001 terrorist attacks, officials at all levels of
      government considered major changes in various police powers.
      President Bush acknowledged last Saturday that he has secretly
      permitted the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without a
      warrant on international telephone calls and e-mail messages in
      terror investigations.

      In New York, the administration of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
      persuaded a federal judge in 2003 to enlarge the Police Department's
      authority to conduct investigations of political, social and
      religious groups. "We live in a more dangerous, constantly changing
      world," Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said.

      Before then, very few political organizations or activities were
      secretly investigated by the Police Department, the result of a 1971
      class-action lawsuit that charged the city with abuses in
      surveillance during the 1960's. Now the standard for opening
      inquiries into political activity has been relaxed, full authority
      to begin surveillance has been restored to the police and federal
      courts no longer require a special panel to oversee the tactics.

      Mr. Browne, the police spokesman, said the department did not
      increase its surveillance of political groups when the restrictions
      were eased. The powers obtained after Sept. 11 have been used
      exclusively "to investigate and thwart terrorists," Mr. Browne said.
      He would not answer specific questions about the disguised officers
      or describe any limits the department placed on surveillance at
      public events.

      Jethro M. Eisenstein, one of the lawyers who brought the lawsuit 34
      years ago, said: "This is a level-headed Police Department, led by a
      level-headed police commissioner. What in the world are they doing?"

      For nearly four decades, civil liberty advocates and police
      officials have fought over the kinds of procedures needed to avoid
      excessive intrusion on people expressing their views, to provide
      accountability in secret police operations and to assure public
      safety for a city that has been the leading American target of
      terrorists.

      To date, officials say no one has complained of personal damage from
      the information collected over recent months, but participants in
      the protests, rallies and other gatherings say the police have been
      a disruptive presence.

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