Spying For Bush: Bloomberg Used NYPD To Surveil Protesters


A Bloomberg Republican:

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 Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists, the records show.

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 . . . 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.

Yes, that is how police states are operated.


The dangerous groups included:

In at least some cases, intelligence on what appeared to be lawful activity was shared with police departments in other cities. A police report on an organization of artists called Bands Against Bush noted that the group was planning concerts on Oct. 11, 2003, in New York, Washington, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston. Between musical sets, the report said, there would be political speeches and videos. “Activists are showing a well-organized network made up of anti-Bush sentiment; the mixing of music and political rhetoric indicates sophisticated organizing skills with a specific agenda,” said the report, dated Oct. 9, 2003. “Police departments in above listed areas have been contacted regarding this event

Those dangerous musicians!!!

For the lawyers, the legal issue is something called the Handschu guidelines:

Under a United States Supreme Court ruling, undercover surveillance of political groups is generally legal, but the police in New York — like those in many other big cities — have operated under special limits as a result of class-action lawsuits filed over police monitoring of civil rights and antiwar groups during the 1960s. The limits in New York are known as the Handschu guidelines, after the lead plaintiff, Barbara Handschu.

Apparently, in a pending lawsuit, Judge Haight of the SDNY ruled that:

Before monitoring political activity, the police must have “some indication of unlawful activity on the part of the individual or organization to be investigated.”
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    activists in nyc have long been aware of this (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by conchita on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 07:30:52 PM EST
    that it is in the new york times is significant.

    i live on 30th street a block away from madison square garden.  during the convention my block and the surrounding neighborhood became a police state.  i couldn't even walk my dog down some blocks.  i was told to move on and physically shoved because i stood for too long in front of the korean market at 29th and 8th one evening.  the people and the businesses in the neighborhood were completely disrepected.  in a nutshell we were occupied.  you couldn't enter my block without showing an id to prove you lived there.  there no less than 20 police officers hanging out on each corner 24/7 and then more of them sitting in idling vehicles parked up and down the block.  and the scarey thing was it happened overnight - suddenly we had no rights.  and this was just a peaceful tree-lined block.  on 8th avenue was a whole different story.  i thought i was going to see a repeat of kent state one night.  i painted one of those   40' blue tarps "rnc = police state" and spread it on my roof.  

    the nypd hasn't stopped since.  it has become routine to see 20 police cars careening down a busy avenue with sirens blasting - and not just squad cars, but suvs,etc., all purchased around the time of the convention.  the nypd is out of control.

    fortunately, the nyclu and aclu have been active in court and some battles have been won wrt to critical mass bike rides, protest/march permits, cases being dismissed/thrown out against rnc protesters, filming protesters, and others i may not know about.  

    police state indeed (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by orionATL on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 09:28:04 PM EST
    this is a really important issue,

    a central constitutional issue

    vis-a-vis the bush administration.

    it may seem like a peripheral issue, compared to the iraq invasion, the u.s. a's  problem, or the libby trial,

    but it is not.

    the bush administration has, for the entire 6 years of its existence, suppressed individual, citizen  dissent against itself.

    the administration has employed local police across the nation, not just in nyc, to harass demonstrators and objectors.


    white house personnel have impersonated secret service agents to suppress dissent.

    and i would be surprised if the secret service itself had not "co-operated" in the suppression.

    at the president's command, protesters who voiced opposition, have been ejected from meetings or speeches for simply

    wearing t-shirts with an anti-bush policy message.

    this small, quiet scandal is deeply unconstitutional

    these are presidential abuses of the CENTRAL free speech the our "founders" had in mind -

    need i remind

    that that central free speech those founders were focused on and determined to protect was

    POLITICAL  free speech,

    not advertising

    not movies

    not gossip columns.


    the central protected speech was speech criticizing  elected officials or existing policies.

    in short,

    the right to publicly disagree with the mayor, the sheriff, the governor, the senator, the president, or, historically, the king.

    and NOT be imprisoned for having done so.

    like other aspects of its insensitivity to proper public policy in a democracy,

    the bush administration has trampled on this core right of american citizens for the entire six years  of its term in office - six long years.

    these bastards have not a clue about what a democracy is or how it operates.

    NYPD Secret !? (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by baba durag on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 10:16:06 PM EST
    When I read that I was stunned.  Since when do the Police think they're entitled to specify information as classified?  (I know, I know - naive not to expect it.)

    Police state for certain.  We passed that point decades ago.  Since then the noose has just been tightening.

    The "pending lawsuit" (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Ben Masel on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 10:59:25 PM EST
    Handshu, has been going since the early '80s. I'm a named plaintiff.

    Mid '80s there was a consent order placing limits on police spying on political groups. The strictures were weakened by Judge Haight after Sept 11. The current release comes under a motion to reopen the reduction of limits.

    This post is dedicated to (none / 0) (#1)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 06:53:52 PM EST
    my good friend Larry.

    Yeah. . . (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by LarryInNYC on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 09:13:58 PM EST
    just like Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are "dear friends", I guess?

    As you probably know, the arrests at the RNC are, to me, one of the lower points of the Bloomberg mayoralty [for those unaware of the backstory, I'm a Bloomberg supporter and BTD is a huge Mark Green fan].  I certainly wouldn't mind seeing Bloomerg and Ray Kelly get three days in a pen on the west side piers like the arrested protesters got.

    The behavior described in the article (you didn't cite the worst of it, either) is inexcusable.  Billionaires for Bush was one of the groups surveilled.  It's true, they're not very funny but that's not a crime.  I have no interest in trying to make it  sound like anything other than what it was -- an abuse of powers the NYPD was granted under the guise of fighting terrorism.

    On the other hand -- while Bloomberg obviously has to take responsibility for what happened on his watch he's no Giuliani (thank God).  So who deserves the lion's share of the blame?  Bloomberg or Kelly?  Kelly, of course, is a Democratic Dinkins and Clinton appointee who was brought back as Police Comissioner by Bloomberg as a nod to Dinkins (and, I think, in recognition that the improvements in public safety under Giuliani actually began during the Dinkins Administration).

    I also hold what I know to be a rather unpopular position on the left -- that the Republicans were entitled to hold their convention without undue disruption.  I myself saw threats of "shutting down the city" posted on dKos and my wife was nervous enough about both protests and the possibility of a real terrorist attack that she took the girls and left the city for the week.

    In any event, this is yet another reminder (if we needed it) of the importance of oversight in government.  In 2002 the NYPD was granted the ability to make their own determination about "probable cause" for this kind of operation -- it seems to have taken them less than 18 months to get into trouble.

    PS: BTD is not actually a Mark Green fan.


    I couldn't resist (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 10:15:17 PM EST
    I'm coming to NYC. Call Mike and tell him to call off the dogs on me please . . .

    He already (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by LarryInNYC on Sat Mar 24, 2007 at 10:28:20 PM EST
    I'm coming to NYC.



    i'm kind of curious to know (none / 0) (#9)
    by cpinva on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 05:30:07 AM EST
    where the money for this came from? certainly, this entailed a significant additional expenditure of funds, since these officers were operating way the hell out of their legal jurisdictions.

    was this money taken from other parts of the police budget, or is there a secret "slush fund" available to the mayor, for use in illegal police activities?

    did these officers identify themselves to the local police, and secure their cooperation/approval for their covert activities?

    since when did the nypd become a national entity? did this happen while i was sleeping?

    i'd say bloomburg, and whoever authorized this in the nypd, have a hell of a lot of explaining to do, while federal charges are considered against them, for multiple violations of federal civil rights against these people and groups.

    Not all all. (none / 0) (#12)
    by LarryInNYC on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 03:51:39 PM EST
    where the money for this came from? certainly, this entailed a significant additional expenditure of funds, since these officers were operating way the hell out of their legal jurisdictions.

    After 9/11, the NYPD put together a 100 person intelligence unit headed by a former CIA officer.  There was a lot of publicity about this development, it wasn't a secret.  It expanded on the previous NYPD practice of stationing liason officers overseas in important-to-New York locations (such as the D.R.)

    As part of that process, the NYPD was granted a substantial relaxation in the standards needed to perform this kind of surveillance.  The new standard was that someone within the PD had to determine that there was a significant possibility of a law being violated.  This happened in 2002/2003 -- as you can see it was little over a year later that this authority was abused in the way described by BTD.

    Given those facts, there's some question of whether these abuses are, strictly speaking, illegal.  Obviously the relaxation of the standards was a big mistake -- but that was done by the Judiciary.  Furthermore the NYPD routinely operates outside of the City of New York and certainly this new unit was set up to do exactly that.  So there's no issue of "slush funds" or anything like that.


    What are the laws (none / 0) (#10)
    by Che's Lounge on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 09:37:23 AM EST
    covering the gathering of evidence/surveillance by a local law enforcement agency in another state? (out of jurisdiction). Were they detective rank individuals, or regular force personnel? Just asking.

    Political spying "generally legal"? (none / 0) (#11)
    by baked potato on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 01:16:00 PM EST
    Does anyone know to what decision Jim Dwyer is referring when he says that "Under a United States Supreme Court ruling, undercover surveillance of political groups is generally legal...."?

    If undercover surveillance of legal political activity is now okay, that's news to naive old me....

    Denver 2008 (none / 0) (#13)
    by diogenes on Sun Mar 25, 2007 at 05:58:58 PM EST
    No one has said that this information has actually used in some illegal way, but I guess that people here wouldn't want surveillance of potential disruptors of the Denver convention either.  As the song says, it's your party and you'll cry if you want to...

    diogenes (none / 0) (#14)
    by cpinva on Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 02:17:31 AM EST
    what i don't care for is some local yokel police force deciding it's a national police force. last time i checked, the nyc courts don't hold sway in any other state. nor do the state courts. unless this was a federal decision, and i haven't seen anything to indicate it was.