ACLU of Massachusetts Calls for End to Massive Government Surveillance of Local Activist

August 31, 2004

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BOSTON, MA -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, joined by the American Friends Service Committee and Boston City Councilors Chuck Turner and Felix Arroyo, today called for an end to government surveillance of local activist Kazi Toure, who has been subjected to intense political surveillance by law enforcement officers for nearly a week based on spurious reports that he would participate in protests at the Republican National Convention. 

"Law enforcement authorities presumably working with the FBI have deployed four teams of full-time surveillance, plus helicopters, in a surveillance operation that appears to be based on exaggerated reports out of the New York police department," said John Reinstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. "This is simply bad police work that diverts resources away from real law enforcement without making us any safer."

For most of the past week, Toure, who works with the American Friends Service Committee in Boston, has been followed for 24 hours a day by four teams of law enforcement officers and, on occasion, two helicopters. Police accounts published in New York and Boston media indicate that Toure was targeted as a potential participant in protests at the Republican National Convention. In fact, Toure never had any intention of going to New York City during the convention.

The ACLU of Massachusetts today sent a letter of protest to FBI Director Robert Mueller and Kenneth Kaiser, special agent in charge of the Boston office of the FBI, urging the FBI to terminate the surveillance. The ACLU maintains that the investigation of Toure is based on unsubstantiated information, and that the excessive use of police resources in this manner offends the basic principles of the First Amendment by deterring lawful and legitimate protest. 

"The government has been given extraordinary resources to combat terrorism and, just as we feared, they are using those resources against citizens on the weakest kind of outdated intelligence information," said Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. "The result is a chilling of peaceful political speech not only for those individuals who are targets of such investigations but also for the rest of the citizenry."

The ACLU has repeatedly denounced the FBI's use of the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) to monitor, interrogate, and suppress anti-war and other political protestors, after The New York Times detailed actions taken by FBI agents in Missouri, Kansas, and Colorado to spy on and interrogate activists in advance of the Democratic and Republican national conventions. 

"The FBI's intimidation and interrogation of peaceful protesters brings back eerie echoes of the days of J. Edgar Hoover," said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director, in a national ACLU statement released on August 16. "Resources and funds established to fight terrorism should not be misused to target innocent Americans who have done nothing more than engage in lawful protest and dissent."

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