ACLU Urges CA Police Not to Let Federal Spying Rules Override State Privacy Rights

July 23, 2002 12:00 am

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SAN FRANCISCO — In letters sent today to seven Bay Area police and sheriff’s departments, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and several other civil rights groups are urging law enforcement agencies to take immediate steps to ensure that the state constitutional right to privacy is not overridden by intrusive new federal policies on domestic spying.

“”We are urging local departments to take immediate steps because we fear that this precious constitutional right will be compromised by anti-terrorism investigations encouraged by new federal policies,”” said Mark Schlosberg, Police Practices Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California.

“”These policies allow federal agents to spy on religious and political organizations in the absence of any suspicion. Quick action is needed to ensure that local police follow the California constitution — not dangerous federal guidelines that violate our state constitution,”” he added.

The letters, copies of which are online at, were sent to police and sheriff’s departments identified by the FBI as participating on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a task force made up of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

The letters are being sent in response to Attorney General Ashcroft’s recent unilateral decision to roll back longstanding guidelines that were put in place as a result of the gross intelligence abuses of the 1960’s. The letters urge local law enforcement working with the FBI to follow California’s constitution.

The letters were sent to the Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Santa Clara County Sheriffs and the Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco Police Departments. Some address specific local concerns and in each letter, the ACLU outlines steps that local police departments must take to protect the privacy rights of its residents.

An array of community groups and civil rights organizations signed the letters, including Chinese for Affirmative Action, the Arab-American Caucus of the Democratic Party, Japanese American Citizen League of Northern California, American Muslim Alliance, the San Francisco Chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, La Raza Centro Legal, and others.

Earlier this month, the three California ACLU affiliates, representing over 50,000 members, sent a letter to State Attorney General Bill Lockyer urging him to ensure that intelligence gathering practices carried out in California – whether by state, local or federal law enforcement officers – fully respect the state constitution.

A copy of this letter is online at

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