New NYPD Documents Show Broad Surveillance of Peaceful Political Activity Before Republican National Convention

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
May 16, 2007 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The New York Civil Liberties Union today published, at a press conference and on its website, approximately 600 pages of NYPD intelligence documents that detail a major—and often unlawful—police surveillance operation of political activity preceding the Republican National Convention in 2004.

The NYCLU released the documents after New York City abandoned an effort to keep them secret. The city abandoned its secrecy effort in the face of a May 4 ruling, by U.S. District Judge James Francis IV, that the documents should not be kept under wraps.

“These documents paint a picture of a surveillance program that was broad, clumsy, and often unlawful,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “The NYPD failed to differentiate between unlawful behavior and behavior that is not only lawful but should in fact be cherished and protected. Today the public can finally bear witness to that failure.”

The NYCLU, which obtained the documents through discovery in lawsuits it filed against the NYPD for its actions during the convention, had filed a challenge to the city’s claim that the documents had to be kept confidential. Lawyers for the city informed the judge and the NYCLU last night that the city would not appeal Judge Francis’s ruling.

The documents show that NYPD officers infiltrated political meetings and monitored listservs for years before the Republican National Convention, often recording information about activity that was completely peaceful and lawful.

Lawyers who worked to challenge the city’s secrecy claims include Christopher Dunn, NYCLU Associate Legal Director, and Palyn Hung, NYCLU Staff Attorney.

Now that the documents are public they will also be subject to close scrutiny by the attorneys on the long-standing federal case, Handschu v. Special Services Division, which has resulted in a series of court orders regulating police surveillance of political demonstrations and activities.

The documents released today, and Judge Francis’s decision of last week, are available online at: www.nyclu.org/rncdocs

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