New Report by ACLU of Northern California Documents Government Monitoring of Lawful Protest and Lack of Regulations

July 27, 2006 12:00 am

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ACLU Calls for Guidelines to Protect Free Speech and Privacy Rights of Californians

SAN FRANCISCO – Federal, state and local agencies have infiltrated or monitored the political activity of Californians throughout central and northern California in what has become a disturbing trend, according to a report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.

From grandmothers opposing the war in Iraq to anti-war protesters at the Port of Oakland, the 35-page report tells the compelling stories of individuals and groups that were targets of government surveillance because of their political activity.

“The incidents in this report represent a disturbing trend in law enforcement that is fueled by greater funding of federal, state and local intelligence agencies, a national climate of fear, and a troubling lack of regulation,” said Mark Schlosberg, author of the report and Police Practices Policy Director of the ACLU of Northern California.

The report, entitled The State of Surveillance: Government Monitoring of Political Activity in Northern and Central California, also illustrates the lack of enforcement of current regulations and recommends specific policy reforms to safeguard Californians’ rights to privacy and free speech.

Since September 11, 2001, dozens of organizations have had their protests monitored by intelligence agencies. Peaceful protests were included in anti-terrorism bulletins and databases and undercover officers have posed as activists to gather information and influence decisions, according to the report.

The ACLU makes several policy recommendations, including state legislation regulating the National Guard, the State Terrorism Threat Assessment Center, and the state Office of Homeland Security. The California Attorney General should also issue specific guidelines to local law enforcement agencies and state law should require regular reporting on surveillance activities to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the ACLU said.

“We applaud those who refuse to be silenced, but fear that for others, government surveillance of political activity will have a chilling effect,” said Dorothy Ehrlich, Executive Director of the ACLU of Northern California. “Free speech, political dissent, and rigorous public debate are the foundation of a strong democracy and that is why it is so important to preserve these precious rights in times of crisis. If history is any guide, the stories documented in this report represent only the tip of the iceberg.”

The report is online at

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