Documents expose Boston police working with FBI to track Palestine solidarity activists

ActivismIsrael/PalestineUS Politics
on 24 Comments
Boston protest
A demonstration organized by Jewish Women for Justice in Israel/Palestine against the Israeli occupation and in solidarity with the Occupy movement held at Occupy Boston in Dewey Sq., Boston, MA. Tuesday Oct’ 18, 2011 . Photo: T.Scheflan/ Activestills.org

The Boston Police Department, working in conjunction with the FBI, tracked and monitored anti-war activists, including Palestine solidarity activists, for a number of years, according to documents released today by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Massachusetts.

The ACLU exposed Boston police officers who worked with the Boston Regional Intelligence Center (BRIC), one of many “fusion centers” ostensibly meant to counter the threat of terrorism. Fusion centers bring together the Federal Bureau of Investigation and state and local law enforcement and are the focus of the ACLU’s expose.

Boston law enforcement “monitor demonstrations, track the beliefs and internal dynamics of activist groups, and document this information with misleading criminal labels in searchable and possibly widely-shared electronic reports,” according to the ACLU’s report (pdf) on their findings.

Boston law enforcement officers have also videotaped peace activists and retained the data. The retention of surveillance on the activists “violates federal privacy regulations and the BRIC’s own privacy policies,” the ACLU states.

The ACLU has obtained and published 13 “intelligence reports” from Boston law enforcement that show how police have tracked and monitored demonstrators. The documents reveal that “officers investigate the beliefs and communications of peaceful demonstrators, giving them labels like ‘extremists’ even when the officers could not plausibly suspect them of any crime,” according to the civil liberties group.

The documents were exposed as part of a lawsuit filed in 2011 on behalf of four activists questioned about their political activism when they were arrested, as well as five peace and justice groups. The National Lawyers Guild and the ACLU filed the suit, and the groups involved include CODE PINK, the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights and the Greater Boston Stop the Wars Coalition.

Among the documents are “intelligence reports” that detail the police’s surveillance of Palestine solidarity activism. In January 2009, the Boston Police Department authored an “intelligence report” on a “die-in” action at the Israeli consulate at the time when Israel was then waging Cast Lead, an all-out assault on Gaza. The “intelligence report” was labeled “Criminal Act: Groups-Extremist.” The report details the interrogations of four activists who were arrested as part of the action. “The purpose of the interviews was to attempt to create a dialogue with these activists in the hopes that these activists may reach out to officers in the future regarding any future actions relating to the current situation in Gaza,” the police wrote.

A March 2009 “intelligence report” shows that Boston police officers monitored another Palestine solidarity protest outside a hotel hosting a dinner. The report specifically noted that “women believed to be associated with Code Pink were prevented from getting into the dinner by private security.”

“When law enforcement officers start investigating protected ideas rather than crimes, they threaten our right to free expression and assembly protected by the First Amendment,” the ACLU report on the Boston police states. “The unchecked political surveillance our lawsuit uncovered undermines our core values by chilling the speech of people who wish to participate in our democracy.”

The expose of Boston’s fusion center comes on the heels of a Senate report that revealed how fusion centers across the country spy on U.S. citizens, particularly Muslims. Both the ACLU and Senate reports say that law enforcement may have broken U.S. laws that prevent the collection and sharing of information related to First Amendment activity.

It’s not only the Boston police department that have spied on activists, though. In March 2012, the Associated Press revealed how the New York Police Department, in addition to widespread spying on Muslims in the Northeast, also tracked activists around the country. An NYPD document reported on the planned activities of Palestine solidarity groups and activists, as Mondoweiss reported.

The ACLU is calling for the halting of the surveillance and for the Massachusetts legislature to cease funding fusion centers in the state.
 

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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24 Responses

  1. Les
    October 18, 2012, 5:27 pm

    Obama’s FBI.

  2. Kate
    October 18, 2012, 6:42 pm

    Boston Globe’s take on this story.

    link to bostonglobe.com

    • Annie Robbins
      October 18, 2012, 7:45 pm

      thanks kate

      .

      Recently, fusion centers have come under fire for overstepping their bounds by conducting surveillance on groups without justification. A US Senate subcommittee report released two weeks ago found that Department of Homeland Security officials found that fusion centers brought about “a lot of . . . predominantly useless information.”

      “These examples they are finding now in Massachusetts are sadly not isolated examples,” Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel for The Constitution Project, a bipartisan watchdog group.

      “This kind of domestic spying has failed to catch a single terrorist,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “This is a waste of public resources as well as a violation of fundamental civil liberties.”

      Franklin said the problems associated with fusion centers nationwide are a product of the lack of oversight and accountability in these intelligence-gathering efforts. Fusion centers such as the Regional Intelligence Center need better training to ensure that officers direct time and resources to real national security threats.

  3. Dan Crowther
    October 18, 2012, 6:42 pm

    I thought Barack Obama supported Palestinian Rights.

    • more progressive
      October 18, 2012, 10:37 pm

      he does and he doesn’t control the Boston PD

      • Dan Crowther
        October 18, 2012, 10:50 pm

        Ummm..sure. He definitely controls the FBI and the Justice Dept and their work speaks for itself. He’s presided over the the most active period for domestic police, military and intelligence “cooperation” to say nothing of his other attacks on activists, whistleblowers etc.

      • Theo
        October 19, 2012, 12:56 pm

        I doubt if Obama controls anything, this whole situation is getting out of hand!! The NWO and the zionists have their people in leading positions and do not bother to inform the president of their doings, never mind asking for his approval.
        Boston being my old hometown, this makes me very sad, what happened to that liberal city? George Orwell is greeting us.
        If anyone out there have no idea how the soviet system worked, now you have a front seat place to observe the same is done to our nation. Anyone is upset about this? Not really, a few lines in a blog and we go back to our beer or wine.

      • marc b.
        October 19, 2012, 3:00 pm

        really, fauxgressive, what has president gas done to advance palestinian rights? and the ‘fusion centers’ are funded through the DHS. that’s a federal agency in case you weren’t aware. oh, and what dan said too.

      • more progressive
        October 20, 2012, 3:26 pm

        what does the advancement of Palestinian rights have to do with the office of President of the US?
        if you what to criticize the president’s job performance that would be about a couple of thousand from where the list begins.
        Israel and Palestine are, in the real scheme of things in this world, not of great import compared to the attention paid to them.

      • anonymouscomments
        October 19, 2012, 6:05 pm

        more progressive? more like, more deluded.

        why when i was living in the west bank, documenting the israeli wall being built around an *entire* peaceful palestinian village, did *barak obama* veto a security council resolution on the settlements, intentionally crafted using moderate US state dept language?

        cause obama, when it comes to israel (at a bare minimum) is CONTROLLED by the zionist lobby.

        repeat after me- the US congress, and by extension, whoever is in the WH, is largely controlled by the israel lobby in major foreign policy areas. the lobby effectively dictates US policy in the ME. and likely some other things, cause power is power… so why not use it in any political issue where you have an interest?

        and “the lobby” is not limited to AIPAC, by any means, though AIPAC is formidable….

      • more progressive
        October 20, 2012, 3:29 pm

        anon, it’s like a real, real surprise that the US is allied with Israel and not at all in sympathy to efforts to end the occupation through violence rather than negotiation.

        real surprise.

      • anonymouscomments
        October 21, 2012, 3:29 pm

        who said that a vastly different posturing by the US would in any way advocate ending the occupation through *violence*?

        in reality, israel right-or-wrong policies, allow israel to not only avoid a negotiated settlement, it has enables the many excesses of the occupation, and of course CONTINUAL settlement growth.

        israel will only *negotiate* a reasonably just (not 100% just) resolution, if she were forced to due to the balance of power and *threatened/actual* loss of US support. this requires a massive shift in the US posture, europe, and the people of the world, including jews in the diaspora (and jews in israel eventually).

        FYI, people oppressed, especially as violently as the palestinians, will always have some who take up arms, and some who even resort to terrorism at times. at the same time, please not the frequent violence perpetrated by illegal settlers…. why is the US condoning that, and not saying a peep?

        if you want to recall the manner in which israel came into *existence*, it involved both political lobbying (reasonable, but they were lobbying for an unjust partition from distant and biased europeans), but also rampant terrorism and intimidation- of both jews, arabs, and even europeans.
        link to users.physics.harvard.edu

        get off your high horse, and realize the US is enabling israel’s destruction/descent, which may in decades, end in a fascistic mess, where non fanatical jews with means, will flee israel with their 2nd passport, or on a visa.

  4. CitizenC
    October 18, 2012, 6:43 pm

    The Boston and Cambridge police, like police nationwide, have received training in Israel, which undoubtedly informs their attitudes toward Palestine activists. Zionism is an integral part of the fascist state at every level.

    See
    link to boston.com

    And
    link to adl.org

    And
    link to jinsa.org

    • more progressive
      October 19, 2012, 12:42 am

      are you being serious?

      • Ranjit Suresh
        October 19, 2012, 1:13 am

        Of course he’s serious. Why the devil are American police departments receiving training in Israel?

        The notion is utterly bizarre. A country of over 300 million, the world’s superpower, is sending its cops to train in a little ethno-religious state in the Middle East. Thomas Paine pointed out the absurdity of the American colonies being the satellite of England. The same is true, to a much greater extent, in the case of America and Israel.

      • thankgodimatheist
        October 19, 2012, 6:22 am

        “are you being serious?”
        Well, here’s one of the links he provided:

        Top Law Enforcement Officials Return from Israel
        August 4, 2011

        “In June, the Law Enforcement Exchange Program brought 14 top level American police chiefs, sheriffs, and senior federal agents to Israel for a week-long program designed to strengthen American law enforcement counterterrorism practices by facilitating dialogue with and studying techniques used by their Israeli counterparts. The knowledge gained on this program will help their departments keep citizens safer and ensure that American communities are better prepared to deal with the realities of terrorism.”
        link to jinsa.org

      • more progressive
        October 19, 2012, 7:49 pm

        see my reply to Ranjit, thank.

  5. dbroncos
    October 18, 2012, 6:50 pm

    “The purpose of the interviews was to attempt to create a dialogue with these activists in the hopes that these activists may reach out to officers in the future regarding any future actions relating to the current situation in Gaza,”

    There is a Palestinian Mosque in Philly (Al Aqsa Mosque) where the congregants, with the help of an Arab American liason who seves on city council, made a concerted effort to reach out to police commanders in their precinct, introduce themselves, get to know them and otherwise put themselves “on the map” in a conspicuous way i.e. when I lived nearby I voted there in 2000 as they were our local polling place. In 2002 I joined Al Aqsa congregants at a big protest at the Israeli consulate. Al Aqsa had notified the police ahead of time and arranged to have civil affairs police officers present during the protest. This “official channels” approach to the protest turned out to be wise strategy because there were some aggressive Zionists there who wanted to start some fights. The Palestinians showed restraint in the face of their aggression and the civil affairs officers recognized the Zionists as the aggressors and the ones who needed to be pushed back. I can easily imagine that things would have been much different had the police not been ther until after a fight broke out: Jews=victims Palestinians=terrorist/agressor. Also in 2002 I joined members of this congregation on a bus trip to DC. The Mosque had chartered a few busses to transport protesters
    to a march on DC that drew an epic turn-out of tens of thousands of Muslims (and others) from all over the country to protest Israeli aggression during the earlier phases of the 2nd Intifada. One of my favorite memories of that trip was looking out the bus window at a group of more than a hundred Muslim men kneeling and praying in the grass next to a rest stop Hardy’s. It was a thrilling, out and proud showing of Muslims, including my neighbors at Al Aqsa, who came out to make themselves known and to be counted. But I’m rambling. My point is that my Al Aqsa neighbors had a good strategy. Go to the police before they come to you. Let them know who you are on your terms before they get to know you on theirs.

    • marc b.
      October 19, 2012, 8:36 am

      Dbroncos, that passage struck me in the exact opposite way. the full paragraph:

      Among the documents are “intelligence reports” that detail the police’s surveillance of Palestine solidarity activism. In January 2009, the Boston Police Department authored an “intelligence report” on a “die-in” action at the Israeli consulate at the time when Israel was then waging Cast Lead, an all-out assault on Gaza. The “intelligence report” was labeled “Criminal Act: Groups-Extremist.” The report details the interrogations of four activists who were arrested as part of the action. “The purpose of the interviews was to attempt to create a dialogue with these activists in the hopes that these activists may reach out to officers in the future regarding any future actions relating to the current situation in Gaza,” the police wrote.

      the police weren’t interested in ‘creating a dialogue’ in a civil, mutually beneficial sense. they were trying to intimidate and turn the activists into informants.

    • more progressive
      October 20, 2012, 4:50 pm

      an excellent strategy. demonstrate civility and peaceful intent and separation from violence

  6. Annie Robbins
    October 18, 2012, 7:15 pm

    The documents reveal that “officers investigate the beliefs and communications of peaceful demonstrators, giving them labels like ‘extremists’ even when the officers could not plausibly suspect them of any crime,” according to the civil liberties group.

    i wonder how much our government has spent on monitoring activists for palestine? we can add it on to the billions we give them every year for israel’s offensive against the palestinian people. this is getting very expensive both financially and wrt our civil liberties.

  7. ToivoS
    October 18, 2012, 7:45 pm

    Now this is irony. In 1919 there was a famous police strike in Boston. This eventually established the right of public employees to organize into unions. It was a seminal moment in US radical politics, yes it was radicals and other ‘extremists’ that established that right. Too bad to see their descendants turn into police state thugs that they once opposed.

  8. Abdul-Rahman
    October 19, 2012, 10:33 pm

    What a travesty and waste of taxpayer money (on top of all the American taxpayer money the Israel-firsters in AIPAC and their associates already siphon off to the Israeli regime to continue their oppression of the occupied Palestinian people).

    Another thing that came to my mind immediately is that while the FBI is spending so much time monitoring peaceful Palestinian solidarity activists, in actuality Zionist terrorism in the US is a far more real threat; as one of the most active domestic terrorist groups in the US (in terms of violent and deadly terrorist attacks) in recent American history has been the nutjobs and fascists of the so-called “Jewish Defense League” (the “JDL”) who have carried out numerous horrific attacks on American soil. “JDL” terrorist attacks that have included murdering human rights activist Alex Odeh and the “JDL” has been caught targeting other individuals such as Mosques out in California (I believe it was) and even US Representative Darrell Issa. But yet again the FBI is focusing on peaceful Palestinian solidarity activists who are doing no more than raising the righteous call of justice and human rights for all, via acts of peaceful resistance like the call for BDS against Zionist apartheid, colonialism, and crimes. link to bdsmovement.net

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