Monday, June 15, 2009

Connecticut State Police Keep Tabs on Greens

Connecticut state troopers' surveillance of Green Party activists serves as the latest warning of whether we should allow government to conduct political intelligence and engage in "preventive" policing. A May 31, 2009 article in the Hartford Courant describes how political intelligence likely led to the pre-emptive arrest of the Greens' campaign director at a public event for merely photographing the incumbent Governor.

When Green Party gubernatorial campaign director Ken Krayeske was arrested by Hartford Police at a parade on January 3, 2007, he did not know that the state police Central Criminal Intelligence Unit had identified him as a "potential threat" to incumbent Governor M. Jodi Rell. Krayeske was arrested and held for twelve hours - long enough to miss the parade, and miss the opportunity to make political speech. Krayeske sued the city for his wrongful arrest, requesting that municipal police be ordered not to compile or maintain lists of political activists. According to recent disclosures, it was the state police who kept an eye on Krayeske and other Greens due to past "disruptive behavior" and Krayeske's 2004 conviction for civil disobedience at the Groton submarine base.

State police apparently conducted a surveillance operation to watch Green Party supporters outsite a gubernatorial debate at Channel 30 on October 18, 2006. The criminal intelligence unit's surveillance "was a police operation above and beyond the normal protection provided to Rell by her regular state police security detail," according to the Courant.

What did Krayeske and the Greens do to warrant such attention? Police say that Rell displayed "disruptive behavior" toward Rell at an Apple Festival on October 14, 2006 where he shouted at her for refusing to debate Green candidate Thornton. Police also fault Krayeske's internet blog wherein he wrote about a possible protest at the January 3rd inaugural ball, noting that he felt "no need to make nice." Wow, if only the Obama detractors were so kind in their writings. Since when did "no need to make nice" amount to threatening language?

Such behavior "merited monitoring him as one who might break the law." What happens when police label and target individuals as "one who might break the law"? Apparently, other officers take notice. So when Krayeske stood on a median to snap photos of Rell at a parade, a state police officer noticed him, recognized him, and said a pleasant "Good Morning." The state police officer saw no reason to arrest Mr. Krayeske and continued along the street. But Hartford Police ushered Mr. Krayeske away and arrested him. Prosecutors dismissed the charges.

Sounds like law enforcement in the Constitution State need a lesson in free speech.

FBI Secret Surveillance and Secret Policies

If history is any guide, lax oversight and secrecy are a recipe for abusive political intelligence gathering by the FBI. Pervasive official secrecy continues to threaten our national values under the Obama administration, in spite of a declared willingness to increase transparency. In a recent article by the new director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Shahid Buttar discusses the struggle to shed sunlight on electronic surveillance and the FBI's official policies on domestic spying.

The FBI is deterring oversight and public scrutiny of its Domestic Investigative Operational Guidelines (DIOGs) issued last December.  Even though the FBI briefed Congressional leaders on these guidelines, they remain unknown to the world and Congress hasn't had the opportunity to conduct full oversight.  Congress faced the same roadblocks in trying to oversee and amend the Justice Department's "Mukasey Guidelines" on domestic investigations issued last fall.  Now, the FBI is dragging its feet on public demands to see the DIOGs, which are internal policies that interpret those guidelines.

Congressional oversight is key to ensuring public debate and subjecting domestic intelligence to the rule of law. Through its People's Campaign for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee is also collecting signatures to demand accountability for torture - another area in which the Rule of Law should be paramount.