Dana Reynolds, Director of Colorado Information Analysis Center, on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
U.S. intelligence agencies have been monitoring the movements of
citizens long before Glenn Greenwald broke the story about National
Security Administration (NSA) spy programs earlier this summer, setting
off a media hoopla.
After unveiling documents showing that the NSA has been monitoring and
collecting telephone call data known as “metadata” for millions
Americans, many began to question the legitimacy of this type of
surveillance under the guise of anti-terrorism efforts.
It turns out, it’s only part of the story. Since the attacks of Sept.
11, federal and state surveillance of nonviolent student groups, protest
movements and mosques has increased markedly with the proliferation of
“fusion centers,” where state and federal authorities can aggregate
resources in a common area.
According to the Department of Homeland Security website, there are now 53 primary fusion centers and 25 recognized fusion centers across the U.S.
United Students Against Sweatshops
It’s part of a string of reports claiming that police are overreaching
in their attempts to nab criminals and would-be terrorists. In one
recent incident, The Washington Post reports that members of United
Students Against Sweatshops (USAS),
a student organization, claims that an undercover officer illegally
infiltrated their group, took photos and videos of their non-violent
USAS is a national advocacy organization that supports workers’
rights and fair labor practices. Group members have previously
organized demonstrations outside stores selling Nike, Adidas, Wal-Mart
and the Gap products, as well as other companies that USAS says utilize
sweatshop labor to produce goods.
Here are the alleged details of this case: The Washington Post reports earlier
this month that a Washington D.C. police officer known as “Rizzy,”
posing as an activist who supported the group, illegally infiltrated and
monitored the group. USAS has filed a
lawsuit claiming that the officer didn’t even have permission to be
deployed in an undercover capacity.
“The allegation is not that the undercover officer took photos and
videos of USAS, but that she should not have been deployed in an
undercover capacity in the first place,” said Jeffrey Light, an attorney
representing USAS, in a
written statement to Mint Press News.
Light elaborated on this point in a statement to The Washington Post,
claiming that the officer likely wasn’t given orders to attend rallies
and keep tabs on the group.
“I cannot think of any legitimate reason for the police to be sending an
undercover officer to those [protests],” Light said. “She was handing
out fliers, asking to be put on email list and asking about future
events. If the police wanted to know that, they could’ve checked the
Student leaders were alerted to the officer’s activities when the
National Lawyers Guild (NLG) contacted the groups with evidence of the
officer’s surveillance. “This first came to our attention when we were
holding protests at the GAP store in Washington D.C. Lawyers from NLG
approached us with evidence showing that an undercover was monitoring
us,” said Jan Von Tol, a national organizer for USAS, in a statement to
Mint Press News.
apparently posted suggestive tweets and online posts that USAS believes
are evidence of the officer’s surveillance work. Rizzi, labeled an
“agent provocateur” by Light, said he found tweets about how she dresses
in civilian clothes to “blend in” and about having to work outside on a
day when there was also a protest of the Keystone pipeline. The police
claim that their
work is sanctioned by law.
“I feel confident that we have adhered to all laws pertaining to the
First Amendment Rights and Police Standards Act of 2004,” D.C. Police
Chief Cathy L. Lanier said in a brief statement.
Lanier references D.C.
law passed in 2004 following a $21 million lawsuit filed by The
Partnership for Civil Justice claiming that an uncovered D.C. officer
infiltrated a peaceful protest group and urged them to commit violent
“She just seemed like a very enthusiastic community member. We went back
through our photos and realized she had been involved in two protests.
There’s pretty extensive social media postings from this person. If you
look at the times and things she’s posting. She posts that she’s ‘at
work’ while these protests are happening. They [NLG] did a good job of
background,” Von Tol said.
Student leaders are baffled as to why the police would spend time
monitoring their group, which has no previous history of violence or
illegal activity. “It’s a little bit disturbing that she was that
careless. I really couldn’t say why we were targeted. We are a
non-violent group,” Von Tol said. MORE