NEW YORK - Undercover NYPD officers attended meetings of liberal political organizations and kept intelligence files on activists who planned protests around the country, according to interviews and documents that show how police have used counterterrorism tactics to monitor even lawful activities.
The infiltration echoes the tactics the NYPD used in the run-up to New York's 2004 Republican National Convention, when police monitored church groups, anti-war organizations and environmental advocates nationwide. That effort was revealed by The New York Times in 2007 and in an ongoing federal civil rights lawsuit over how the NYPD treated convention protesters.
Police said the pre-convention spying was necessary to prepare for the huge, raucous crowds that were headed to the city. But documents obtained by The Associated Press show that the police department's intelligence unit continued to keep close watch on political groups in 2008, long after the convention had passed.
In April 2008, an undercover NYPD officer traveled to New Orleans to attend the People's Summit, a gathering of liberal groups organized around their shared opposition to U.S. economic policy and the effect of trade agreements between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
When the undercover effort was summarized for supervisors, it identified groups opposed to U.S. immigration policy, labor laws and racial profiling. Two activists - Jordan Flaherty, a journalist, and Marisa Franco, a labor organizer for housekeepers and nannies - were mentioned by name in one of the police intelligence reports obtained by the AP.
"One workshop was led by Jordan Flaherty, former member of the International Solidarity Movement Chapter in New York City," officers wrote in an April 25, 2008, memo to David Cohen, the NYPD's top intelligence officer. "Mr. Flaherty is an editor and journalist of the Left Turn Magazine and was one of the main organizers of the conference. Mr. Flaherty held a discussion calling for the increase of the divestment campaign of Israel and mentioned two events related to Palestine."
The document is available here: http://apne.ws/GGCBuX .
The document provides the latest example of how, in the name of fighting terrorism, law enforcement agencies around the country have scrutinized groups that legally oppose government policies. The FBI, for instance, has collected information on anti-war demonstrators. The Maryland state police infiltrated meetings of anti-death penalty groups. Missouri counterterrorism analysts suggested that support for Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, might indicate support for violent militias - an assertion for which state officials later apologized. And Texas officials urged authorities to monitor lobbying efforts by pro Muslim-groups.