July 2, 2006


State Tracked Protesters in the Name of Security: Officials say they have stopped monitoring antiwar and political rallies. The practice violates civil rights, Atty. Gen. Lockyer says (Peter Nicholas, July 1, 2006, LA Times)

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office in charge of protecting California against terrorism has tracked demonstrations staged by political and antiwar groups, a practice that senior law enforcement officials say is an abuse of civil liberties. [...]

California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer's office learned of the monitoring activity more than two months ago. On Friday, a spokesman condemned the actions, saying they violated the groups' constitutional right of free speech.

"When people exercise their 1st Amendment rights to rally, march and protest, they should not have to worry that intelligence officials are watching them or their activities are in any way being painted with the terrorism brush," Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar said in an interview.

"That kind of conduct by anti-terrorism intelligence agencies threatens civil liberties, runs counter to our values and violates this office's policy regarding criminal intelligence gathering," Dresslar said.

The civil liberties crowd hasn't exactly cloaked itself in common sense the past few years, but this may be their most novel argument, that the right of free speech carries with it a right not to be heard and observed speaking.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 2, 2006 2:01 PM

No kidding, so how does this work? If you work for a government agency and you encounter a protestor, do you stick your fingers in your ears and hum? If you do happen to see them, are you allowed to note it, in say a diary? Or is that illegal?

Posted by: RC at July 2, 2006 3:54 PM

"that the right of free speech carries with it a right not to be heard and observed speaking."

Not only that, but in the past they've claimed that the right of free speech carries with it a right to be heard, and anyone who didn't listen, or pay for the privilege of hearing them (whether by turning off NPR or cutting NEA funding or just by not buying tickets) was actually "censuring" them. So they aren't demanding that they not be heard, but are demanding the right to dictate the terms of who and how they are to be heard, and what actions can be taken in response to what they say.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at July 2, 2006 4:25 PM

They can also assign motives to those who choose to ignore their blatherings. h/t Ace of Spades. If you don't read the NYT, you're anti-Semitic, don't take the SF Chronicle, you're obviously homophobic.

Posted by: erp at July 2, 2006 4:46 PM

Remember that before 9/11 the FBI wasn't allowed to surf over to, for example, Al Qaeda linked websites just to keep on eye on what was going on unless in the course of a on-going criminal investigation.

Posted by: David Cohen at July 3, 2006 10:40 AM