On Wednesday, the New York Civil Liberties Union released hundreds of pages of documents showing widespread surveillance of political groups before and during the 2004 Republican National Convention (RNC) in New York City. The documents show extensive and detailed surveillance of protestors via the Internet, infiltration of events and meetings, and research into tactics used at previous demonstrations. Based on the documents, the New York Police Department (NYPD) began the surveillance in October of 2003 and conducted broad intelligence gathering operations that focused on organizations, websites, individuals, and other targets. The documents discuss a variety of topics ranging from tactics expected to be employed to individuals whom the NYPD believed would be attending the protest.
The New York Civil Liberties Union described the program as “broad, clumsy, and often unlawful” charging that the NYPD “failed to differentiate between unlawful behavior and behavior that is not only lawful but should in fact be cherished and protected.” Attorneys will now review the documents to see if they violate the federal case Handschu vs. Special Services Division that regulates police surveillance of political demonstrations and activities. Earlier this year the NYPD’s video surveillance efforts were determined to violate the Handschu case.