Inside the Phoenix PD's Use of Federal Anti-Terrorism Resources to Track Valley Protesters

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The e-mail addresses of the PPD commanders Mullin had messaged were posted on a website called Occupy the Signal, and viewers were asked to write to the city's top cops.

"Will work on it some more when I get back," wrote Wren, who had to head out for another assignment.

Hodai notes in his report that it's not a "violation of Arizona law for constituents to write their public servants with their concerns" and that "encouraging open communication is not an act of terrorism."

Records show that Dowhan and Wren "devoted the better part of two days [to] discovering the identity and whereabouts of the e-mail author," according to Hodai's report, which said: "The purpose or conclusion of this investigation into . . . Mullin . . . is not clear."

On another occasion, two Occupy members posted plans on Facebook to travel to Flagstaff for Christmas 2011, and terrorism analyst Dowhan dutifully reported it to a Flagstaff terrorism official.

"I have notified the [official] there that they are coming and that we have no reason to believe that their visit is anything but peaceful," she wrote to her supervisors.

Her monitoring continued, and when the two individuals changed their travel dates, she again contacted Flagstaff law enforcement to report their updated plans.

Why would law enforcement here or in Flagstaff be so interested in the comings and goings of apparently "peaceful" citizens who only have exercised a constitutional right?

Because, Crump says, their past activities made Flagstaff authorities want to know about their presence in preparation for "any response deemed necessary."

But, Hodai tells New Times, "There is no predicate [for] criminal activity," continuing that police monitored not only people arrested or cited during Occupy protests but those who were just issued warnings.

"How much of a threat could these people possibly be that you need to give their information to a terrorism liaison [officer] or analyst, when [your] beat cop didn't even feel it was important enough to arrest them for whatever infraction?" he says.

Crump counters that there was no overreach, that "safeguards" exist in government to limit abuse of power.

He further justifies the official invasions of privacy by stating, "The public expects a great deal from us."

Government tracking of activists hardly was unique to Phoenix, as events nationally have trumpeted over the past couple of months. And groups targeted have not been limited to those on the political left.

Right-wing Tea Party organizations have sued the IRS after their tax-exempt statuses, or applications for them, were singled out because of key words in their names — "tea party" and "patriot."

Although IRS officials apologized in May, and none of the tax-exempt statuses was revoked, the controversy is ongoing. Conservative think tank American Center for Law and Justice filed a federal lawsuit on May 29 against the IRS on behalf of several Tea Party organizations, including the Greater Phoenix Tea Party.

The complaint states that the agency violated groups' constitutional rights by subjecting them to "burdensome inquiries and scrutiny . . . based solely upon Plaintiffs' political viewpoints, or Defendants' assumption of Plaintiffs' viewpoints, based on their organizational names."

But anyone with a cell phone or Internet access could have been caught up in PRISM, a U.S. government intelligence program launched in 2008. The program was exposed after the Guardian published leaked information about the NSA's intel program, including a top-secret court order demanding that Verizon Business Network Services turn over details of phone calls made between April 25 and July 19, 2013.

Intelligence officials later confirmed that the program probably included all U.S. cell phone carriers.

Details are still emerging, with CNN reporting that government officials now insist that the program is directed at "foreign targets located outside the United States" and that data mined as part of the program gets reviewed by the Obama administration, Congress, and judges.

Other acts of government intrusion include the feds' collection of phone records from the AP as part of a probe into who leaked details of a CIA operation in Yemen that thwarted a plot to blow up a U.S.-bound airplane on the anniversary of the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Open Channel, an investigative NBC news blog, reported on May 20 that the Justice Department's secret subpoena for AP phone records included the seizure of logs for five reporters' cell phones and three reporters' home phones, as well as for two fax lines.

David Schulz, chief lawyer for the AP, said the subpoenas also covered the records for 21 phone lines in five AP offices — including one for a dead phone line at an office in Washington shut down six years ago. The phone lines at four other offices — where 100 reporters worked — also were covered by the subpoenas, the blog reported.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo