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

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The AP also is considering legal action against the Justice Department.

A Fox News reporter came under scrutiny by the Justice Department in 2011 as it investigated an unrelated 2009 leak of classified and sensitive information related to North Korea.

The details of federal agents' snooping into the activities of reporter James Rosen first were reported on May 19 by the Washington Post, exposing the depth of government surveillance.

Rosen had written in June 2009, two years before the investigation, about "U.S. intelligence officials [warning] President Barack Obama and other senior American officials that North Korea intends to respond to the looming passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution — condemning the communist country for its recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests — with another nuclear test."

The Post reported that federal agents used security-badge-access records to track the reporter's State Department visits, traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report, and obtained a search warrant for his personal e-mails.

Congressman Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who chairs the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, criticized the Justice Department's tendency to zealously investigate leaks to the media.

During a June 2 appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, Rogers said the Justice Department went too far when it cast such a wide net for AP reporters' phone records.

He said he knows, as a former FBI agent, how "incredibly important" keeping classified information secret is to national security.

"However, I think that dragnet that they threw out over those AP reporters was more than an overreach [and] a little bit dangerous when you talk about First Amendment protections for a free press."

Excessive scrutiny of average residents' exercising their constitutional rights to gather and protest also is dangerous, civil libertarians insist.

"We are very concerned . . . about this use of police resources against folks where there was no indication of any criminal activity, no reasonable suspicion of criminal activity," says Dan Pachoda, legal director of the Arizona office of the American Civil Liberties Union. "Clearly, it was a political decision . . . based on ideology that led [Phoenix police] to this increased focus on these groups. The police didn't like what they were saying."

Phoenix police and other law enforcement agencies shared details about pending protests with the very corporate entities that Occupy organizers planned to demonstrate against.

In his report, Beau Hodai documents how a Phoenix terrorism liaison officer, a police officer hired by the right-wing ALEC group, a terrorism analyst, an undercover police officer posing as an Occupy supporter, and others coordinated with ALEC officials before its convention in Scottsdale.

He notes that one meeting coincided with updating a "face sheet" with photos of 24 people. The sheet was titled "Persons of Interest to the ALEC Conference," and stated, beneath the title: "Committed Assault on Police Officers."

Attorney Heidi Boghosian, who wrote Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance, says such cozy relationships and data monitoring "create a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech."

It amounts to the criminalizing of free speech, she says.

PPD spokesman Trent Crump says the department shares information with any group, regardless of ideology, expecting a large gathering. The goal, he insists, is to maintain public safety at the event.

Aside from analysts and terrorism liaison officers mining social-media networks, PPD leaders decided to embed undercover cops within the ranks of Occupy organizers.

A clean-cut man with slicked-back salt-and-pepper hair who appeared to be in his 50s introduced himself to activists in early 2011 while they were gathered at Conspire, a now-closed coffee shop and vegan cafe, Hodai's report states.

Although certain activists believed all along that he was a cop, the man claimed to be a homeless Mexican with ties to anarchists in that country. Public records show that after getting chummy with those attending Occupy gatherings, the man, who indeed turned out to be a cop, would report back any information about the group's future plans to his supervisors.

Hodai and Occupy activists question what suspicion of criminal activity existed to prompt Phoenix police to "infiltrate" meetings where protests and demonstrations were being planned.

Crump told Hodai that police don't have to even "anticipate that there's going to be criminal activity" to gather intelligence. It's a routine exercise, he contended.

Hodai highlights in his report that dispatching undercover cops and mining social-media accounts weren't the only ways PPD officials obtained information about the Occupy movement here. They also asked private citizens to help out.

Cindy Dach, owner of MADE Art Boutique on Roosevelt Row and co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, got caught up in the controversy over the department's activities when she sent an e-mail to cops in 2011 informing them about an upcoming Occupy meeting.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo