Aaron Kesel | Activist Post | Source URL
The Massachusetts State Police shared the extent of damage of the gas explosion spreading across Merrimack Valley. But in the process they also shared a bookmarks folder at the top of the browser, which revealed they were spying on activists, Raw Story reported.
The state police’s official Twitter account shared a picture of the screen showing the locations of 39 fires and explosions.
The bookmarks raised eyebrows since they included online meeting places of several activist groups. Some activists on Twitter even expressed that this offered undeniable proof the police are conducting unwarranted surveillance.
Among those activists targeted were the Facebook groups for Mass. Action Against Police Brutality (MAAPB), which organizes protests and reposts stories of Americans killed by police brutality; the Coalition to Organize and Mobilize Boston Against Trump (COMBAT); as well as other organizations. The “Resistance Calendar,” which shares upcoming anti-Trump protests in Boston and nationwide, was also bookmarked.
State police deleted the first tweet, and then shared another image an hour later that this time was cropped. However, the damage was already done and some people continued sharing screenshots of the original, bringing to attention that the saved sites were evidence of unwarranted surveillance violating the Fourth Amendment.
In a statement, the MA state police didn’t deny that they bookmarked these pages for monitoring; instead, they urged that they have a responsibility to prepare for “all large, public gatherings.”
The statement continued:
We, obviously, need to know if large numbers of people, for whatever reason, are going to be on public roadways or public spaces, so that we may ensure the safety and rights of those who have gathered as well as of the members of the public around them.
But some aren’t satisfied with that statement.
“I wasn’t surprised — but I was appalled,” Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty program at the Massachusetts branch of the ACLU, said. “American law enforcement has, for a very long time, targeted dissidents. A lot of people like to believe those tactics ended. But that’s not true — and actually, after 9/11, they’ve seen a substantial resurgence.”
Crockford noted that the second tweet from the state police’s account mentioned it was taken at none other than the Commonwealth Fusion Center, an information-gathering hub in Maynard, Massachusetts.
Crockford said these institutions of “intelligence-led policing” have shown little success in preventing terrorist violence. “But what they have done, unfortunately, is marshal their substantial resources … to keep track of the activities of perfectly law-abiding organizations that are expressing their First Amendment rights to organize and protest.”
Previously a 2015 ACLU report found that the state’s other fusion center, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center, or BRIC, prepared intelligence reports on antiwar activists and elected officials.
Crockford also pointed to a 2012 Senate subcommittee report that found that fusion centers didn’t contribute to federal counterterrorism efforts and that, in fact, they generated intelligence “of uneven quality — oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties… and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.”
This is direct evidence that Massachusetts police are working with Fusion Center intelligence hand in hand without a warrant, monitoring anti-war groups and activists on the left who may lean towards protesting police brutality.
Despite all this, the police stated: “We do not collect information about — nor, frankly, do we care about — any group’s beliefs or opinions.” It called this kind of monitoring “a common – and common-sense – function of any police department.”
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the police in Massachusetts are violating “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” The Fourth Amendment states “an individual’s right shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall be issued, unless upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The question that remains is how many other police departments are involved in this type of activity? Since it’s “a common – and common-sense – function of any police department.”
Further, deleting evidence of a crime in this violation of the Fourth Amendment of individuals is obstruction of justice. Where’s the prosecutor and lawyers that will take on the case? This is about violation of personal privacy.