POLICING FREE SPEECH: Police Surveillance and Obstruction of First Amendment‐Protected Activity
An ACLU Survey of Reported Incidents
June 29, 2010
United States law enforcement agencies, from the FBI to local police, have a long history of spying on American citizens and infiltrating or otherwise obstructing political activist groups. Political spying was rampant during the Cold War under the FBI’s COINTELPRO, the CIA’s Operation Chaos, and other program.
Unfortunately, it appears that these old tendencies have once again come to the fore. Law enforcement agencies across America continue to monitor and harass groups and individuals for doing little more than peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights.
A thorough search and review of news accounts by the ACLU reveals that these law enforcement behaviors have taken place in at least 33 states plus the District of Columbia in recent years. Americans have been put under surveillance or harassed by the police just for deciding to organize, march, protest, espouse unusual viewpoints, and engage in normal, innocuous behaviors such as writing notes or taking
photographs in public.
For example, in the past year, at least four troubling Fusion Center reports have come to light:
‐ The Virginia Fusion Center’s Homegrown Terrorism Document
‐ The Texas Fusion Center’s Prevention Awareness Bulletin
‐ The Missouri Fusion Center’s Document on the Modern Militia Movement
‐ The Massachusetts Fusion Center’s “Commonwealth Fusion Center’s Standard Operating
Procedures” (not available online)
The following is a state‐by‐state compilation of examples of these behaviors in recent years.
To Read the State by State Reports