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Thread: The Bush Police State

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    August 16, 2004
    F.B.I. Goes Knocking for Political Troublemakers
    By ERIC LICHTBLAU

    ASHINGTON, Aug. 15 - The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been questioning political demonstrators across the country, and in rare cases even subpoenaing them, in an aggressive effort to forestall what officials say could be violent and disruptive protests at the Republican National Convention in New York.

    F.B.I. officials are urging agents to canvass their communities for information about planned disruptions aimed at the convention and other coming political events, and they say they have developed a list of people who they think may have information about possible violence. They say the inquiries, which began last month before the Democratic convention in Boston, are focused solely on possible crimes, not on dissent, at major political events.

    But some people contacted by the F.B.I. say they are mystified by the bureau's interest and felt harassed by questions about their political plans.

    "The message I took from it," said Sarah Bardwell, 21, an intern at a Denver antiwar group who was visited by six investigators a few weeks ago, "was that they were trying to intimidate us into not going to any protests and to let us know that, 'hey, we're watching you.' ''

    The unusual initiative comes after the Justice Department, in a previously undisclosed legal opinion, gave its blessing to controversial tactics used last year by the F.B.I in urging local police departments to report suspicious activity at political and antiwar demonstrations to counterterrorism squads. The F.B.I. bulletins that relayed the request for help detailed tactics used by demonstrators - everything from violent resistance to Internet fund-raising and recruitment.

    In an internal complaint, an F.B.I. employee charged that the bulletins improperly blurred the line between lawfully protected speech and illegal activity. But the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, in a five-page internal analysis obtained by The New York Times, disagreed.

    The office, which also made headlines in June in an opinion - since disavowed - that authorized the use of torture against terrorism suspects in some circumstances, said any First Amendment impact posed by the F.B.I.'s monitoring of the political protests was negligible and constitutional.

    The opinion said: "Given the limited nature of such public monitoring, any possible 'chilling' effect caused by the bulletins would be quite minimal and substantially outweighed by the public interest in maintaining safety and order during large-scale demonstrations."

    Those same concerns are now central to the vigorous efforts by the F.B.I. to identify possible disruptions by anarchists, violent demonstrators and others at the Republican National Convention, which begins Aug. 30 and is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of protesters.

    In the last few weeks, beginning before the Democratic convention, F.B.I. counterterrorism agents and other federal and local officers have sought to interview dozens of people in at least six states, including past protesters and their friends and family members, about possible violence at the two conventions. In addition, three young men in Missouri said they were trailed by federal agents for several days and subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury last month, forcing them to cancel their trip to Boston to take part in a protest there that same day.

    Interrogations have generally covered the same three questions, according to some of those questioned and their lawyers: were demonstrators planning violence or other disruptions, did they know anyone who was, and did they realize it was a crime to withhold such information.

    A handful of protesters at the Boston convention were arrested but there were no major disruptions. Concerns have risen for the Republican convention, however, because of antiwar demonstrations directed at President Bush and because of New York City's global prominence.

    With the F.B.I. given more authority after the Sept. 11 attacks to monitor public events, the tensions over the convention protests, coupled with the Justice Department's own legal analysis of such monitoring, reflect the fine line between protecting national security in an age of terrorism and discouraging political expression.

    F.B.I. officials, mindful of the bureau's abuses in the 1960's and 1970's monitoring political dissidents like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., say they are confident their agents have not crossed that line in the lead-up to the conventions.

    "The F.B.I. isn't in the business of chilling anyone's First Amendment rights," said Joe Parris, a bureau spokesman in Washington. "But criminal behavior isn't covered by the First Amendment. What we're concerned about are injuries to convention participants, injuries to citizens, injuries to police and first responders."

    F.B.I. officials would not say how many people had been interviewed in recent weeks, how they were identified or what spurred the bureau's interest.

    They said the initiative was part of a broader, nationwide effort to follow any leads pointing to possible violence or illegal disruptions in connection with the political conventions, presidential debates or the November election, which come at a time of heightened concern about a possible terrorist attack.

    F.B.I. officials in Washington have urged field offices around the country in recent weeks to redouble their efforts to interview sources and gather information that might help to detect criminal plots. The only lead to emerge publicly resulted in a warning to authorities before the Boston convention that anarchists or other domestic groups might bomb news vans there. It is not clear whether there was an actual plot.

    The individuals visited in recent weeks "are people that we identified that could reasonably be expected to have knowledge of such plans and plots if they existed," Mr. Parris said.

    "We vetted down a list and went out and knocked on doors and had a laundry list of questions to ask about possible criminal behavior," he added. "No one was dragged from their homes and put under bright lights. The interviewees were free to talk to us or close the door in our faces."

    But civil rights advocates argued that the visits amounted to harassment. They said they saw the interrogations as part of a pattern of increasingly aggressive tactics by federal investigators in combating domestic terrorism. In an episode in February in Iowa, federal prosecutors subpoenaed Drake University for records on the sponsor of a campus antiwar forum. The demand was dropped after a community outcry.

    Protest leaders and civil rights advocates who have monitored the recent interrogations said they believed at least 40 or 50 people, and perhaps many more, had been contacted by federal agents about demonstration plans and possible violence surrounding the conventions and other political events.

    "This kind of pressure has a real chilling effect on perfectly legitimate political activity," said Mark Silverstein, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, where two groups of political activists in Denver and a third in Fort Collins were visited by the F.B.I. "People are going to be afraid to go to a demonstration or even sign a petition if they justifiably believe that will result in your having an F.B.I. file opened on you."

    The issue is a particularly sensitive one in Denver, where the police agreed last year to restrictions on local intelligence-gathering operations after it was disclosed that the police had kept files on some 3,000 people and 200 groups involved in protests.

    But the inquiries have stirred opposition elsewhere as well.

    In New York, federal agents recently questioned a man whose neighbor reported he had made threatening comments against the president. He and a lawyer, Jeffrey Fogel, agreed to talk to the Secret Service, denying the accusation and blaming it on a feud with the neighbor. But when agents started to question the man about his political affiliations and whether he planned to attend convention protests, "that's when I said no, no, no, we're not going to answer those kinds of questions," said Mr. Fogel, who is legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York.

    In the case of the three young men subpoenaed in Missouri, Denise Lieberman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in St. Louis, which is representing them, said they scrapped plans to attend both the Boston and the New York conventions after they were questioned about possible violence.

    The men are all in their early 20's, Ms. Lieberman said, but she would not identify them.

    All three have taken part in past protests over American foreign policy and in planning meetings for convention demonstrations. She said two of them were arrested before on misdemeanor charges for what she described as minor civil disobedience at protests.

    Prosecutors have now informed the men that they are targets of a domestic terrorism investigation, Ms. Lieberman said, but have not disclosed the basis for their suspicions. "They won't tell me," she said.

    Federal officials in St. Louis and Washington declined to comment on the case. Ms. Lieberman insisted that the men "didn't have any plans to participate in the violence, but what's so disturbing about all this is the pre-emptive nature - stopping them from participating in a protest before anything even happened."

    The three men "were really shaken and frightened by all this," she said, "and they got the message loud and clear that if you make plans to go to a protest, you could be subject to arrest or a visit from the F.B.I."

    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    August 16, 2004
    OP-ED COLUMNIST
    Suppress the Vote?
    By BOB HERBERT

    he big story out of Florida over the weekend was the tragic devastation caused by Hurricane Charley. But there's another story from Florida that deserves our attention.

    State police officers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando and interrogated them as part of an odd "investigation" that has frightened many voters, intimidated elderly volunteers and thrown a chill over efforts to get out the black vote in November.

    The officers, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which reports to Gov. Jeb Bush, say they are investigating allegations of voter fraud that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March.

    Officials refused to discuss details of the investigation, other than to say that absentee ballots are involved. They said they had no idea when the investigation might end, and acknowledged that it may continue right through the presidential election.

    "We did a preliminary inquiry into those allegations and then we concluded that there was enough evidence to follow through with a full criminal investigation," said Geo Morales, a spokesman for the Department of Law Enforcement.

    The state police officers, armed and in plain clothes, have questioned dozens of voters in their homes. Some of those questioned have been volunteers in get-out-the-vote campaigns.

    I asked Mr. Morales in a telephone conversation to tell me what criminal activity had taken place.

    "I can't talk about that," he said.

    I asked if all the people interrogated were black.

    "Well, mainly it was a black neighborhood we were looking at - yes,'' he said.

    He also said, "Most of them were elderly."

    When I asked why, he said, "That's just the people we selected out of a random sample to interview."

    Back in the bad old days, some decades ago, when Southern whites used every imaginable form of chicanery to prevent blacks from voting, blacks often fought back by creating voters leagues, which were organizations that helped to register, educate and encourage black voters. It became a tradition that continues in many places, including Florida, today.

    Not surprisingly, many of the elderly black voters who found themselves face to face with state police officers in Orlando are members of the Orlando League of Voters, which has been very successful in mobilizing the city's black vote.

    The president of the Orlando League of Voters is Ezzie Thomas, who is 73 years old. With his demonstrated ability to deliver the black vote in Orlando, Mr. Thomas is a tempting target for supporters of George W. Bush in a state in which the black vote may well spell the difference between victory and defeat.

    The vile smell of voter suppression is all over this so-called investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

    Joseph Egan, an Orlando lawyer who represents Mr. Thomas, said: "The Voters League has workers who go into the community to do voter registration, drive people to the polls and help with absentee ballots. They are elderly women mostly. They get paid like $100 for four or five months' work, just to offset things like the cost of their gas. They see this political activity as an important contribution to their community. Some of the people in the community had never cast a ballot until the league came to their door and encouraged them to vote."

    Now, said Mr. Egan, the fear generated by state police officers going into people's homes as part of an ongoing criminal investigation related to voting is threatening to undo much of the good work of the league. He said, "One woman asked me, 'Am I going to go to jail now because I voted by absentee ballot?' "

    According to Mr. Egan, "People who have voted by absentee ballot for years are refusing to allow campaign workers to come to their homes. And volunteers who have participated for years in assisting people, particularly the elderly or handicapped, are scared and don't want to risk a criminal investigation."

    Florida is a state that's very much in play in the presidential election, with some polls showing John Kerry in the lead. A heavy-handed state police investigation that throws a blanket of fear over thousands of black voters can only help President Bush.

    The long and ugly tradition of suppressing the black vote is alive and thriving in the Sunshine State.



    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    Fortunately none of this is going to save him in November, unless of course Kerry pulls a McGreevey, which is unlikely.

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    I hope Kerry doesn't have your confidence in the outcome, or he will lose.

    This election is close. A bad economy and bad war are poison to incumbents. Bush should be off the radar by now, but he's still in there. He's the one that got the "bounce" after the Dem convention, and Kerry has yet to define himself clearly as the alternative to Bush.

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    August 17, 2004
    Interrogating the Protesters

    or several weeks, starting before the Democratic convention, F.B.I. officers have been questioning potential political demonstrators, and their friends and families, about their plans to protest at the two national conventions. These heavy-handed inquiries are intimidating, and they threaten to chill freedom of expression. They also appear to be a spectacularly poor use of limited law-enforcement resources. The F.B.I. should redirect its efforts to focus more directly on real threats.

    Six investigators recently descended on Sarah Bardwell, a 21-year-old intern with a Denver antiwar group, who quite reasonably took away the message that the government was watching her closely. In Missouri, three men in their early 20's said they had been followed by federal investigators for days, then subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury. They ended up canceling their plans to show up for the Democratic and Republican conventions.

    The F.B.I. is going forward with the blessing of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel - the same outfit that recently approved the use of torture against terrorism suspects. In the Justice Department's opinion, the chilling effect of the investigations is "quite minimal," and "substantially outweighed by the public interest in maintaining safety and order." But this analysis gets the balance wrong. When protesters are made to feel like criminal suspects, the chilling effect is potentially quite serious. And the chances of gaining any information that would be useful in stopping violence are quite small.

    The knock on the door from government investigators asking about political activities is the stuff of totalitarian regimes. It is intimidating to be visited by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, particularly by investigators who warn that withholding information about anyone with plans to create a disruption is a crime.

    And few people would want the F.B.I. to cross-examine their friends and family about them. If engaging in constitutionally protected speech means subjecting yourself to this kind of government monitoring, many Americans may decide - as the men from Missouri did - that the cost is too high.

    Meanwhile, history suggests that the way to find out what potentially violent protesters are planning is not to send F.B.I. officers bearing questionnaires to the doorsteps of potential demonstrators. As became clear in the 1960's, F.B.I. monitoring of youthful dissenters is notoriously unreliable. The files that were created in the past often proved to be laughably inaccurate.

    The F.B.I.'s questioning of protesters is part of a larger campaign against political dissent that has increased sharply since the start of the war on terror.

    At the Democratic convention, protesters were sent to a depressing barbed-wire camp under the subway tracks. And at a recent Bush-Cheney campaign event, audience members were required to sign a pledge to support President Bush before they were admitted.

    F.B.I. officials insist that the people they interview are free to "close the door in our faces," but by then the damage may already have been done. The government must not be allowed to turn a war against foreign enemies into a campaign against critics at home.



    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    Wouldn't it have been nice if the FBI knocked on a few doors in New Jersey prior to 9/11?

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    August 18, 2004
    Inquiry Into F.B.I. Questioning Is Sought
    By ERIC LICHTBLAU

    ASHINGTON, Aug. 17 - Several Democratic lawmakers called on Tuesday for a Justice Department investigation into the Federal Bureau of Investigation's questioning of would-be demonstrators about possible violence at the political conventions, saying the questioning may have violated the First Amendment.

    In a letter to the department's inspector general seeking an investigation, the three lawmakers said the F.B.I. inquiries appeared to represent "systematic political harassment and intimidation of legitimate antiwar protesters."

    Signing the letter, which was prompted by an article on Monday in The New York Times, were Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and two other Democrats on the panel, Jerrold Nadler of New York and Robert C. Scott of Virginia.

    Officials at the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they had not seen the letter and could not comment on its specific points. They defended the recent efforts by the bureau to question potential demonstrators around the country, saying the inquiries have been aimed solely at detecting and preventing violence at the Republican convention in New York and other major political events.

    "The F.B.I. is not monitoring groups or interviewing individuals unless we receive intelligence that such individuals or groups may be planning violent and disruptive criminal activity or have knowledge of such activity," Cassandra M. Chandler, an assistant director of the bureau, said in a statement released late Monday.

    After having received reports of possible violence, Ms. Chandler said, "the F.B.I. conducted interviews, within the bounds of the U.S. Constitution, in order to determine the validity of the threat information.''

    "Violent acts,'' she added, "are not protected by the U.S. Constitution, and the F.B.I. has a duty to prevent such acts and to identify and bring to justice those who commit them."

    In recent weeks, beginning last month before the Democratic National Convention in Boston, F.B.I. agents have contacted a number of people who have been active in political demonstrations in at least six states: Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri and New York. Many of those contacted have been active in past demonstrations, and agents have

    asked whether they planned acts of violence at upcoming protests, whether they knew of anyone who did and whether they realized it was a crime to withhold such information.

    Three young men in Missouri were also trailed by federal agents and subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury last month to tell what they knew of protest plans, forcing them to cancel a planned trip to Boston to participate in a demonstration there.

    Officials of the F.B.I. would not say how many interviews the bureau had conducted. Civil rights advocates who have monitored the process estimated that at least several dozen people had received visits from agents at their homes and elsewhere in recent weeks. They said they were continuing to collect anecdotal information from demonstrators who had been approached by federal agents.

    In a newly disclosed episode in Colorado, two college students said that an F.B.I. agent approached the faculty adviser for their campus group late last month and that the agent showed photographs of the students, Mark Silverstein, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, said. The students did not want their names or college disclosed, Mr. Silverstein said, because "they're really scared out of their minds."

    The inquiries were made after a legal opinion in April by the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department endorsed the constitutionality of past efforts by F.B.I. counterterrorism agents to solicit help from local police forces to gather intelligence on antiwar and political demonstrations. The opinion said any chilling of First Amendment rights was "quite minimal" and was "substantially outweighed" by concerns for public safety at big demonstrations.

    Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said on Tuesday that he was troubled by the pre-emptive nature of the inquiries, which he said had deterred some demonstrators from protesting.

    "This looks like it's much more about intimidation and coercion than about criminal conduct," Mr. Romero said. "It's not enough for the F.B.I. to say that there's the potential for criminal activity. That's not the legal threshold, and if that were really the case, they could investigate anybody."

    Representative Conyers and his colleagues raised similar concerns in their letter. They asked the inspector general to examine internal documents at the Justice Department and F.B.I. on political protests and to determine if the inquiries "focused on actual threats of violence or merely involved legitimate political and antiwar activity."



    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    August 18, 2004
    Setbacks on Press Protections Are Seen
    By JACQUES STEINBERG

    A ruling last week ordering a reporter for Time magazine to jail for contempt and a subpoena later issued to a reporter for The New York Times in the same case are the latest examples in what legal experts characterize as an ominous trend for journalists: the weakening of fundamental protections for the gathering and publishing of news that had been generally viewed as settled since the Watergate era.

    Both the contempt citation and the subpoena were issued in a federal investigation of whether the Bush administration had illegally disclosed the identity of a covert officer of the Central Intelligence Agency to the syndicated columnist Robert Novak and other journalists.

    These actions, along with one in which a federal judge has ordered journalists from The Times and other news organizations to identify who told them personal information about the scientist Wen Ho Lee, have threatened to undermine what reporters have long regarded as their constitutionally protected privilege to shield their sources.

    At the same time, other court rulings in recent months have chipped away at another long-held legal principle, one that has enabled journalists to publish virtually everything they know without being subject to so-called prior restraint. They include a ruling that partly restricted coverage of the trials of defendants as disparate as Kobe Bryant and Frank P. Quattrone, the former investment banker.

    Meanwhile, officials at the Justice Department and other federal agencies have been tightening the rules governing what journalists and the general public can access under the Freedom of Information Act. They contend that the law's emphasis on swift and often-unfettered disclosure could aid terrorists.

    One agency, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees companies transmitting oil, electricity and natural gas, has drafted rules over the last year that could require some reporters to commit to submitting articles to the commission's lawyers for vetting before publication.

    "In effect, all of these developments work to thwart the ability of the press to do a good job of bringing vital information to the American public," said Paul K. McMasters, an ombudsman of the First Amendment Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that tracks such cases. "Some represent a direct restriction on their ability to get information to make stories work. Others could chill sources that have helped break many major stories."

    There are those, of course, who argue that at least some of the efforts to hem in the press represent a long-overdue correction. Reporters, they argue, sometimes overreach in challenging the desires of both the government and individuals to keep some information from public view.

    "I fully respect the fact that much of the truth we get today is a result of hard work by journalists and any restriction on their activity has a price," said Martin London, who represented Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in a civil action in the 1970's that enjoined a celebrity photographer from following her too closely. "On the other hand, this is a balance."

    Among the principles at stake in the investigation into the leak of the name of the C.I.A. official, Valerie Plame, is that of a reporter's privilege to avoid having to testify about confidential or unpublished information, unless it goes "to the heart" of a particular case and cannot be otherwise obtained.

    While lower-court judges have generally upheld that principle, the reed to which they have clung - a concurrence by Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. in a Supreme Court case from 1972 known as Branzburg - has been characterized as relatively thin in several recent decisions.

    In ordering the Time reporter, Matthew Cooper, jailed for refusing to name the government officials who disclosed Ms. Plame's name, Thomas F. Hogan, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in Washington, rejected the magazine's contention that the First Amendment entitled journalists to refuse to answer a grand jury's questions about confidential sources. (Mr. Cooper remains free as Time appeals the ruling.)

    Thomas Penfield Jackson, a federal judge in the same district, made a similar ruling last year. In that case, he ordered two reporters from The Times - as well as reporters from The Los Angeles Times and The Associated Press, and a former CNN reporter - to testify about leaks they may have received from the personal records of Dr. Lee. Suspected of espionage in 1999, Dr. Lee has sued the government, contending that the disclosures violated his privacy rights.

    A hearing in the case, in which Judge Jackson will consider whether to find the reporters in contempt, is scheduled for today.

    The steep prohibition against efforts to restrain a news organization from publishing what it knows - unless it jeopardizes national security - was set forth in the Pentagon Papers case of 1971, in which The New York Times won the right to publish a secret government history of the Vietnam War.

    And yet, in recent months, that doctrine, too, has suffered setbacks, however temporary. Judges have sought to balance the public's right to know against other concerns, like privacy rights and a defendant's right to a fair trial.

    Some First Amendment experts believe that the next frontier for such disagreements will be the increasingly disputed territory surrounding the Freedom of Information Act, which Congress passed in 1966 to ease access to federal agencies.

    A month after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft rescinded a memorandum that his predecessor, Janet Reno, issued eight years earlier in which she argued for "a presumption of disclosure." Instead, Mr. Ashcroft urged federal agencies to consider "the institutional, commercial and privacy interests that could be implicated by disclosure."

    That more government documents are being shielded from public view was evident in a report last spring from an arm of the National Archives and Records Administration. It calculated that the government classified 14 million new documents as national security secrets in 2003, compared with 11 million in 2002 and 9 million in 2001.

    While editors and their lawyers acknowledge that many of those documents are sensitive, they worry that the government is also withholding material that is of little use to terrorists but might well reveal the failings of government or industry.

    "You're going to see an increase in reporter's privilege cases, because you're going to have a lot more leaks," said Kevin M. Goldberg, a lawyer for the American Society of Newspaper Editors. "At the same time, the government is going to try to impose 'prior restraint' more, until these matters are resolved."



    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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    The F.B.I. and the Protesters (5 Letters)

    Published: August 18, 2004


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    To the Editor:

    Re "Interrogating the Protesters" (editorial, Aug. 17):

    Absent probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a person is engaging in or will engage in criminal activity, the F.B.I.'s targeting and questioning of political protesters is antithetical to America's commitment to the First Amendment right to engage in peaceful, nonviolent protest activity. The reported F.B.I. activity interferes with and chills longstanding First Amendment freedoms.

    The F.B.I. should explain what it is doing and the basis for its actions. Also, local law enforcement officials, including the New York City Police Department, should state whether they are engaging in similar tactics.

    The right to protest is a fundamental right, and it should not be undermined.

    Norman Siegel
    New York, Aug. 17, 2004
    The writer is a civil rights lawyer.



    To the Editor:

    Re "F.B.I. Goes Knocking for Political Troublemakers" (front page, Aug. 16): At what point did political protest - sometimes known as political expression, sometimes known as free speech - become terrorism?

    Lawrence H. Pelofsky
    Cooperstown, N.Y., Aug. 16, 2004



    To the Editor:

    Re "Interrogating the Protesters" (editorial, Aug. 17): You do not know if the activities of the protesters will be or may be used as a cover for terrorist activity.

    Warren Andrews
    Orlando, Fla., Aug. 17, 2004



    To the Editor:

    What a shame that the F.B.I. considers those who plan to exercise their First Amendment rights during the Republican convention to be troublemakers.

    Joe Parris, a bureau spokesman, was right when he said that "criminal behavior isn't covered by the First Amendment." But F.B.I. agents are knocking on people's doors because they think that people might behave criminally at an event that has not yet taken place.

    This is a grave violation of our basic civil liberties. And the F.B.I.'s emphasis on naming names smacks of McCarthyism.

    Patricia Grossman
    Brooklyn, Aug. 16, 2004



    To the Editor:

    I was going back and forth about whether to come to New York to protest at the Republican convention. But since I've learned that the F.B.I. has been deployed to intimidate protesters, I no longer have any doubt about what to do.

    It is no longer just a matter of political protest. It is a matter of defending our constitutional rights. I'm coming to New York.

    Peter Scotto
    South Hadley, Mass., Aug. 17, 2004

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    NYPD to Shadow 56 Protesters Believed Most Dangerous

    By Marcus Solis

    http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/news/gop...dangerous.html

    (New York-WABC, August 18, 2004) - An Eyewitness News exclusive -- details on the incredible lengths the NYPD is taking to keep the most radical protestors expected at the Republican Convention under control.

    Police are now tracking 56 potentially dangerous people.

    Marcus Solis reports from Madison Square Garden.

    While international terrorism remains a concern, this operation's focus is primarily on anarchists, and how they plan to disrupt the convention. This week the NYPD began instructing officers on intelligence on this threat. They also began doling out assignments, and for hundreds of officers that means surveillance work that will begin next week. And it starts for them with a trip out of town.

    The debriefings have been taking place at John Jay College and the Police Academy. Inside, the NYPD's intelligence division is outlining security plans for the upcoming Republican National Convention.

    The big concern: the anarchist groups which disrupted the W.T.O conference in Seattle in 1999, and who have threatened to do the same here. Sources say the NYPD has identified 56 primary anarchists who will be followed 24 hours a day. One supervisor and six cops will be assigned to each person.

    Sources say detectives are leaving this weekend for Boston, Washington D.C., North Carolina, and California to begin surveillance and tail the protestors as they travel to New York.

    Sources also say the department is preparing for protestors in Central Park, convinced many demonstrators will descend on the Great Lawn on Sunday, August 29th, regardless of whether a permit is granted.

    Another concern are small explosions set off in Midtown, aimed at diverting manpower away from the convention site. Police have already been holding drills where cops simulate a coordinated response called a surge.

    Much of the intelligence has come from NYPD cops who have infiltrated various protest groups. Sources say for nearly two years, as many as 20 cops have been meeting with, traveling with, and secretly reporting on the activists' plans.

    On Thursday, the department will demonstrate training that officers are receiving in arrest tactics. That is for uniformed officers, but the bulk of the undercover work is to be handled by the department's narcotics officers.

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    August 20, 2004
    OP-ED COLUMNIST
    Voting While Black
    By BOB HERBERT

    he smell of voter suppression coming out of Florida is getting stronger. It turns out that a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation, in which state troopers have gone into the homes of elderly black voters in Orlando in a bizarre hunt for evidence of election fraud, is being conducted despite a finding by the department last May "that there was no basis to support the allegations of election fraud."

    State officials have said that the investigation, which has already frightened many voters and intimidated elderly volunteers, is in response to allegations of voter fraud involving absentee ballots that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March. But the department considered that matter closed last spring, according to a letter from the office of Guy Tunnell, the department's commissioner, to Lawson Lamar, the state attorney in Orlando, who would be responsible for any criminal prosecutions.

    The letter, dated May 13, said:

    "We received your package related to the allegations of voter fraud during the 2004 mayoral election. This dealt with the manner in which absentee ballots were either handled or collected by campaign staffers for Mayor Buddy Dyer. Since this matter involved an elected official, the allegations were forwarded to F.D.L.E.'s Executive Investigations in Tallahassee, Florida.

    "The documents were reviewed by F.D.L.E., as well as the Florida Division of Elections. It was determined that there was no basis to support the allegations of election fraud concerning these absentee ballots. Since there is no evidence of criminal misconduct involving Mayor Dyer, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement considers this matter closed."

    Well, it's not closed. And department officials said yesterday that the letter sent out in May was never meant to indicate that the "entire" investigation was closed. Since the letter went out, state troopers have gone into the homes of 40 or 50 black voters, most of them elderly, in what the department describes as a criminal investigation. Many longtime Florida observers have said the use of state troopers for this type of investigation is extremely unusual, and it has caused a storm of controversy.

    The officers were armed and in plain clothes. For elderly African-American voters, who remember the terrible torment inflicted on blacks who tried to vote in the South in the 1950's and 60's, the sight of armed police officers coming into their homes to interrogate them about voting is chilling indeed.

    One woman, who is in her mid-70's and was visited by two officers in June, said in an affidavit: "After entering my house, they asked me if they could take their jackets off, to which I answered yes. When they removed their jackets, I noticed they were wearing side arms. ... And I noticed an ankle holster on one of them when they sat down."

    Though apprehensive, she answered all of their questions. But for a lot of voters, the emotional response to the investigation has gone beyond apprehension to outright fear.

    "These guys are using these intimidating methods to try and get these folks to stay away from the polls in the future,'' said Eugene Poole, president of the Florida Voters League, which tries to increase black voter participation throughout the state. "And you know what? It's working. One woman said, 'My God, they're going to put us in jail for nothing.' I said, 'That's not true.' "

    State officials deny that their intent was to intimidate black voters. Mr. Tunnell, who was handpicked by Gov. Jeb Bush to head the Department of Law Enforcement, said in a statement yesterday: "Instead of having them come to the F.D.L.E. office, which may seem quite imposing, our agents felt it would be a more relaxed atmosphere if they visited the witnesses at their homes.''

    When I asked a spokesman for Mr. Tunnell, Tom Berlinger, about the letter in May indicating that the allegations were without merit, he replied that the intent of the letter had not been made clear by Joyce Dawley, a regional director who drafted and signed the letter for Mr. Tunnell.

    "The letter was poorly worded,'' said Mr. Berlinger. He said he spoke to Ms. Dawley about the letter a few weeks ago and she told him, "God, I wish I would have made that more clear." What Ms. Dawley meant to say, said Mr. Berlinger, was that it did not appear that Mayor Dyer himself was criminally involved.


    Paul Krugman is on vacation.



    Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZippyTheChimp
    I hope Kerry doesn't have your confidence in the outcome, or he will lose.

    This election is close. A bad economy and bad war are poison to incumbents. Bush should be off the radar by now, but he's still in there. He's the one that got the "bounce" after the Dem convention, and Kerry has yet to define himself clearly as the alternative to Bush.
    Sure, it's possible that Kerry might get mugged or blindsided or make a dumb tactical error or not answer some smear ad until too late like Michael Dukakis, but it seems like he's got enough cash and a-b-B points racked up to balance out any missteps. In fact he'll probably roll over Bush like Clinton did in '92.

  13. #13

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    Bush, Kerry in Statistical Tie Nationwide, CBS Poll Finds

    Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry are statistically tied in a poll of voters nationwide conducted by CBS News.

    Kerry, 60, a four-term Massachusetts senator, is supported by 46 percent of voters to 45 percent for Bush, 58, according to the survey of 835 registered voters conducted Aug. 15-18. The poll's margin of error is 3 percentage points.

    Kerry's support fell since the end of the Democratic National Convention, when he led Bush, 48 percent to 43 percent, according to the poll. Independent candidate Ralph Nader was supported by 1 percent of voters in the most recent poll.

    Kerry's support among independents and veterans ha also dropped, the poll found. Forty-four percent of independents now support Kerry, down from 50 percent last month. Thirty-seven percent of veterans support Kerry, the latest poll found, down from 46 percent.

    Calls to the Kerry and Bush campaigns seeking comment were not immediately returned.

    To contact the reporter on this story:
    Nicholas Johnston in Washington at njohnston3@bloomberg.net.


    What's disturbing to me:

    Kerry is losing some support from veterans. He is being forced to defend his combat record against a man who hid in the National Guard. In the broader sense, the election should be about the incumbent defending his term in office against the challenger.

    Tell me who is on the defensive here?

    Regardless of Bush's intellectual status, the RNC is an effective campaign organization. Although the term was meaningless, look at the political points that were gained with the words sensitive war.

    The danger is that there could be a momentum built where it's felt that if Kerry can't "defend" himself in a campaign, how is he going to "defend" the country.

  14. #14

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    Like I say it's possible that he might fumble it, but since he's getting lots of high-powered help it's just not very likely. Eventually somebody is going to make him stop wearing those pink ties for instance...

  15. #15

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    It is almost impossible to discuss these issues with you, because your statements are not based on anything. They are just attempts at being clever.

    WHY do you think it is unlikely that Kerry will "fumble it," when the consensus of commentary after the convention is that he is doing just that?

    WHY do you believe that eventually someone is going to make him stop wearing pink ties, and if it's obvious, why hasn't that someone done so already?

    WHY do you think that the amount of cash he has will cancel out mistakes, when Bush has more cash?

    WHY do you think he will roll over Bush like Clinton did in '92? Is Kerry equal to Clinton as a campaigner?

    My opinions, if not correct, are at least thought out and backed by data. It's annoying to have to respond to nonesense like "pulling a McGreevey" or "pink ties."

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