Spying on San Franciscans: End FBI control of SFPD Joint Terrorism Task Force

At SF City Hall Room 250 on Thursday, March 1, 10:30 a.m., stop FBI targeting of ‘Black separatist extremists’ who advocate reparations!

by John Crew

Joint-Terrorism-Task-Force-shirted-officer, Spying on San Franciscans: End FBI control of SFPD Joint Terrorism Task Force, Local News & Views Who should control the San Francisco Police Department’s counter-terrorism activities – the FBI or San Franciscans? That’s the question the Board of Supervisors will be voting on soon. Legislation proposed by Supervisor Jane Kim would end the previously-secret practice of placing SFPD intelligence officers under the control of the FBI in federal Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) operations.

The proposed Safe San Francisco Civil Rights Ordinance is backed by a wide range of civil rights, community, labor and legal organizations. It would require that any SFPD officer engaged in any federal counter-terrorism activities to be fully accountable to strong state and local civil rights laws and be fully subject to local control and civilian oversight.

Local police or national security spies?

The self-described “transformed” FBI now considers itself an “intelligence-driven national security agency.” Guidelines enacted to prevent a return to the J. Edgar Hoover era of widespread FBI abuses have long since been abandoned post-Sept. 11. Now, official federal polices permit – and encourage – the FBI to engage in surveillance without suspicion and intelligence gathering without cause.

Now, official federal polices permit – and encourage – the FBI to engage in surveillance without suspicion and intelligence gathering without cause.

No longer constrained by basic criminal justice requirements that they base their actions on reasonable suspicion of actual criminal activity, the result has been industrial strength religious and racial profiling by the FBI in the name of national security. In particular, the Arab, Middle-Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities have been under constant attack from the FBI’s highly intrusive and outrageous surveillance operations, their crude attempts to recruit informants to infiltrate these communities and by official FBI training materials drenched in deeply-offensive forms of Islamaphobia.

Meanwhile, the SFPD has assigned at least two experienced inspectors full-time to the FBI’s JTTF. As multi-agency outfits set up by the FBI to expand their already massive intelligence-gathering capacity, the 103 JTTFs around the country are touted as a major “force multiplier” for federal counter-terrorism efforts.

Whether or not this is a good use of San Francisco public safety resources, the SFPD is supposed to be accountable to local civilians and the laws and policies enacted by local civilians – not to the FBI. No elected or appointed civilian body in San Francisco has ever approved transforming our local police officers – paid for by local taxpayers – into national security agents for the FBI. Neither San Francisco nor California decided to change its laws to permit our police officers to join the federal “war on terror” solely on the FBI’s terms. In fact, quite the opposite.

The SFPD’s secret agreement with the FBI

When the FBI first created the JTTF in the Bay Area in 1997, they approached the SFPD claiming it was crucial that they participate – but only if they did not apply the SFPD’s strong intelligence policies and civilian oversight systems. These policy reforms had been enacted just a few years prior after a scandal involving an SFPD intelligence officer – among other things – stealing political intelligence files that were slated for destruction and selling some of them to the then-apartheid government of South Africa.

SFPD-officers-by-Katy-Gartside-Photography, Spying on San Franciscans: End FBI control of SFPD Joint Terrorism Task Force, Local News & Views When the plan to seek waivers from local policies and controls was exposed, Mayor Willie Brown put a stop to it, saying through his spokesperson he “would not go along with or support any attempt to circumvent local policy” just so the SFPD could participate in the FBI’s JTTF.

In 2002, the SFPD did join the JTTF but only with a written guarantee from the FBI that local policies and controls would still apply to local officers. But, in 2007, that agreement between the FBI and SFPD was secretly changed. Finally uncovered by the ACLU and Asian Law Caucus in mid-2011, that secret JTTF agreement was stripped of all the state and local civil rights protections and contains new clauses that now allow the FBI to block San Francisco from applying its own controls and civilian oversight to its own officers.

The legislation to be voted on soon would stop the SFPD from making secret agreements with the FBI and would again require that any SFPD counter-terrorism activities be based on San Francisco’s laws, polices and values – rather than the whims of the FBI.

‘Deja vu all over again’ – Black separatist terrorists?

With so many resources chasing so few actual fact-based leads that could arguably be related to terrorism, it’s no surprise that the FBI has cast a very wide net in its recent intelligence operations. It’s history repeating itself. Hoover’s FBI’s justified its attempts to undermine the civil rights movement with the rationale that the country was in mortal peril from undetected communists. Then, the FBI sent informants to church meetings, intercepted mail and phone calls, engineered break-ins, and planted news stories to defame civil rights leaders.

Now, under the banner of preventing terrorism, the FBI’s intelligence operations are partially targeting what they call “Black separatist extremists.” The ACLU and Asian Law Caucus have begun to obtain a variety of internal FBI documents in an on-going Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The documents disclosed so far include a PowerPoint presentation conducted by the San Francisco Division of the FBI within the last two years listing “Black separatists” as one of a handful of major terrorism threat categories for Northern California. Consistent with FBI documents from other parts of the country, this local FBI presentation cites support for reparations as allegedly one of the identifying beliefs for possible Black separatist terrorists.

Under the banner of preventing terrorism, the FBI’s intelligence operations are partially targeting what they call “Black separatist extremists.” Support for reparations is allegedly one of the beliefs that identify possible Black separatist terrorists.

At a meeting last year with East Bay law enforcement executives – nearly all of whom were African American – the ACLU asked whether there was any indication whatsoever that there is any feasible or theoretical possibility that there is a terrorist threat in the Bay Area from Black separatists. They said, “No, of course not” … but that won’t stop the FBI from collecting intelligence on groups they decide may have a dangerous “separatist” ideology.

Joint-Terrorism-Task-Force-drill-Washington-D.C.-by-Marion-Ross-Flickr, Spying on San Franciscans: End FBI control of SFPD Joint Terrorism Task Force, Local News & Views For example, an October 2009 FBI document obtained by the ACLU titled “Intelligence Related to Black Separatist Threat” includes information that a group “conducted a protest against the police officers’ killing of a Black individual in the Cherry Tree housing projects area of Augusta, (Georgia).” The FBI’s willingness to report intelligence on protests under the umbrella of fighting terrorism is not limited to their obsession with “Black separatists” or to other parts of the country. The San Francisco FBI’s PowerPoint presentation on Northern California’s alleged terrorist threats includes a section on “anarchists” which is illustrated, in part, with a slide referring to “Oakland, 2010 – Riots in downtown Oakland after Mehserle Trial” in the Oscar Grant homicide case.

Taking back control from the FBI

These are just a few examples of the sort of intelligence gathering by the FBI’s JTTF that the SFPD may currently be engaged in. Without clear application of local and state civil rights protections, without being able to require SFPD supervisors to personally approve and be accountable for these sorts of activities, with no civilian oversight and no transparency whatsoever, there is great risk that the FBI may be entangling the SFPD in counter-terrorism activities that the vast majority of San Franciscans would reject.

The proposed Safe San Francisco Civil Rights Ordinance (File No. 120046) is based on the simple proposition that San Franciscans – not the FBI – get to decide which intelligence and counter-terrorism activities are appropriate and inappropriate in our communities. Let’s put that principle into law by enacting this legislation.

San Franciscans – not the FBI – get to decide which intelligence and counter-terrorism activities are appropriate and inappropriate in our communities. Let’s put that principle into law by enacting this legislation.

We encourage all San Franciscans to tell their supervisors to vote yes on this legislation. In particular, District 10’s Supervisor Malia Cohen has not yet publicly taken a position on the legislation. Her office can be reached at (415) 554-7670 or Malia.Cohen@sfgov.org.

More information is available at www.aclunc.org/jttf .

John Crew is a long-time police practices specialist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and the former founding coordinator of the national ACLU’s Campaign Against Racial Profiling. He can be reached at JCrew@aclunc.org.

Editors note: The San Francisco Bay View joins the ACLU and other civil rights, community, labor and legal organizations in full support of the Safe San Francisco Civil Rights Ordinance.

Oppose City of San Francisco’s Cooperation with FBI and ICE Racial or Religious Profiling and Surveillance

San Francisco Labor Council Resolution, adopted Feb. 27, 2012, by unanimous vote

Whereas, the FBI had its origins during and after World War I and in the 1920s – in a massive campaign to root out, brand as “terrorist,” deport or jail union organizers, anti-war campaigners and immigrants. Portrayed in the press as heroic “gangbusters,” the FBI relentlessly pursued the objective of destabilizing the labor and civil rights movements. Many hundreds of FBI informants and agents were deployed to sabotage labor organizing and the mass campaigns of popular leaders like Marcus Garvey and Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The FBI worked to undermine mass popular movements like the veterans’ 1932 Bonus Army occupation in Washington and Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign for jobs and economic justice [forerunners of today’s Occupy movement]. In the 1960s and ‘70s, the FBI employed the COINTELPRO program to infiltrate and destroy popular organizations in the Black, Puerto Rican, Chicano, Native American and other communities; and

NYC-JTTF-cop-aiming-big-gun, Spying on San Franciscans: End FBI control of SFPD Joint Terrorism Task Force, Local News & Views Whereas, the FBI’s domestic “counter-terrorism” efforts over the last decade have led to racial and religious profiling, harassment, surveillance and infiltration operations aimed primarily at communities of color and American Muslim communities – in their homes, places of worship and workplaces, as well as while traveling. At the same time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has profiled, demonized and subjected to indefinite detention immigrant workers and families from Latin America and elsewhere; and

Whereas, in September 2010 FBI agents led coordinated, pre-dawn raids or issued Grand Jury subpoenas on 23 trade union, anti-war and solidarity activists in the Midwest. In May 2011, FBI and a police SWAT team smashed into the Los Angeles home of veteran immigrant rights and solidarity activist Carlos Montes. Just as it did in the 1920s, the FBI tried to justify these fishing expeditions by invoking the mantra of “counter-terrorism.” However, many believe the FBI’s real intent was to shut down these outspoken activists and try to intimidate the labor, solidarity and anti-war movements; and

Whereas, since 9/11, the FBI has recruited more than 600 state and local law enforcement agencies to be part of Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) organized and run by the FBI in 103 cities nationwide – just as ICE uses “Secure Communities” to effectively deputize local police and use them to target immigrant workers; and

Whereas, local police have been asked to utilize scarce resources for full-time “counter-terrorism” tasks with the JTTF under a secret 2007 agreement with the FBI which was only made public last year. The previously secret agreement purports to allow police working with the FBI to ignore state and local civil rights protections and avoid local civilian oversight and scrutiny; and

Whereas, the California state constitution guarantees an inalienable right to privacy and bans the intrusive surveillance and intelligence practices that are currently being used by the FBI. In addition, SFPD Department General Order requires reasonable suspicion of serious criminal activity, written authorization by the police chief and civilian oversight for any intelligence gathering involving First Amendment activities. The City of Refuge Ordinance prohibits the City from assisting federal immigration enforcement, and the city charter requires that all SFPD activities be subject to local civilian control and oversight; and

Whereas, after a hearing with community members, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission issued a report – endorsed by the Board of Supervisors – demanding that SFPD be held to local standards and oversight. In April 2011, the Coalition for a Safe San Francisco, Asian Law Caucus and ACLU raised concerns at a Police Commission hearing after discovering that the SFPD had entered into a secret MOU agreement with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force that violated state and local law and policies. Both the Police Commission and police chief stated publicly that they wanted SFPD officers to follow the stronger state and local civil rights standards but left in place the previously-secret agreement with the FBI that blocks that from occurring.

Therefore be it Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council alert its affiliated unions to stay vigilant, to respond in the event community members are subjected to abusive FBI or ICE practices in violation of their civil and constitutional rights; and

Be it further Resolved, that the Council denounce the racial or religious profiling and surveillance practices of the FBI and ICE. We condemn the continuing raids against immigrant workers and families from Latin America and elsewhere. We condemn the FBI raid on the home of Los Angeles activist Carlos Montes and the FBI raids and subpoenas on 23 anti-war, solidarity and labor activists in the Midwest and demand restitution; and

Be it further Resolved, that the Labor Council demand that S.F. law enforcement not participate in any racial or religious profiling and surveillance conducted by the FBI, by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, by ICE or by the “Secure Communities” program; and

Be it finally Resolved, that copies be sent to the mayor of San Francisco; members of the Board of Supervisors; the chief of police of San Francisco; and to the office of the FBI Special Agent for this district.

Submitted by:

Dave Welsh, delegate, NALC Local 214

Maria Guillen, delegate, SEIU Local 1021

Alan Benjamin, delegate, OPEIU Local 3

Frank Martin del Campo, delegate, San Francisco LCLAA

Amended by: Ray Berard, AFT Local 2121