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DADDY WARBUCKS
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ACLU ALERT Jersey's terror files draw ACLU lawsuit
STAR LEDGER ^ | Friday, December 03, 2004 | KATE COSCARELLI

Legal action seeks to know who the state has gathered data on as possible threats

The ACLU sued the state's top crime-fighter yesterday, demanding a list of people and groups the state has amassed information on and designated as potential terrorist threats.

In addition, the suit -- filed in state Superior Court, Trenton -- requests Attorney General Peter Harvey explain what criteria police used to classify "potential threat elements."

Comparing the new classifications to the practice of FBI agents who amassed files on civil rights leaders and Vietnam War protesters decades ago, civil libertarians said it was vital to understand who is being singled out and why.

"In the past, there has been such abuse of police powers in this regard," said Frank Askin, a national ACLU board member who runs the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Rutgers University School of Law -- Newark.

To protect the public and help guard against discrimination and harassment, there must be some ability to examine the process police use, he said.

"As long as this stuff is done behind closed doors, without any transparency, there isn't any control of abuse," Askin said.

The AG's Office had not been served with a copy of the lawsuit yesterday afternoon and would not comment, said spokesman Peter Aseltine.

The description "potential threat elements" is used by the federal Office of Homeland Security and the Office of Domestic Preparedness for political or social activist groups or people "in which there are allegations or information indicating a possibility for the unlawful use of force or violence, specifically the utilization of WMD (weapons of mass destruction)," the lawsuit states.

To qualify for some homeland security grants, some New Jersey towns had to identify at least 15 people or groups as PTEs, said Ed Barocas, legal director of the state ACLU.
 

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Friend of MCMXI
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Why not just give them a friendly knock on the door and tell them they're suspects so they can leave the country and never be caught?
 

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Foundation for the case is stuff like the practice of police officers conspicuouisly taking down the license plate numbers of cars at rallies of activist organizations that have absolutely no conceivable links to terrorism, a disgusting practice that quite successfully stifles political activity.

I don't think the ACLU has a chance, though, because the laws give such broad exceptions that the authorities can readily hide behind saying that it's part of an investigation, and you shouldn't release info about an ongoing investigation.

I've considered filing a FOIA request with the FBI myself: At that time (mid 60's) government agents would quite conspicuously take down license plate numbers and the "Red Squad" would very conspicuously take photographs of rally participants. Part of the sarcastic ritual of the times was for a rally leader to ask the crowd to turn to the Red Squad and smile for the photo.
 
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